Weekly Cycle

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Week 41 (Book 4): Not Corrupting G-d's World

STORY OF CHANNAH: 13. And this was the due of the priests from the people: (whenever) any man would slaughter a sacrifice, the servant of the priest would come when (one) cooked the flesh, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.   
QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: one acquisition are the heavens and the earth… The heavens and the earth, as it is written (Isaiah 66:1), "So says G-d: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool; what house, then, can you build for Me, and where is My place of rest?"; and it says (Psalms 104:25), "How many are your works, O G-d, You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is filled with Your acquisitions."  


TZADIKKIM:  Rav Tzvi Hirsch Eichenstein of Zhidatchov (11th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar (the Ohr HaChaim, 15th of Tammuz)

Week 41 includes the seventeenth of Tammuz as well as the Chassidic holiday of Yud Beit/Yud Gimmel Tammuz. The story of Chanah’s verse for this week describes how the sons of Eli established a law in which any person bringing a sacrifice had to give an additional portion to them, even more than what was designated by Torah law. (See Rashi) Their actions were a Hillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name, which denigrated the Mishkan in the eyes of the people. The seventeenth of Tammuz is, in great part, related to the corruption of the Jewish people at the time, particularly the Temple’s priests, which led to its downfall.

This week’s Pirkei Avot acquisition is the heavens and the earth. The verses related to it mention the Temple, as well as its limitations as the house of G-d. What is particularly relevant about this verse, as related to the above account, is that since everything is G-d’s (and the Temple is G-d’s house), how dare the sons of Eli take anything more for themselves of what clearly belongs to G-d, the Master and Owner of all of heaven and earth.

Chapter 10 of Kohelet contains a passage referring to the centrality of heaven and earth, and one should not abuse their contents and using them in an improper way:

16. Woe to you, O land whose king is a lad, and your princes eat in the morning.   
17. Fortunate are you, O land, whose king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat at the proper time, in might and not in drinking.       
18. Through laziness the rafter sinks, and with idleness of the hands the house leaks.         
19. On joyous occasions, a feast is made, and wine gladdens the living, and money answers everything.                 
20. Even in your thought, you shall not curse a king, nor in your bedrooms shall you curse a wealthy man, for the bird of the heaven shall carry the voice, and the winged creature will tell the matter.

Rashi: the bird of the heaven: the soul, which is placed within you, which will ultimately fly up to the heaven.

This week contains the yahrzeits of Rebbe Tzvi-Hirsh Eichenstein  (first rebbe of Zhidachov, 11th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar (the Ohr HaChaim, 15th of Tammuz).

From Ascent:

Rebbe Tzvi-Hirsh Eichenstein [1785 - 11 Tammuz 1831], founder of the Zhidachov dynasty, was a prominent disciple of the Seer of Lublin. He championed the position that the practice of Chasidism had to be firmly based on the study of the Kabbala of the holy Ari of Safed. He wrote and published numerous commentaries on Kabbala, including Ateret Tzvi on the Zohar, and several on the weekly readings. The Malbimwas a student of his. He was succeeded by three nephew-disciples, including Yitzhak-Isaac of Zhidachov and Yitzhak-Isaac-Yehuda-Yechiel of Komarno.

Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (1696 - 15 Tammuz 1743) is best known as the author of one of the most important and popular commentaries on the Torah: the Ohr HaChaim. He established a major yeshiva in Israel, after moving there from Morocco. Chassidic tradition is that the main reason the Baal Shem Tov twice tried so hard (and failed) to get to the Holy Land was that he said if he could join the Ohr HaChaim there, together they could bring Moshiach. His burial site outside the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, is considered a propitious place to pray.

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Elazar of Reishe (15th of Tammuz), Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heschel of Kopischnitz (16th of Tammuz), and Rabbi Shmuel Yaacov Weinberg (17th of Tammuz).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Week 42 (Book 4): The Importance of Giving (not Taking By Force)

STORY OF CHANNAH: 14. And he would thrust into the fire-pot, or into the pot, or into the cauldron, or into the pan, everything which the fork would pick up, the priest would take therewith; so would they do to all Israel who came there in Shiloh.

