Weekly Cycle

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week 49 (Book 4): G-d's Wisdom

STORY OF CHANNAH: 21. For the Lord remembered Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the lad Samuel grew up with the Lord.
SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 5
TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (9th of Elul), Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (12th of Elul), and Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Bagdad (the Ben Ish Chai, 13th of Elul)

Week 49 is the third week of Elul. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. It also mentions how Shmuel grew. Conception is generally associated with Chochmah, wisdom, while the development of the fetus is associated with Binah. Chochmah is also associated with male characteristics, while Binah with female ones. Chochmah is potential that needs to be developed, just like Shmuel himself was a sharp and wise at a very young age, but still needed to grow and develop.
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is wisdom. Wisdom is only truly good when it is developed “with the Lord,” as is the case with the righteous in general, and Shmuel in particular. As stated in Proverbs, “the beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d.”
Chapter 5 of the Song of Songs, particularly the last section, is primarily about Hashem’s wisdom. Rashi shows how the metaphors used are all depicting the beauty of the Torah and its wisdom:
[10] My beloved is white: to whiten my iniquities. Clear and white; when He appeared at Sinai, He appeared as an old man, teaching instructions, and so, when He sits in judgment (Dan. 7:9): “His garment was like white snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool.”
and ruddy: to exact retribution upon His enemies, as it is stated (Isa. 63.2): “Why is Your clothing red?”
surrounded by myriads: Many armies encompass Him.
[11] His head is as the finest gold: The beginning of His words shone like finest gold, and so Scripture says (Ps. 119: 130): “The commencement of Your words enlightens.” The commencement of, “I am the Lord your God” showed them first that He has the right of sovereignty over them, and He then issued His decrees upon them.
his locks are curled: Heb. קְוֻצוֹתָיו תַּלְתַּלִים. Upon every point (קוֹץ וָקוֹץ) [of the letters of the Sepher Torah] were heaps of heaps (תִּלֵי תִּלִים) of halachoth.
black as a raven: because it was written before Him in black fire on white fire. Another explanation: His locks were curled when He appeared on the sea, appearing like a young man mightily waging war.
[12] His eyes are like doves beside rivulets of water: Like doves, whose eyes look toward their dovecotes, so are His eyes on the synagogues and study halls, for there are the sources of Torah, which is compared to water.
bathing in milk: When they look into the judgment, they clarify the law in its true light, to justify the just, to give him what he deserves, and to condemn the guilty, to repay his [evil] way upon his head.
fitly set: on the fullness of the world. They wander over the entire earth, gazing upon good and evil. Another explanation: Torah scholars, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, makes as eyes to illuminate the world, just as the eyes illuminate for man; like doves that wander from dovecote to dovecote to seek their food, so do they go from the study hall of one sage to the study hall of another sage, to seek the explanations of the Torah.
by rivulets of water: in the study halls, which are the sources of the water of Torah.
bathing in milk: Since he calls them eyes, and the eye (עַיִן) is a feminine noun, bathing (רוֹחֲצוֹת) is in the feminine conjugation. They cleanse themselves with the milk of Torah and whiten (clarify) its mysteries and enigmas.
