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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week 28 (Book 4): Being Patient and "Long" of Spirit

STORY OF CHANNAH: 28. And I also have lent him to the Lord; all the days which he will be alive, he is borrowed by the Lord." And he prostrated himself there to the Lord.

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: patient (Erech Ruach)  

PROVERBS: Chapter 28

TZADDIKIM: The Shelah, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Tzemach Tzedek; Rav Yosef Karo, Rav Moshe Alsheich         

Week 28 is the week of the first night of Passover as well as the yahrzeit of the Third Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Tzemach Tzedek. In the verse from he story of Channah for this week, she states that Shmuel was lent to Hashem all the days he will be alive; he is borrowed (literally, Shaul). It then mentions how “he” (Samuel, but some say Elkanah) prostrated himself there to the Lord. On Passover as well, we give ourselves over to G-d; we completely nullify our ego and, in the times of the Temple, literally went to the Temple to prostrate there. The Passover story itself is about leaving one domain (being slaves in Egypt) and entering another (being servants of G-d), how Hashem took  “Goy MiKerev Goy,” a nation from the innards of another nation.

The Pirkei Avot adjective of this week is that Torah “makes him patient.” The Hebrew words used here are “Erech Ruach,” which can be more literally translated as “long-spirited.” This seems to be a reference to Mashiach, as we read in the Haftorah for the last day of Pessach: “And the spirit of Gd shall rest upon him.... And he will be permeated with the spirit of the fear of the Lrd....” (Menachem, as well as Tzemach Tzedek are also names of Mashiach)

The Midrash Shmuel (3:6) states that words of Channah themselves are divinely inspired with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine spirit), even though she did not realize this at the time: “For as long as he lives he is lent [sha’ul] to the Lord,” were uttered under the spirit of divine inspiration, for as long as Samuel lived, so did Saul.[1] The fact that Hashem permitted Shaul to live longer, despite his grave sins and behavior, is also an example of Hashem’s patience.

Chapter 28 of the Book of Proverbs contains many of the above themes. It’s first verses speak of Hashem’s patience:

2. Because of the sin of a land, its princes are many, but because of an understanding, knowledgeable man, so will [its retribution] be delayed (Hebrew: Ya’arich, from Erech).

Along with the yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, this week also includes at least three other important yahrzeits, of major figures both in the Sefardi and Ashkenazi worlds: the Shelah, the Alshich, and the Mechaber. Like the Tzemach Tzedek, these men were authorities in both the revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah. All three lived in Tzfat.

The 11th of Nissan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yeshayahu HaLevi Horowitz, the Shnei Luchot HaBrit (the “Shlah”). He was the chief rabbi of Cracow, Frankfurt and then Prague, and later moved to Israel, where he became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He lived his last years in Tzfat, and is buried close to Maimonides’ grave in Tiberias. (Ascent) His major work, the Shnei Luchot HaBrit, is a foundational kabbalistic text, which served as a basis for many Chassidic works, including the Tanya.

The 13th of Nissan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yosef Karo, as well as Rabbi Moshe Alsheich. Rabbi Yosef Karo is the author of the Shulchan Aruch, the basic text of Jewish law, which is used until this very day. He was the chief rabbi of Tzfat, and wrote other crucial works such as the “Beit Yosef” and the “Maggid Meisharim,” which relate his conversations with an angel.

Rabbi Moshe Alsheich was a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo and a member of the Beit Din of Tzfat. His interpretations and discourses on the Torah are also well known and widely used to this day. (Ascent)

Other yahrzeits this week include R' Chaim Meir ben R' Yisroel Hager of Vizhnitz, the Imrei Chaim (9th of Nissan) and Rabbi Asher Yeshaya of Ropshitz (son-in-law and successor of Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz, 14th of Nissan).

[1] http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/hannah-midrash-and-aggadah

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