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: one acquisition is Abraham... Abraham, as it is written (Genesis 14:19), "And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram to G-d Most High, acquirer of heavens and earth."


TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd of Tammuz).  

Week 42 is the last week of Tammuz, part of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves a disproportionate part of the sacrifice of each Jewish person. This behavior is antithetical to the Torah, which is primarily about love and about giving. The main reason the Second Temple was destroyed was because of Sinat Chinam, gratuitous hatred, caused by acts like these.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how Abraham is one of G-d’s acquisitions. Abraham’s entire essence was about giving and love. The quotation that accompanies the above statement in Pirkei Avot comes immediately before Abraham gives ten percent of all he has to Malchitzedek, a priest (lit. Kohen). Abraham gave to the priest out of his own will, in contrast to the the sons of Eli, who forcefully took for themselves even more than what they were entitled.

Chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes begins with the same concept: the importance of giviing:

1. Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water, for after many days you will find it.

2. Give a portion to seven and even to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

Rashi comments:

Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water: Do goodness and kindness to a person about whom your heart tells you that you will never see him again, like a person who casts his food upon the surface of the water.

for after many days you will find it: Days will yet come, and you will receive your recompense. Note what is said about Jethro (Exod. 2:20): “Call him that he should eat bread,” and he thought that he (Moses) was an Egyptian and that he would never see him again. What was his end? He became his son- in-law and reigned over Israel and brought him under the wings of the Shechinah, and his sons and grandsons merited to sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone.

Give a portion to seven and even to eight: If you have shared your food and your drink with seven who need kindness, share further with eight who come after them, and do not say, “Enough.”

for you do not know what evil will be: Perhaps days will yet come and you will need them all. Then you will be saved from the evil by this charity, and if not now, when?

This week contains the yahrzeits of three important figures in Chassidism and Kabbalah: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd  of Tammuz).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht [1848 - 21 Tamuz 1933], in Romania, was the grandson of the holy Rabbi Yisroel of Rhzhin. He succeeded his father, Rabbi Menachem Nochum, to be the second Rebbe in the dynasty, in 1869. While famed for his miraculous powers and having thousands of followers and admirers, he was also considered one of the true hidden tzadikim of his generation. In 1969 his remains -- which witnesses alive today testify were still as whole and fresh as the day he died! -- were exhumed and transferred from Romania to Nachlas Yitzchok in Tel Aviv, where his grave is still a holy site of prayer for thousands of Jews.

R. Shlomo of Karlin [1738-22 Tammuz 1792], was also a student of the Maggid, as well as of Reb Aharon the Great of Karlin, whom he succeeded in 1772. Most of the Chassidic leaders of the next generation in the Lithuanian region were his disciples. He died Kiddush HaShem, stabbed by a Cossack while in the midst of theAmida prayer.
Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (1522-23 Tammuz 1570), known by the anacronym of his name: Ramak, was considered the head of the Tsfat Kabbalists until his death shortly after the arrival of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. Author of many major works of Kabbalah, including Pardes Rimonim ("Orchard of Pomegranates"), in which he systematized all kabbalistic knowledge that had been revealed until then.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Week 43 (Book 4): Israel, an Acquisition of G-d

STORY OF CHANNAH: 15. Also, before they would make the fat smoke, and the servant of the priest would come, and would say to the man who slaughtered, 'Give meat to roast for the priest, and he will not take from you cooked meat, but raw.    
PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: and one acquisition is the people of Israel… Israel, as it is written (Exodus 15:16), "Till Your nation, O G-d, shall pass, till this nation You have acquired shall pass"; and it says (Psalms 16:3), "To the holy who are upon earth, the noble ones, in whom is all My delight."      


TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz), Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz),  and Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).  

Week 43 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, the second of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves would use a servant of the priests to force the Jewish person to give a great portion of his sacrifice even before it was ready. Their behavior showed a great disdain for the Jewish person bringing the sacrifice, as well as for those that served the priests in the Tabernacle.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the people of Israel is one of G-d’s acquisitions. The verses cited in support for this concept speak of how the Jews were acquired to be G-d’s servants after being freed from Egyptian servitude. They also speak of the Jewish people’s holy and noble character.  The sons of Eli denigrate both aspects above: they use the priests’ servants in the Tabernacle for their own selfish motives, and belittle the holiness and importance of the sacrifices brought by the people.