fitly set: They resolve the matters appropriately. Another explanation: His eyes עֵינָיו, [like] עִנְיָנָיו His topics. The sections of the Torah, the halachoth, and the Mishnayoth are like doves which are comely in their walk beside the rivulets of water, [i.e.,] in the study halls; bathing in milk, made clear as milk, as I have explained.
[13] His jaws: the commandments of Mount Sinai, for He showed them a friendly and smiling countenance.
his lips are like roses: the commandments (lit. statements) that He spoke in the Tent of Meeting, which are for appeasement and for atonement and for a pleasant fragrance: the law of the sin offering, the guilt offering, the meal offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering.
[14] His hands: the Tablets, which He gave with His right hand, which are the work of His hands.
wheels of gold: These are the commandments, about which it is said (Ps. 19:11): “They are to be desired more than gold, yea more than much fine gold.” Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Nehemiah: They were made miraculously. They were of sapphire, yet they could be rolled (Song Rabbah, Tanch. Ki Thissa 26). Another explanation: because they bring about (lit. roll) much good to the world.
set with chrysolite: He included the 613 commandments in the Decalogue.
his abdomen is [as] a block of ivory: This is the Priestly Code (Leviticus), placed in the center of the Five Books of the Pentateuch, like the intestines, which are set in the middle of the body.
[as] a block of ivory, overlaid with sapphires: It appears as smooth as a block of ivory, and is set with many details [derived from] similar wordings, general principles, and inferences from minor to major.
[15] founded upon sockets of fine gold: Said Rabbi Eleazar Hakkappar: This pillar has a capitol above and a base below. Said Rabbi Samuel the son of Gadda: The sections of the Torah have a capitol above and a base below, and they are juxtaposed before them and after them, e.g., the sections of the Sabbatical year and the Jubilee year, [are juxtaposed to] (Lev. 25:14): “And if you transact a sale,” to teach you how severe the dust (i.e., a minor infraction) of the Sabbatical Year is, as appears in Tractates Bava Metzia and Arachin (30b). Also, like (Num. 27: 16): “May the Lord… appoint a man over the congregation,” and (ibid. 29:2): “Command… My sacrifice, My bread.” Before you command Me about My children, command them about Me (Sifrei Num. 27:23), and similarly, many [such instances]. Therefore, it is stated: “His legs are [as] pillars of marble, founded, etc.”
his appearance is like the Lebanon: One who reflects and ponders over His words finds in them blossoms and sprouts, like a forest which blooms. So are the words of Torah-whoever meditates over them constantly finds new explanations in them.
chosen: Heb. בָּחוּר, chosen as the cedars, which are chosen for building and for strength and height.
[16] His palate is sweet: His words are pleasant, e.g. (Lev. 19:28): “And you shall not make a wound in your flesh for one who has died… I am the Lord,” faithful to pay reward. Is there a palate sweeter than this? Do not wound yourselves, and you will receive reward. (Ezek. 33:19): “And when a wicked man repents of his wickedness and performs justice and righteousness, he shall live because of them.” Iniquities are accounted to him as merits. Is there a palate sweeter than this?
This week contains the yahrzeits of three prominent Jewish thinkers: Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (9th of Elul), Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (12th of Elul), and Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Bagdad (the Ben Ish Chai, 13th of Elul).
From Revach.net:
One of the great lights of Chasidic thought and arguably its most prolific author, was not born a Chasid. Rav Tzadok HaKohen was born to his father Rav Yaakov the Av Bais Din of Kreisberg in Lithuania. His grandfather Rav Zalman Mireles was the Rov of the three prestigious communites of Altuna-Hamburg-Wansbeck in Germany and was the son-in-law of the Chacham Tzvi.

