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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Week 15 (Book 4): Handling Reproof

STORY OF CHANNAH: 15 And Hannah answered and said: 'No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I poured out my soul before the LORD.
QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: distances him from sin
PROVERBS: Chapter 15
TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Nathan of Breslov (10th of Teveth)
Week 15 is the week of the fast of the 10th of Teveth. The verse from the story of Channah describes how she describes herself as someone who is full of sorrow, who has not drunk, but instead it pouring her soul before G-d. That is very much the idea of the fast. We express our sorrow, we do not (eat or) drink, and instead pour out our soul to G-d.
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality regarding those that study Torah for its own sake (Lishmah) is that Torah distances him from sin. This does not only mean that one does not sin, but also that the Torah requires one who is improperly suspected of sinning to speak up. The Talmud (Brachot) teaches that we learn this principle from the above verse in Channah’s story.
Chapter 15 of the Book of Proverbs contains many of the themes of this week and previous ones: the chapter speaks about how there are times when one needs to to give a gentle reply, but also about knowing how to receive reproof. The chapter also contains contrasts between the righteous and the wicked:
1. A gentle reply turns away wrath, but a distressing word stirs up anger. (…)
5. A fool despises the discipline of his father, but he who keeps reproof will become cunning. (…)
10. Harsh discipline will come to him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof shall die. (…)
12. A scorner does not like being reproved; he does not go to the wise. (…)
31. The ear that listens to reproof of life shall lodge among the wise.
32. He who rejects discipline despises his life, but he who hearkens to reproof acquires sense.
33. The fear of the Lord is the discipline of wisdom, and before honor there is humility.
The 10th of Teveth, and fast days in general, are also about knowing how to handle reproof and repent.

The 10th of Tevethis the yahrzeit of Rebbe Nosson of Breslev, the primary disciple of Rebbe Nachman, and the one responsible for publishing his works and continuing his legacy. Rebbe Nachman said of Rebbe Nosson that he was his “Yehoshuah.” Breslev chassidim commonly state that without Rebbe Nosson, we would be lost. Rebbe Nosson’s life story is very well documented. One of the most predominant themes of his life was staunch faith, dedication and determination in the face of tremendously harsh opposition. In his struggle to connect to Rebbe Nachman, not only was he challenged by other Chassidic leaders at the time, but by his parents, in-laws, and even his wife. Yet, in the face of it all, he remained loyal to his mission, knowing how to handle the opposition and improper reproof, and focusing on pouring out his soul to G-d.
The twelfth of Teveth is the yahrzeit of Rebbe Moshe of Peshevorsk. The Peshevorsk Chassidic dynasty ultimately came from him. This week is connected to the Written Torah (See Book 2), and Rebbe Moshe was famous for the Torah, tefillin, and mezuzah scrolls that he wrote. He was known as a man of tremendous purity and righteousness. He is also the author of Ohr Penei Moshe, a commentary on the Bible and on specific sections of the Talmud.[1]
Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Avraham Abba Leifer (the Pittsburgher Rebbe, 10th of Teveth), RabbiYehoshua Horowitz of Dzikov (author of Ateres Yeshua, 11th of Teveth), Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Shlomo of Vasoloi-Tel Aviv (11th of Teveth), and (often) Rav Moshe son of Rabbi David Biederman of Lelov (son-in-law of the “Holy Yid” of Peshischa and the first Chassidic Rebbe to settle in Jerusalem, 13thof Teveth).



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 16 (Book 4): Bringing Oneself Close to Merit


STORY OF CHANNAH: 16 Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman: for out of the abundance of my complaint and my vexation have I spoken hitherto.'           