Chapter 12 is the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. The book ends with the well known words that encapsule the above relationship that the Jewish people have with G-d:

13. The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.

14. For every deed God will bring to judgment-for every hidden thing, whether good or bad.
These words make clear our role as G-d’s servants, followers of His commandments.  They also point to just how noble and holy is this task – “for this is the entire man.”
Rashi’s comments also reflect this:

The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God: What you can, do, and let your heart be to Heaven.

and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man: Because, for this matter, the entire man was created.

This week contains the yahrzeits of two prominent figures in Hungarian Jewry Chassidic Rebbes: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz).  Also this week is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum [1759-28 Tammuz 1841], known as the Yismach Moshe after the title of his book of Torah commentary, was famed both as a scholar and wonderworker. A disciple of the Seer of Lublin, he was instrumental in the spread of Chasidut in Hungary. His descendants founded the dynasties of Satmar and Sighet.

From Chevrat Pinto:

Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was born in Ungvar, Hungary in 1804 (5564). His father, Rabbi Yossef Ganzfried, died during his childhood, and this orphan was brought up by one of the great of his generation, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Heller, better known as Rabbi Hirsch Charif, the Rav of Ungvar. He saw in the boy the potential of becoming one of the great authorities of Israel. During all the years of learning next to his teacher, his soul thirsted to penetrate the depths of Halachah until a clear answer was achieved. It was this objective that was the driving force of his various Halachic books, and which pushed him to give us – us and future generations – books destined for the instruction of practical Halachah. All those that devoted themselves to the Torah and all Talmidei Chachamim received everything that he wrote in the field of Halachah with favor and love. Yet more than with any other book, each of which in itself represented a special blessing, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried acquired great merit for himself with his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a work that greatly benefited the general public. Beginning from 1864 (5624), when it was printed for the first time in Ungvar, this book has for more than a century been reprinted dozens of times in hundreds of thousands of copies. This has never been the case with any other author or book of its kind, so much so that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Kitzur Shulchan Aruch has become one of the most popular works of all time, destined for and worthy of every Jew. It is in complete harmony with Rabbi Yossef Caro’s hope that “young students consult it [the Shulchan Aruch] constantly, studying it by heart and having this study of youth well in their mouths in order to know the Halachah in each specific case, and also so as not to distance themselves from it in their old age.” Kitzur Shulchan Aruch study groups have been formed in hundreds of cities and towns, with the goal of learning and disseminating its teachings to the public at large in synagogues and houses of study.

“Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was a man aided by Providence,” of the great masters of Lithuanian Jewry once said concerning him. In fact, none of the great men of Israel have ever seen in their lifetime, as did he, their works crowned by Halachic commentaries and new Dinim of other Rabbis. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was printed 14 times during the lifetime of the author, and at each reprint he himself added numerous new Dinim. During his lifetime, Rav Ishaya Hacohen came and “encircled” his work with a commentary entitled Misgeret HaShulchan (lit. “The Border of the Table”), which was printed, with permission from Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, together with the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This resulted in a book that was important both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Despite the fact that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Shulchan was already vast in scope and had all sorts of sub-divisions, he decided to stay with the title Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (“Abridged Shulchan Aruch”). When a close friend asked why he incessantly clung to the name Kitzur, he responded with a smile: “In the book of Psalms, it is written, ‘You prepare [ta’aroch] a table [shulchan] before me’ [Psalms 23:5]. It not written, “You will lengthen [ta’arich] a table [shulchan] before me.’ ” May his merit protect us all. Amen.

Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Week 44 (Book 4): Building G-d's House


STORY OF CHANNAH: 16. And (if) the man said to him, 'Let them make the fat smoke now, and (then) take for yourself, as your soul desires,' And he would say, 'No, but now you shall give. And if not, I shall take by force.'

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: and one acquisition is the Holy Temple… The Holy Temple, as it is written (Exodus 15:17), "The base for Your dwelling that you,   G-d, have achieved; the Sanctuary, O L-rd, that Your hands have established"; and it says (Psalms 78:54), "And He brought them to His holy domain, this mount His right hand has acquired."