Rav Tzadok was a child prodigy. He said about himself that when he was one year old, he would make a bracha on his mother's milk. At age two he davened from a siddur. By age three and a half he was learning Gemara with Tosfos. Before his Bar Mitzva he was already writing Shailos U'Tshuvos. He delivered four drashos at his Bar Mitzva which were printed in the Sefer Meishiv Tzedek. He was a rising star in the Litvishe world.

The turning point came after his first marriage came to a premature end, but his wife wouldn't accept a divorce. He wandered among the Gedolim to secure a Heter Mei'a to enable him to remarry. During this difficult period he met with the Shoel U'Maishiv (Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson of Lublin), Rav Tzvi Hirsh Chayos, Rav Shlomo Kluger and others. He also met with great Chasidic Rebbes including Rav Shalom of Belz, the Divrei Chaim, the Chidushei HaRim, Rav Meir Premishaln and others. When he met Rav Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the Izhbetzer Rebbe and former talmid of the Kotzker Rebbe before breaking away, he found in him a soulmate. The Litvishe Rav Tzadok became his ardent Chasid. At the end, his first wife accepted the Get and he did not need a Heter Mei'a. He then remarried and moved to Lublin.

Under Rav Mordechai Yosef, Rav Tzadok learned together with another Litvak turned Chasid (and broke his father's heart in the process), Rav Leibele Eiger the grandson of Rebbi Akiva Eiger and son of Rav Shlomo Eiger. After the petira of Rav Mordechai Yosef in 1854, Rav Tzadok refused to take his mantle of his Rebbe and lead the Chassidim. Instead he pushed Rav Leibele Eiger to become the Rebbe. In the ensuing 33 years until Rav Leibele's petira he learned in solitude composing his multitude of seforim. In 1887 after Rav Leibele's petira, he again refused to lead the Chasidim and pushed for Rav Avrohom Eiger to lead the flock. This time however the Chasidim refused to give in and he ultimately became the Rebbe of Lublin.

He very much wanted to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel but his Chasidim would not hear of it. Rav Tzadok was Niftar on 9 Elul, 5660/1900. Although he did not leave behind any sons, he left the world with his vast writings which have made a profound impact on Jewish thinking moving forward. His seforim include, Pri Tzadik (Chumash), Divrei Sofrim, Otzar HaMelech (Rambam), Yisroel Kedoshim, Tzidkas HaTzadik, Taanas Hashovim, Kuntras Divrei Chalomos, and many others. Yehi Zichro Baruch.
From Ascent.org:
Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (1765 - 12 Elul 1827) spent many years as a business man and a pharmacist. He was a beloved disciple of "the Seer" and of "The Holy Yid" whom he succeeded. Known as "a rebbe of rebbes," his major disciples included the Kotsker and the first Rebbes of Ger and Alexander.
Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Bagdad, the Ben Ish Hai (27 Av 1834 - 13 Elul 1909), is one of the most important Sephardic Jewish sages in the last two centuries. At the age of 25, he succeeded to his father's rabbinical position and continued in it for 50 years. In 1869 he visited the Holy Land and was offered the position of Rishon LeZion (Sephardic Chief Rabbi), but he did not accept. A great scholar and Kabbalist and highly regarded as a pure and holy man, is rulings are adhered to still today by many Sephardim world-wide. He published many important books on Jewish law, Midrash, Kabbalah and Ethics.
This week also contains the yahrzeits of various tzadikim from the Rizhin/Sadiger dynasty: Rabbi Moshe Yehudah Leib of Pashkan (10th of Elul), Rabbi Shalom Yosef Friedman of Friedman of Sadigora (11th of Elul), and Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman of Sadigora (11th of Elul).
In addition, this week contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Moshe Elyakim Briah Hopstein (The Be’er Moshe, Second Rebbe of Kozhnitz), Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Twerski of Cherkas (13th of Elul) and Rabbi Avraham Yissachar Behr HaKohen Rabinowitz of Radomsk (13th of Elul).

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Week 50 (Book 4): Wisdom that Comes with Experience

STORY OF CHANNAH: 22. Now, Eli had become very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and that they would lie with the women who congregated at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 6
TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (20th of Elul) and Rabbi Yonasan Eibeshitz (21st of Elul)