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: and brings him close to merit  

PROVERBS: Chapter 16

TZADIKKIM: 18 Tevet - Rav Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov        

Week 16 is the third week of Teveth. The verse from the story of Channah depicts how she asks Eli the Kohen Gadol to judge her favorably, not as a wicked woman. The term in Hebrew, Bli’al, is also associated with idolatry. The sages of the Talmud even learn from this that someone who prays the Amidah prayer while drunk is compared to someone who worships idols. Again, the verse speaks for Channah’s vexation, similar to the vexation we feel in Teveth.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality regarding those that study Torah for its own sake (Lishmah) is that Torah distances brings a person close to merit. Again, the above verse from Channah’s story illustrates this principle.

Chapter 16 of the Book of Proverbs contains the above theme of bringing a person person close to merit:

1. The preparations of the heart are man's, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 
2. All ways of man are pure in his eyes, but the Lord counts the spirits.       (...)
6. With loving-kindness and truth will iniquity be expiated, and through fear of the Lord turn away from evil.    
7. When the Lord accepts a person's ways, He will cause even his enemies to make peace with him.             
8. Better a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.        
9. A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord prepares his step.

This week contains yahrzeits of a few of the most prominent Chassidic rabbis in history, all of whom are closely associated with the Seer of Lublin.

The 16th of Teveth is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Aryeh Leibish of Vishnitza, who was known as Rebbe Leibish Charif (“the sharp one”). He was a a Talmid Muvhak, a very close disciple of the Seer of Lublin.  

The 17th of Teveth is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Fischel (“Fisheleh”) Shapira of Strickov, who was a disciple, successively, of the Maggid of Mezritch, his disciple, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, and his disciple, the Seer of Lublin. He was known for his extreme humility, and was called as “Olah Temimah,” the unblemished offering. (Ascent)

The 18th of Teveth is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov, known for his most prominent work, the Bnei Yissachar, which is the basis for many of the insights of this work, “The Kabbalah of Time.” He was the nephew of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk and a disciple of the Seer of Lublin as well as of Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Salman Mutzafi (17th of Teveth), Rebbe Yaakov Horowitz of Melitz (19th of Teveth), and (sometimes) the Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (the Rambam, Maimonedes, 20th of Teveth), Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira (20th of Teveth), Rabbi Yisrael Dov of Volodnik (21st of Teveth), Rav Matzliach Mazuz of Djerba, (author of Ish Matzliach, 21st of Teveth) and Rabbi Yitzchak son of Rabbi Abba Abuchatzeira (great-grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira, 21st of Teveth)



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week 17 (Book 4): Going to Peace


STORY OF CHANNAH: 17. And Eli answered and said: Go in peace, and the God of Israel will grant your request which you have asked of Him.

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: From him, people enjoy counsel          

PROVERBS: Chapter 17

TZADDIKIM: 24 Tevet - Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shmuel  Bornstein of Soccatchov, as well as that of Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman of Lelov          

Week 17 is the last week of Teveth, and includes the yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, on the 24th of Teveth. The verse from the story of Channah is Eli’s response to Channah. He tells her to go in peace, and that Hashem will grant her request. The Hebrew words used are “Lechi L’Shalom,” which literally means go to peace. In Hebrew, “go in peace,” Lech B’Shalom, is only used for those that have passed away. Rav Kook explains that one cannot wish to be in ultimate peace in this world. This is a world of struggles, particularly during the month of Teveth. The ultimate peace will one day come, but in the meantime, be prepared for an intense journey. The events leading up to the Alter Rebbe’s passing, were quite intense and tumultuous. (See Week 17, Book I)

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that “people enjoy counsel,” from those that study Torah for its own sake (Lishmah). In Channah’s story above, Eli’s counsel allows Channah to finally be able to breathe slightly more easily, knowing that her prayers for a child would be answered.

The entire Book of Proverbs is about enjoying counsel from the wise. Chapter 17 is no different.

Aside from the Alter Rebbe, this week contains the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein of Soccatchov, as well as that of Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman of Lelov, both also on the 24th of Teveth.

Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein was the son of Rabbi Avraham Bornstein, the Avnei Nezer. Rabbi Shmuel is most well known for his extraordinary Chassidic work, the Shem MiShmuel. Like the Alter Rebbe, both father and son were known not only for their Chassidic insights, but also for their tremendous knowledge in the “revealed” Torah knowledge and Jewish law.



Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman was the sixth Lelover Rebbe. He lived in Israel at the time that Jerusalem was liberated in the Sixth Day War. Of all the Chassidic rabbis, it was Rabbi Biderman that spent the most time by the Kotel HaMa’arivi, the Western Wall. He moved to Jerusalem to be close to the Kotel, and his prayers there would last most of the day. (Ascent) 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Week 18 (Book 4): Wisdom That Brings Others Enjoyment and Pleasure in Life


STORY OF CHANNAH: 18. And she said: May your bondswoman find favor in your eyes; and the woman went on her way and ate, and her face was not (sad) anymore.  

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: and wisdom       

PROVERBS: Chapter 18

TZADDIKIM: Rebbe Meshulam Zusil (Zusha) of Anipoli, and the Rav Yisrael Abuchatzeira, the Baba Sali.           

Week 18 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Shevat is connected to the attribute of pleasure, Ta’anug, as well as faith, Emunah. It is worth noting, how in the above verse it states that Channah ate. It does not seem like a relevant observation in the verse. However, it indicates the extent of which Channah was now relieved. Her faith in the words of Eli allowed her to now be able to partake (and take pleasure, Ta’anug) in food again.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that people enjoy “wisdom,” from those that study Torah for its own sake (Lishmah). In Channah’s story above, as mentioned above, and also continuing what was mentioned last week, Eli’s wisdom allows Channah to finally be able to feel comforted, and eat. The word for wisdom used is Tushiah, which appears quite infrequently in Tanach and can also be translated as resourcefulness. Even if Eli did not immediately recognize Channah’s pure intentions, after he spoke to her, he was very wise to quickly realize that he was mistaken and to bless her with a child.

Again, the entire Book of Proverbs is about enjoying wisdom from those that have it. Chapter 18 continues this theme. The very first verse of this chapter speaks of wisdom: “1. He who is separated seeks lust; in all sound wisdom, he is exposed.” Incredibly, the word for wisdom used here is also Tushiah.                    

This week contains the yahrzeit of many great Tzadikim,including Reb Zusha of Anipoli (2nd of Shevat) and the Baba Sali (4th of Shevat).  

The Rebbe Reb Zusha (as he is traditionally referred to) was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. He was the brother of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. The two brothers were known for their spiritual travels through Eastern Europe, bringing life and Torah to the Jewish communities in the region. Rabbi Noach of Kobryn once heard, that Chassidus managed to spread only in those areas through which the both traveled. Stories abound of the miracles performed for Reb Zusha, his humility, as well as his deep introspection. In the entire history of the Chassidic movement, Reb Zusha is certainly one of its greatest giants.

Similarly, in the history of Sefardi holy men, certainly the Baba Sali stands among the most prominent. He was the grandson of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira, the Abir Yaakov, mentioned in Week 16. His love for Hashem, the Jewish people and the Torah were unfathomable. His humility and holiness also knew no bounds. There are literally thousands of stories of the open miracles he performed. The Baba Sali also had a very close relationship with Torah sages from all spectrums of Jewish life, and had tremendous affinity for Chassidism’s teachings and its leaders.



Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Danziger (second Alexander Rebbe, author of Yismach Yisroel, 29th of Teveth), Rav Yitzchak Kaduri (29th of Teveth), Rabbi Simcha Bunim Kalish of Vorka (2nd of Shevat), Rabbi Yosef Yerachmiel Aharon Kalish of Amshinov (3rd of Shevat), Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk (4th of Shevat), Rabbi Moshe Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Sassov (4th of Shevat), and (sometimes) Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter (the Sfas Emes, the  2nd Rebbe of Gur, 5th of Shevat).
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