PSALM 127: A song of ascents about Solomon. If the Lord will not build a house, its builders have toiled at it in vain…

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal, 5th of Av) and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (the Chozeh of Lublin, 9th of Av)

Week 44 is the week of Tisha B’Av, the third of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would threaten to take a portion of the sacrifices by force, even before they were ready. Their behavior showed a great disdain for the laws of sacrifices and for the person bringing it. Their actions are reminiscent of the baseless hatred at the time of the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av and of the corruption of the priests of those days as well.
The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the Temple is one of G-d’s acquisitions. The verses cited in support for this concept speak of how the Temple is G-d’s dwelling, which He established and acquired with His hands. In contrast, the sons of Eli spoke out of a sense of entitlement, as if the Tabernacle and the sacrifices were theirs. They placed their will before that of G-d, to Whom the Tabernacle truly belonged.

Chapter 127 in the Book of Psalms was said by King Solomon. The psalm is about building of the Temple, and how its success is totally dependent on G-d’s will. Failure to keep G-d’s will will lead to its ultimate destruction, as took place on Tisha B’Av. (See Rashi)
This week contains the yahrzeits of two of the greatest masters of Kabbalah and Chassidut: Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal, father of Kabbalah as we know it, 5th of Av) and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (the Chozeh of Lublin, successor of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk,9th of Av).

From Ascent:
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-5 Av 1572), Known as "the holy Ari," revolutionized the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two years he spent in Zefat before his death at 38. Much of Chasidic thought is based on the Ari's kabbalah teachings, as recorded by his main disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. (For a fuller biography) (For teachings of the Ari translated into English)

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (1745 - 9 Av 1815), known as 'the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin', was the successor to R. Elimelech of Lizensk (1717-1787), and leader of the spread of chassidus in Poland. Many great Rebbes of the next generation emerged from his followers, including: the Yid HaKodesh, Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, Meir of Apta, David of Lelov, the Yismach Moshe, the Sabba Kadisha of Radoshitz, the Bnai Yisasscher, Rabbi Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz, the Maor Vashemesh and Sar Shalom of Belz. Many of his insights were published posthumously in Divrei Emmes, Zichron Zos, and Zos Zichron.
Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier (3rd of Av), Rabbi Chaim Yechezkel Taub of Ozorov (3rd of Av), Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky (first Skverer Rebbe in America, 3rd of Av), Rabbi Ephraim Taub of Kuzmir (4th of Av), Rabbi Benzion Halberstam (2nd Bobover Rebbe, 4th of Av)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Week 45 (Book 4): Appreciating True Beauty

STORY OF CHANNAH: 17. And the sin of the lads was great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord.    


SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 1

TZADIKKIM: Don Isaac Abravanel (10th of Av) and Sir Moses Montefiori (13th of Av) 

Week 45 is the week of Tu B’Av, The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would despise the sacrificial offerings to Hashem in the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word used is Niatzu, often used in Tanach in the context of not appreciating the beauty of the Mitzvot. Tu B’Av is the happiest day in the Jewish calendar (along with Yom Kippur) and the most romantic day. The Talmud describes it as a day particularly fit for appreciating the beauty of others, particularly one’s future spouse. Real beauty, however, is not only physical.The Mishnah states that on this day,
The daughters of Jerusalem came out and danced in the vineyards exclaiming at the same time, "Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty but set your eyes on [good] family." As it says, "Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears the lord, she shall be praised." (Ta'anit 26b)
Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avot lists eight qualities that are becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world. The first one mentioned is in fact beauty (No’i). The message here appears to be exactly this. Outer beauty that reflects the inner beauty of the righteous is becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world. Outer body that is not accompanied by fear of G-d is deceitful and vain.
Chapter 1 of the Song of Songs contains a similar theme. One of the main focuses of this chapter is beauty. However, it would do a tremendous injustice to this holy writing to think that King Solomon was speaking primarily about physical beauty.
1. The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.

2. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.

3. Because of the fragrance of your goodly oils, your name is 'oil poured forth.' Therefore, the maidens loved you.

4. Draw me, we will run after you; the king brought me to his chambers. We will rejoice and be glad in you. We will recall your love more fragrant than wine; they have loved you sincerely.