Week 50 is the fourth week of Elul. We have completed the counting of the “Annual Omer,” and this week, along with 51 and 52, correspond to Shavuot and the three intellectual sefirot, Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding) and Da’at (knowledge). This is the week of Chai Elul, the birthday of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe of Chabad (Rabbeinu HaZaken in Hebrew) Our sages teach us that Zaken stands for “Zeh SheKanah Chochmah,” he who has acquired wisdom. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how Eli had become very old (Zaken Meod). His sons, on the other hand, completely lacked this characteristic, and used their unwise “youthfulness” to “sleep” with women bringing sacrifices.[1]
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is the very same word as above, Ziknah, usually translated as sageness, old age.
Chapter 6 of the Song of Songs describes a relationship between G-d and the Jewish people that is considerably different than the one described in previous chapters. It contains the famous verse that is an acronym for the month of Elul (Ani LeDodi veDodi Li):
3. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine, who grazes among the roses."
Rashi - who grazes among the roses: who pastures his flocks in a calm and goodly pasture.
The relationship is somewhat more subdued and also somewhat “wiser.” Rashi notes throughout that the relationship described is that of the Jewish people in the times of the Second Temple. It is a love that comes with the wisdom acquired after a period of brief betrayal and a sense of abandonment. Yet, the love is slowly rebuilt until it reaches its apex once more:
10. Who is this who looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as the bannered legions?"
Rashi - like the dawn: which progressively lights up little by little; so were the Israelites in the Second Temple. In the beginning, Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah, but not a king, and they were subjugated to Persia and to Greece, and afterwards, the house of the Hasmoneans defeated them and they became kings.
This week contains the yahrzeits of two great Torah sages, who also happened to live until an advanced age:  Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (20th of Elul) and Rabbi Yonasan Eibeshitz (21st of Elul).
From Breslov.com:
Sternhartz (Kokhav Lev), Reb Avraham (1862-1955). Reb Avraham was Reb Noson's great-grandson and a grandson of the Tcheriner Rav. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his illustrious grandfather whose influence upon him was unmistakable. Even as a child, Reb Avraham showed great diligence in Torah study, a trait for which his grandfather was known. After the morning prayers he would seclude himself in the attic where he would study Rebbe Nachman's Likutey Moharan, not interrupting his studies until he knew the lesson of the day by heart. After completing the entire Talmud at the age of sixteen, he married. He was a scribe in Tcherin and at age nineteen was accepted as Rav in Kremenchug. At twenty-two he was appointed prayer leader for the Rosh HaShannah kibutz, a post which he also held after coming to the Holy Land, for a total of seventy years.
Reb Avraham arrived in Jerusalem's Old City in 1936, where he was received and recognized as the outstanding Breslover elder of his generation. In 1940 he established the kibutz in Meron for Rosh HaShannah. Exiled from the Old City during the War of Independence in 1948, he was resettled in Katamon together with many other Breslover Chassidim. Among his disciples were a number of the major Breslover leaders of the past few decades, including: Reb Moshe and Reb Nachman Burstein, Reb Michel Dorfman, Reb Shmuel Horowitz (d.1973), Reb Gedaliah Aharon Koenig, Reb Zvi Aryeh Lippel (1903-1979), Reb Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, Reb Shmuel Shapiro and Reb Yaakov Meir Shechter.
It was said of Reb Avraham that he was a "living" Likutey Moharan. Just by looking at him, one could see that his every action was based on some statement in Rebbe Nachman's teachings. When giving a lesson in Likutey Moharan, he would begin by reading from the text, divert to complementary material for an hour or two, and then pick up again from the exact word where he'd left off. What was amazing about this was that it was all done entirely by memory, without Reb Avraham's ever having to look into the written text! And what's more, he did this up until he passed away at age ninety-three and a half.
From Ascent.org:
Rabbi Yonasan Eibeshitz (1660 - 21 Elul 1764) was chief rabbi of many cities, including Posen, Prague and Altuna. He died in Metz at over one hundred years old. He authored many important books on Jewish law, scripture and thought.
This week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Yaakov Koppel Chassid (15th of Elul), Rabbi Yehudah Loew (the Maharal, 18th of Elul), Chacham Abdallah Somech (18th of Elul), and Rabbi Ze’ev Nachum Bornstein (19th of Elul)

[1] The Talmud states that they did not actually have relations with these women, but rather they delayed in bringing Zava sacrifices. This made certain women have to stay overnight in proximity to the Tabernacle, thereby impeding them from being with their husbands. See Talmud Yoma 9a, Shabbat 55b.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Week 51 (Book 4): Wholeness and Long Life

STORY OF CHANNAH: 23. And he said to them: "Why do you do the likes of these things, for I hear evil reports about you, from all these people.   

SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 7

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan (The Chafetz Chaim, 24th of Elul) and Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (The Sar Shalom, First Belzer Rebbe, 27th of Elul)

Week 51 is the last week of Elul, ending just days prior to Rosh Hashanah. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how Eli spoke to his sons about the evil reports against them. It is a call to repentance, very much like the call Hashem makes to us prior to the coming new year.

The verse also speaks of what is often considered the worst of all sins: Lashon HaRah, often translated as slander. Lashon HaRah is said to “kill” three people, the one who speaks it, the one who listens, and the one of whom the Lashon HaRah is spoken. King David writes in Chapter 34 of the Book of Psalms:

13. Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness?
14. Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully.
15. Shun evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.