5. I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem! Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. (...)

10. Your cheeks are comely with rows, your neck with necklaces (...)

15. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved; behold, you are comely; your eyes are like doves."

16. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved, yea pleasant; also our couch is leafy.

Rashi explains the use of the word “comely” (Na’avah), in relevant part:
The allegory is that the congregation of Israel says to the nations: I am black in my deeds, but I am comely in the deeds of my ancestors, and even some of my deeds are comely. If I am guilty of the iniquity of the [Golden] Calf, I can counter it with the merit of the acceptance of the Torah (Song Rabbah).
Regarding verses 15 and 16, Rashi explains that G-d says to Israel that she is fair, “fair with the deeds of your forefathers and fair with your own deeds, because.. there are righteous among you who clung to Me like a dove, which, as soon as it recognizes its mate, does not abandon it to mate with another… ” Israel responds by saying that The beauty is not mine, but yours; you are the comely one… for You overlooked my transgression and caused Your Divine Presence to rest in our midst.”
This week contains the yahrzeits of two very prominent Sephardic philanthropists, statesmen, and advisors to European kings: Don Isaac Abravanel (10th of Av) and Sir Moses Montefiori (13th of Av). Both were able to join outward physical wealth, luxury and beauty with inward G-dly pursuits and integrity.

From Chabad.org:

Don Isaac Abravanel
Don Isaac Abravanel was one of the greatest Jewish statesmen who played an important part in European history. At the same time he was not merely a loyal and strictly religious Jew, but a great scholar, Bible commentator and philosopher. He was the last of the long line of great Jewish leaders and heroes of the Spanish Golden Age.
Isaac was born into a wealthy and learned family in Portugal. His father Judah was state treasurer of Portugal, and a great favorite of Alfonso V, king of Portugal. Isaac received a thorough Jewish education, and took a keen interest in languages and philosophy. Later he succeeded his father in the service of the king.
In his greatness, Isaac never forgot his humble brethren. He used his vast wealth to support the needy. Thus, when Alfonso captured the town of Arzilla in Morocco, and there were two hundred and fifty Jews among the prisoners, Isaac Abravanel appointed twelve representatives to gather funds to redeem them, and he himself was the greatest donor. When they were redeemed, he supported them from his own means for about two years, until they learnt the language and could earn their own livelihood. Abravanel also used his great influence to better the position of his brethren in other lands.
When Alfonso V died and Don Joao II succeeded to the throne of Portugal, Abravanel's fortune changed. In the year 5243, Don Joao II began a policy that aimed at getting rid of the nobility, and particularly the ministers of state that served his father. Abravanel learned just in time that the king beheaded several of the highest ranking officers, and that he was slated -to share a similar fate. He was on the way to answer the king's call, but on learning what awaited him, Abravanel fled to Toledo in Spain, where his family had once lived. Accompanied by his wife and two children, Abravanel arrived in Toledo almost penniless, as the ungrateful. John had confiscated all his wealth.
Abravanel quietly obtained a position with a Jewish banking firm, and was glad to have time to pursue his studies and literary work. He continued his commentaries on the Bible which he had been forced to interrupt because of the pressure of state affairs. He wrote his commentaries on Joshua, Judges and Samuel, but when he began his commentaries on the book of Kings, the king of Spain summoned him to take over the state treasury. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain knew that they could find no greater financial genius, and in the very same year when the notorious Torquemada became head of the Inquisition in Spain, Abarvanel officially became treasurer to the king and queen (two years before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain).
When that terrible decree of the expulsion of all Jews from Spain except those who would give up their faith, became known, Abravanel tried hard to avert the catastrophe. He begged of the king and queen to reconsider their cruel decree, and he offered a huge sum to the king's treasury. The king and queen turned a deaf ear to all his personal pleas and declined his gifts of money.
On the 9th of Av, 5252 (July 30, 1492), Abravanel and his family were on the march with the rest of their co-religionists He gave up his exalted position and joined his beloved brethren in exile and suffering. The unfortunate refugees finally reached Naples in Italy. When Ferdinand learned that the Jews found a haven in Naples, he requested the king of Naples (also called Ferdinand) that he should not permit the refugees to. remain in his land. The young king of Naples, however, ignored the protest and demands of the cruel rulers of Spain. Moreover, he invited Abravanel to the royal house and appointed him as his adviser. Abravanel served both him and his son Alfonso II who succeeded to the throne in 1494. Unfortunately Naples was captured by King Charles of France in the following year, and King Alfonso II fled to Sicily. Abravanel accompanied his Majesty in exile, and continued to serve him with a fatherly devotion, until the exiled king died. Then Abravanel left for the island of Corfu in the Mediterranean.
Having lost all his wealth to the French conquerors, Abravanel suffered poverty and hardship. He moved to Monopoli, a town in the Kingdom of Naples, and 8 years later finally settled in Venice. Here it was not long before the rulers of Venice invited him to the council of state, and Abravanel became one of the leading statesmen of that Venetian Republic. Here in Venice Abravanel died in the year 5269, at the age of 71, deeply mourned by the Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Venice. The leading rulers of Venice attended his funeral, and he was laid to rest in Padua.

Sir Moses Montefiore

Moses Montefiore was a devoted worker for the public welfare, a mediator and intercessor in behalf of his brethren, a statesman and a diplomat. Everywhere Kings and Princes received him cordially, and he always defended the Jewish position with pride and vigor, doing his utmost for his coreligionists in various European countries.
Moses Montefiore was born on the 13th of Cheshvan, 5545 (1784) in the Italian city of Livorno. His grandfather, Moses Chaim Montefiore was a Sephardic Jew from that city, who later settled in London. He had 17 sons, one of whom, Joseph Elijah, was the father of Moses. When Joseph Elijah, together with his wife, traveled on business to Livorno, Moses was born there.
Moses Montefiore was raised in England in an atmosphere of Torah and Mitzvoth, and he remained a staunch, devout Jew throughout his entire life. In London he developed a big business, together with his brother Abraham. They did business with the Rothschilds: dealt in finance, and large industrial and commercial establishments. They formed an Insurance Company; a Gas Company, that introduced gas-lighting into many of the important cities of Europe. They also had a hand in the building of railroads, and in many other industrial and financial enterprises.
Moses Montefiore accumulated great wealth and became famous. In 1837 he was appointed "Sheriff" of London. He was the second Jew to occupy that important position. In the same year, Queen Victoria, who had just ascended the British throne, gave him the honorary title of "Knighthood," with the title "Sir" and in 1846 he was elevated to the rank of Baron. He occupied a number of important positions, both in Jewish and social circles.
Moses Montefiore differed from certain other Jews who, upon accumulating wealth and honor, sad to say, turn away from their religion. Moses Montefiore, as already mentioned, remained a religious Jew his entire life. At an early age, he started to interest himself in the lot of his fellow Jews. Later on, he used his great influence to obtain equal rights for the Jews in England. He was Gabbai (trustee) of the Sephardic Congregations of London, and was six times elected as Community Leader (Rosh HaKahal). For a period of 3 6 years, he was the head of the "Jewish Board of Deputies" - the organization of the United Congregations, and of elected Jewish officials, who represented British Jewry. When, at the age of 90, he gave up his position, the United Congregations of England gave him a farewell gift -12,000 pounds sterling. He donated the entire sum to build houses for the poor in Jerusalem. Being an orthodox Jew, he naturally loved the Holy Land, and he supported the worthy institutions most generously. He visited Eretz Yisroel seven times -the last time being in 1875, at the age of 91. If we take into consideration that a journey in those days entailed great difficulties, we can then realize what it meant for a person of such an advanced age to undertake such a trip. He distributed a vast amount of money in Eretz Yisroel; he built Synagogues, supported Yeshivos, and founded various types of important institutions. He had previously built a tomb over Mother Rachel's grave, in 1866, the magnificent tomb which is so well known. The Jews in Eretz Yisroel regarded him as a G-d sent messenger, sent to help them in their great need.
When the terrible blood-libel broke out in Damascus in 1840, Sir Moses Montefiore went there personally to defend the falsely accused Jews. The outrageously false blood-libel (that Jews use Christian blood in the Matzah for Pesach) that had cost so many Jewish lives in the dark times of the Middle Ages, and was then renewed in Damascus, not only threatened the lives of the accused, but also those of the entire community, and of Jews everywhere. Sir Moses Montefiore (with the help of other prominent Jewish and non-Jewish leaders) managed to persuade the Sultan to issue a "firman" (decree) in which he declared the blood-libel to be false and prohibited its renewal.