This is ultimately the advice that Eli is giving his sons in order for them to attain life, just as we seek to be inscribed in the Book of Life in the coming year.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is exactly this characteristic of long life, Seivah, translated as old age, or ripe old age. Seivah also represents the idea of wholeness, completion. In Chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot, it states that someone who reaches the age of 70 reaches Seivah. Our sages comment that 70 is considered a full life span, as stated in Psalm 90:10. (Marcus, p. 188) King David himself passed away at 70, and is described to have reached Seivah Tovah, good old age. (Chronicles I, Chapter 29, mentioned in Rav Ovadia Bartnura’s Commentary to the Mishah). This quality of completion is quite appropriate for this week, as we are about to complete the cycle of the Jewish year.  

The Lubavitcher Rebbe quotes the Arizal in explaining that achieving Seivah does not mean that our mission has likewise been accomplished. We must continue to rise higher and higher:

The AriZal follows a different text for that Mishnah: “At 60, one attains seivah(old age).” He does not, however, interpret “old age,” as a negative quality, and offers a non-literal interpretation of the verse: “Rise before a person who has reached old age,” stating that “reaching old age” summons up the inner resources that enable a person to rise and accomplish his purpose in life.[1]

It is worth noting that the word Seivah, even though it is connected to completion, also contains the letters of the word Shav, which means to return, to do teshuvah, to repent. Even those that are fully righteous must always be looking for ways to grow and accomplish more.

Chapter 7 of the Song of Songs begins by calling the Jewish people by the name Shulamit. The root of this name is Shalom, peace, but also wholeness and completion, just like the name Shlomoh, Solomon. It is a reference to a completeness reached in our service of G-d. The chapter continues by describing the perfection of each of the limbs and parts of the Jewish people’s “body.” The chapter embodies the close, intimate relationship with G-d we experience during this month, as well as the completion of the year, mentioned above. Interestingly, the verse regarding Shulamit, despite the name’s meaning, also speaks of returning, of doing teshuvah:

1. "Return, return, O Shulammite; return, return, and let us gaze upon you." "What will you see for the Shulammite, as in the dance of the two camps?

Also as mentioned above, despite feeling a sense of completion and wholeness, we must continue to strive for even greater accomplishments and an even greater sense of closeness.

This week contains the yahrzeits of two of our greatest Torah sages, who very much embodied the ideas of long life and completeness: Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan (the Chafetz Chaim, 24th of Elul) and Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (the Sar Shalom, First Belzer Rebbe, 27th of Elul).

From Torah.org:

Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan is commonly known as the "Chafetz Chaim," the name of his famous work on guarding one's tongue. Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838, he was taught untill age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chafetz Chaim settled in Radin (Poland) and subsisted on a small grocery store which his wife managed and he did the "bookkeeping"-watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.
As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva. In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chafetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively (even in his 90s!) to encourage the observance of Mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organizaion of Europe and later the world, the Chafetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period. Exemplifying the verses in Psalms 34:13-14, "Who is the man who desires life...? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit," the Chafetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.
The Chafetz Chaim's greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim (holy books) which he published. His first work, Sefer Chafetz Chaim (1873), is the first attempt to to organize and clarify the laws regrding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including Shmirat HaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one's tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah (1894-1907), his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew (his first series in the Shulchan Aruch), is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.
Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.
From RabbiShimon.com:

Rabbi Shalom could trace his ancestry to the great gaon, Rabbi Eliezer of Amsterdam, author of Ma'aseh Rokeach. Orphaned at a young age, he was brought up by his uncle, Rabbi Yissachar Ber, the Rabbi of Skol, under whose tutelage he studied Talmud and Halachah with great intensity. The fire of his Chasidut was nurtured by his mentors, the Chozeh of Lublin,  Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel of Apta, the Maggid of Koznitz, and Rabbi Uri of Strelisk.
After his marriage he devoted 1000 days and nights to the uninterrupted study of both the revealed and kabalistic Torah, emerging as a recognized scholar of eminent stature. Young students and accomplished scholars flocked to him in even larger numbers, to see and to learn; foremost among these was the renowned Rabbi Shlomo Kluger of Brody. In Belz, Rabbi Shalom blazed a new trail: the fusion of excellence in Torah scholarship with the burning mystical zeal of Chasidism. Since the beginnings of the movement the mitnagdim had accused chasidim of devoting too much time to joyous celebrations in fellowship with their rebbes, at the expense of Torah study, which is the bedrock of Judaism. By stressing the overriding importance of in-depth Torah study, the Belzer Rebbe removed the stigma of superficiality that had plagued Chasidism.
He did not commit any of his discourses to writing. They were recorded from the memories of his followers, who collected and published them; Rabbi Shalom of Belza Al HaTorah (Hebrew).
Rabbi Shalom of Belz, also called Sar Shalom, erected a magnificent yeshivah and study hall in Belz that became the spiritual center for tens of thousands of Belzer chasidim in Galicia. He was succeeded by his illustrious son, Rabbi Yehoshua. In the 1940's, the Nazi persecutions all but wiped out the splendor that was Belz. After the Holocaust, the disconsolate scattered remnants of Belzer Chasidut - under the leadership of the surviving scion of the Belz dynasty, the young Rabbi Yisachar Dov - miraculously restored the former grandeur of Belz. Today the glorious new Belzer yeshivah building graces the Jerusalem skyline, and Belzer centers of learning can be found in every major city in America, Israel and Europe, teeming with thousands of eager young students and mature scholars. Indeed, with the help of the Almighty, Belz has risen from despair and is now carrying on the traditions of Torah and Chassidut of the first Belzer Rebbe, the Sar Shalom.
This week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Uri of Sterlisk (the Saraph, 23rd of Elul), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Danziger (Alexanderer Rebbe, 23rd of Elul), Rabbi Yechiel Michil of Zlotchov (the Maggid of Zlotchov, 25th of Elul), and Rabbi Shmuel Abba Zikelinsky of Zichlin (26th of Elul).

[1] http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/93614/jewish/Looking-Beyond-Landmarks.htm

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 52 (Book 4): Parent and Child

STORY OF CHANNAH: 24. No, my sons, for the rumor which I hear the Lord's people spreading, is not good. 25. If man will sin to man, the judge will judge him. If, however, he will sin against God, who will intercede in the judgment in his behalf?" But they would not hearken to their father's voice, for the Lord desired to kill them. 26. And the lad, Samuel, was growing up, and bettering himself both with the Lord and with people.
PIRKEI AVOT QUALITIES BECOMING TO THE RIGHTEOUS: and children are becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world. As is stated (Proverbs 16:31): "Old age is a crown of beauty, to be found in the ways of righteousness." And it says (ibid. 20:29): "The beauty of youths is their strength, and the glory of sages is their age." And it says (ibid., 17:6): "The crown of sages are their grandchildren, and the beauty of children their fathers." And it says (Isaiah 24:23): "And the moon shall be abashed and the sun shamed, for the L-rd of hosts has reigned in Zion, and before his elders is glory."
Rabbi Shimon the son of Menasia would say: these seven qualities enumerated by the sages for the righteous were all realized in Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] and his sons.
SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 8
TZADIKKIM: Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Schneerson (3rd of Tishrei) and Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson (6th of Tishrei)           

Week 52 is the week of Rosh Hashanah. The verse(s) from the story of Channah continue Eli’s reprimand of his children. As is the custom not to end a reading on a less than positive note, this week includes also verses 25 and 26. The verses contain many of the themes of Rosh Hashanah. First and foremost, the relationship between father and son. As noted in previous books, 52 has the numerical value of the Hebrew word for “son,” ben. The verses also speak of judgment, by other men but also particularly by G-d, one of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah. It is on Rosh Hashanah that G-d decides who will live and who will die, and the verses state that, regarding the sons of Eli, G-d desired to kill them. Verse 26, the end of this section of the Tanach, speaks of how Shmuel, already a Tzadik, continued to grow, both in his relationship with Hashem as well as with the people. Also, on Rosh Hashanah, we look to connect with the community, and particularly with the Tzadik, the head of the community, in order to be judged in the merit of the entire congregation. As mentioned in the previous week, teshuvah is connected to growth, and one must always be looking for ways of doing so, particularly during the Days of Awe.
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is exactly the quality of having children. Pirkei Avot brings prooftexts for the qualities mentioned, most of which are related to old age and children. Pirkei Avot also states that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, also called simply as “Rabbi,” had all of these qualities. Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi was the head of the entire Jewish people as well as the compiler of the Mishnah, the entire Oral Torah. It is therefore appropriate that he encompass all of the character traits listed above. Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, also encompasses the entire year.
Chapter 8 of the Song of Songs contains many references to family relationships: brother and sister, but most importantly, mother and child:
1. "O, that you were like my brother, who sucked my mother's breasts! I would find you outside, I would kiss you, and they would not despise me.

2. I would lead you, I would bring you to the house of my mother, who instructed me; I would give you to drink some spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.

3. His left hand would be under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.

4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; why should you awaken, and why should you arouse the love until it is desirous?

5. "Who is this coming up from the desert, embracing her beloved?" "Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother was in travail with you; there she that bore you was in travail."

Rashi comments:
there your mother was in travail with you: We have said that the Holy One, blessed be He, called her His mother (above 3:11). There she became Your mother.

Rashi’s comments to verse 3:11 are as follows:
upon the crown with which his mother crowned him: [This refers to] the Tent of Meeting, which is crowned with hues: blue, purple, and crimson. Rabbi Nehunia said: Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai asked Rabbi Eleazar the son of Rabbi Jose, “Perhaps you heard from your father what the meaning of ‘upon the crown with which his mother crowned him’ is?” He replied: “This is a parable of a king who had an only daughter of whom he was very fond. He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my daughter, “ as it is said (Ps. 45:11): ” Hearken, daughter, and see.“ He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my sister, “ as it is said (below 5:2): ” Open for me, my sister, my beloved.“ He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my mother, “ as it is said (Isa. 51:4): ” Hearken to Me, My people, and My nation (וּלְאוּמִי), bend your ears." It is written: וּלְאֻמִי [which can be read as וּלְאִמִי, and to my mother]. Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai stood up and kissed him on his head, etc.

Rashi states that by G-d calling the Jewish people his “mother,” he is pointing to the highest possible relationship. It is also worth noting that the verse that explains this concept refers us to the Jewish people crowning Hashem, which is exactly our primary task on Rosh Hashanah. It was also on Rosh Hashanah that two of the most important mothers in Tanach were answered and told that they would be having childern: our matriarch Sarah (to be pregnant with Isaac) and the prophetess Chanah (pregnant with Shmuel).  The descriptions of these events are part of the Torah and Haftorah readings for Rosh Hashanah.
This week contains the yahrzeits of two very special mothers in Israel: Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Schneerson (mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Third Lubbavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, 3rd of Tishrei) and Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson (mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the (7th) Lubbavitcher Rebbe, 6th of Tishrei).
From Chabad.org:
Devorah Leah was the second daughter of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement. (…)

One day, amidst his anxiety, the Alter Rebbe called for his daughter Devorah Leah. In the privacy of his study, he informed her about the very difficult times that lay ahead, and the strong heavenly opposition against revealing the innermost aspects of Chassidism. He described to her, in the gravest of tones, that he had seen a vision of the faces of the Maggid and the Baal Shem Tov, and they were extremely dark and clouded. Devorah Leah understood that her father’s very life was in danger.

Acting on her own initiative, Devorah Leah gathered together three of her father’s senior chassidim. She requested that they promise to fulfill all that she asked of them, and swear not to reveal her requests to anyone. Only when they had agreed to these conditions did she proceed.

She reminded them that they were all chassidim of her father, and therefore, they must all be prepared to do whatever necessary for his and the Baal Shem Tov’s important work and teachings to flourish. Breaking down in tears, Devorah Leah begged them, “I ask you to swear a solemn oath, one that cannot be annulled, that you will follow my request even if a human life is at stake.” As one of the chassidim became apprehensive about making such a commitment, the two others calmed him by persuading him that Devorah Leah must have contemplated the matter well and certainly would not act recklessly.

The air was heavy with emotion as Devorah Leah notified the chassidim of the urgency of the present situation, and the threat hanging over Reb Schneur Zalman’s life. Resolutely, she stated, “You three chassidim will now constitute a beit din, a court of Jewish law. I have decided to give my own life in lieu of my father’s. I will die and he will live.”