In 1846 the Russian government officially invited Sir Moses Montefiore to visit Russia in connection with the Jewish situation in Russia. The Czarist government, aided by some leaders of the "Haskalah" ("Enlightenment") movement, tried to Russify, i.e., assimilate, the broad masses of Russian Jewry. The government hoped that with the support of such an important Jewish personality as Sir Moses Montefiore, it would certainly win its fight against the religious Jewish leaders in Russia, who refused to cooperate with the government in this matter, and who hindered every effort to force assimilation on Russian Jewry. The then Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, was especially opposed to all efforts that would lead to assimilation, and he worked with body and soul to prevent their succeeding.
Sir Moses Montefiore accepted the invitation, but not with the intention of becoming a tool in the hands of the assimilationists, but in order to become personally acquainted with the Jewish position in Russia, where the majority of world Jewry lived. Moreover, he wanted to see what he could do about the persecutions and pogroms which so often plagued the Jews there.
When Sir Moses Montefiore arrived in Petersburg (now called Leningrad), the Czarist minister, Count Kissilev, the Minister of the Interior, and Uvarov, the Minister of Education, greeted him with a long list of "accusations" against Russian Jewry and their religious leaders.
Sir Moses Montefiore did not rely on the testimony of these anti-Semitic ministers, and the misguided and misleading Maskilim. He undertook a trip through the towns and villages where the Jews lived, and upon returning to London, he compiled two memoranda from the material he gathered during his trip. One memorandum he sent to the Russian Interior Minister, and the other one to the Minister of Education. Sir Moses Montefiore wrote to them in a polite but firm manner, so as not to incite them, that the Jewish problem in Russia had nothing to do with the Jews' education, which happened to be on a high level. He denied the false accusations made against the Jews, and in turn, accused the government of dealing falsely with the Jews; he described the terrible economic position of the Jews because of government decrees, expulsions, pogroms, and economic sanctions. He demanded equal rights for the Jews, and stressed that it would also be a blessing for the country.
Thanks to the great self-sacrifice of the Russian Jews, who were strengthened and encouraged by Sir Moses Montefiore's efforts on their behalf, the government finally gave up many of its plans to force conversion and assimilation of the Russian Jews. Their economic position also took a turn for the better because of Sir Moses Montefiore's recommendations.
In 1872 Montefiore visited Russia once more, and was received by Czar Alexander the Second. Montefiore was pleased to notice the growth of a new class of Jewish business men and professionals since his first visit, but he did not notice the assimilation that had taken hold of these "upper" classes.
Sir Moses Montefiore was also received in audience by the Pope in Rome (in 18 5 8 ) when he went there to intercede on behalf of an Italian Jewish boy who was forcibly converted as a small child lying ill in bed. The gentile maid "sprinkled him with water," and the church declared him to be a Christian. The boy was forcibly taken away from his parents and brought up as a Christian. The case of the child Murtara caused a great storm of indignation, but no intercession helped to return the child to his Jewish parents.
When in Rumania, on a visit to help his Jewish brothers there, Sir Moses Montefiore once found himself in grave danger when a wild mob wanted to attack him. He narrowly escaped with his life. Nothing deterred him, however, when it was a question of helping his poor, persecuted brothers.
Sir Moses Montefiore died on the 13th of Av 5645 (1885) at the ripe old age of over 100 years.
The Montefiore Museum contains a great collection of gold and silver artistry that Sir Moses Montefiore received as gifts from kings and rulers, as well as documents of great historical importance. His Yahrzeit (anniversary) is observed yearly by the institutions which are maintained even today from the funds that he left for this purpose.
Other yahrzeits this week include Rav Hillel Paritcher (13th  of Av), Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (2nd Ishbitzer Rebbe, author of Beis Yaakov and Sefer HaZemanim, 15th of Av) and Rabbi Meir Noson Halberstam (son of the Divrei Chaim and father of the first Bobover Rebbe, 15th of Av).

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