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah of that year, following the afternoon prayers, Devorah Leah went into the small synagogue where her family and some elder chassidim were engrossed in prayers. She walked towards the holy ark and loudly proclaimed, “You are all witnesses before these Torah scrolls, that I, Devorah Leah, daughter of Sterna, accept upon myself, with a clear mind, to exchange lives with my father, Schneur Zalman, son of Rivkah. I, through my death, will be the atonement.”

That night, the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Alter Rebbe left his private room to seek out Devorah Leah. As she approached him, he began to bless her with the customary blessing of “leshanah tovah” (“You should be blessed with a good year”). She abruptly interrupted his blessing with, “Father, leshanah tovah tikatev veteichatem (You should be inscribed and sealed for a good new year).” When he, in turn, was about to finish his blessing to her, she pleaded, “Father, say no more!”

At the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah, the Alter Rebbe called for Devorah Leah and her husband, Rabbi Sholom Shachna. Rabbi Sholom broke down in tears, asking, “What are we to do? Our young son, Menachem Mendel, is so special, yet he is so young and tender. He has just celebrated his third birthday.”

Devorah Leah’s last request of her father was that he should personally involve himself with the duty of educating and raising her young and only son. Reassuring her, the Alter Rebbe promised, “Your son, Menachem [Hebrew for comfort], will be a nechamah (comfort) to me, a nechamah to you and a nechamah to all of the Jewish people.”

The following day, on the third day of Tishrei, Devorah Leah’s prayer came true. Her soul left her body and ascended to the heavens. (…)

From Beis Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva:

Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson was born 28 Teves 5640 (1880) in Nikolaeiv, Russia. Her father was the distinguished and pious scholar, Rabbi Shlomo Halevy Yanovsky, Rabbi of Nikolaeiv. Her mother was the righteous Rebbetzin Rachael, daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Pushnitz, The Rabbi of Dobrinka.       

As a young girl, both her father and her great-grandfather, Rabbi Avraham David Lout, educated Rebbetzin Chana. Her father was known throughout the Jewish world for five scholarly books he authored. In 5660 (1900), Rebbetzin Chana married the renowned and pious scholar and brilliant kabbalist, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, great-grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek, The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe.       

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was appointed Rav of Yekatrinoslav (now Dneproptrovsk), and for all practical purposes was the spiritual leader of the entire Jewish population of the Ukraine. Rebbetzin Chana stood at his side, adding to and assisting in his holy work.       

The congregation in Yekatrinoslav was comprised mainly of non-religious professionals. The Rebbetzin, an intelligent and pleasant person, was not only knowledgeable in Torah, but also spoke Russian. She had a good rapport with the members of the congregation and thus contributed significantly to her husband’s success. She was an elegant woman, always well-dressed and friendly.

Rebbetzin Chana gave birth to three sons: Her eldest is Rabbi Menachem Mendel, The Lubavitcher Rebbe.        

In 5699 (1939), Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was arrested because of his energetic work to preserve religious observance. When he was exiled a year later, Rebbetzin Chana joined him, paying no heed to the difficulties and dangers involved.       

Rebbetzin Chana was widowed in 5704 (1944) when Rabbi levi Yitzchak passed away prematurely, at the age of 66, from the harsh cruelties of his exile. Three years later, Rebbetzin Chana succeeded in emigrating from the Soviet Union. At great danger to herself, she smuggled out her husband’s writings of Kabbalah. These writings were later printed and published by her son, The Rebbe, and are available to all of us. Later that year, she arrived in Paris where she was reunited with her eldest son, whom she had not seen in 20 years. The two traveled to New York, where The Rebbetzin lived the last 17 years of her life warmed by the light of her son who, in 5711 (1951), became the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Rebbetzin Chana’s gentle, unassuming demeanor and thread of majestic grace intertwined in her every word and movement deeply impressed everyone who met her.

This week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz (1st of Tishrei),  Rabbi Yisrael of Stolin (the "Yenuka," 2nd of Tishrei), Rabbi Yitzchak-Meir of Kapichnitz (2nd of Tishrei), the Chayei Adam (4th of Tishrei),  the Shpoler Zeide (6th of Tishrei).


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