Purim – From One to None

Chapter Three of the Book of Esther contains Haman’s perception analysis of the Jewish People in verse 8:

וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן, לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ–יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם-אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים

which translates as

And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus: ‘There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples…

A suggested re-reading of that could describe the situation of the Jews as a people scattered and dispersed but among themselves who exist among other nations since they are in Exile.

‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed abroad among the peoples…’

In fact, being in Exile is the major, not the sole, factor that causes this lack of internal unity, joint self-respect and shared communal values.

Some of the comments on Israel’s actions and policies and those of its leaders among so-called Jewish intellectuals, personalities (including comedians), lay leaders and religious figures illustrate well this curse.  As reflected in the words of the Pslamist, detachment, both physical, mental and psychological, from the idea of a Jewish homeland, a status of soverign power, of a religion and culture that is moral and ethical and truly safeguards the Jewish people no matter how unobservant and non-practicing they are, is what leads to this weakness of mind, of resolve and of commitment:

“How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps 137:4)

It is asked why did Haman seek to destroy all of Persia’s Jews if it was only Mordechai who annoyed him, being disrespectful?  The last Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that, as is recorded (Esther 3:4), the advisors continuously reminded Haman that Mordechai “had told them that he was a Jew”.  Haman then realized that it was because Mordechai was a Jew – not that he was but a Mordechai who was acting alone but acting out of convictions of what is right and just and true based on his traditions, his moral code and his Torah – that he was being confronted with something deeper, something more complicated.  And that is why his hate grew to include all Jews.

We, all of us Jews, are one.  If sections cannot grasp that and seek to separate, to disperse themselves from the main body of Jews and Judaism, then they will become none.

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Did the Savraner Rebbe Have Bratslav In Mind?

In the collection of the Admor of Savran, Moshe Tzvi, entitled ליקוטי שושנים, I read an interesting vort for the parsha of Behar, p. 89. But first, some background.

As noted:

In late 1834, Rabbi Moshe Zvi, the Savraner Rebbe, instigated fierce and fanatical opposition to Reb Noson and the Breslover Chassidim (— and some refer to it as a smear campaign —) . This opposition led to Reb Noson’s temporary imprisonment by the authorities. After his release, Reb Noson fled from city to city in the Ukraine, only returning to Breslov in the spring of 1835. Shortly afterwards he was banished from Breslov and was under court order to remain in the city of his birth. Though he obtained permission to travel to Uman for Rosh HaShannah and for other select occasions, he was virtually a prisoner in Nemirov. His confinement also put him at the mercy of his opponents, who seized every opportunity to torment him. With the Savraner’s sudden death in 1838, the relentless opposition waned and Reb Noson returned to Breslov later that year.

One reason for this suggested is that the Savraner Rebbe wanted to marry Rebbe Nachman’s daughter but Rev Nosson opposed it.

Rebbe Nachman was also opposed by Aryeh Leibe of Shpola:

The Shpole Zeide, was antagonistic to Rav Nachman of Breslov. When some of the Zeide’s students heckled Rav Nachman, the Zeide censored them. Every movement needed opposition, he explained. He had been providing a service.

Another, fuller retelling:

Shortly before Rosh Hashana 1800, Rebbe Nachman moved to the town of Zlatopol. The townspeople invited him to have the final word on who would lead the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayer services. The man chosen to lead Neilah, the final prayer service of Yom Kippur, did not meet the Rebbe’s approval. Suddenly the man was struck dumb and forced to step down, to his great embarrassment. After the fast ended, Rebbe Nachman spoke in a light-hearted way about what the man’s true intentions had been, and the man was so incensed that he denounced Rebbe Nachman to Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpola, known as the “Shpoler Zeide”, a prominent Hasidic rabbi and early disciple of Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz, who was a leading figure in the first generation of Hasidut. Thus began the Shpoler Zeide’s vehement campaign against Breslov Hasidism…The Shpoler Zeide saw Rebbe Nachman’s teachings as deviating from classical Judaism and from the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.

Some postulate that the Zeide felt threatened because Rebbe Nachman was moving in on his territory and taking disciples away from him. Still others claim that Rebbe Nachman was a threat to other rebbes because he opposed the institutional dynasties that were already beginning to form in the Hasidic world. (Rebbe Nachman himself did not found a dynasty; his two sons died in infancy and he appointed no successor. ) A number of prominent figures of Hasidut supported Rebbe Nachman against the Shpoler Zeide’s opposition, including Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, Rabbi Gedalia of Linitz, Rabbi Zev Wolf of Charni-Ostrov, and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk. At one point, a number of Hasidic rabbis gathered in Berditchev to place the Shpoler Zeide in cherem (a rabbinic form of excommunication) for showing contempt to a true Torah scholar. Their effort was nixed, however, when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak heard about the idea and persuaded them to desist.

Now, to return to the vort:

“The verse (25:17) reads: וְלֹא תוֹנוּ אִישׁ אֶת-עֲמִיתוֹ, וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱ-לֹהֶיךָ: כִּי אֲנִי יְ-וָה, אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם – ‘And you shall not wrong one another; but thou shalt fear thy God; for I am the LORD your God.’. The Holy Grandfather/Zeide Rebbe [Aryeh] Leib of Shpola ran into the Holy Rebbe of Savran when he [the latter] was still quite young and still learning with the Rav Ber of Mezeritch and the Savraner Rebbe was working on his prayers and would be jumping and hopping around withh all his strength with great exuberance and the Holy Zeide told him that the above verse’s meaning is that one beeds be careful even in an insignificant measure not to fake your respect for God [for that is wronging God] but that the respect must be truly genuine. And in his later years, the Savraner Rebbe, when he became great, would relate that what he heard rested in huis mind for 15 years afterwards and would severely torment him”.

I am supposing that another aspect of the rivalry between the Savraner Rebbe and the Bratslav (the former would stone the Bratslav synagogue and break its wondows and beat up the chassidim) is reflected in this vort given the exhuberance and exhiliration of the custom of Bratslav.

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Haifa’s Seret-Vishnitz Rebbe As An IDF Soldier 1948

As found in last week’s issue of Matzav Ruach (text here):

He’s in the back row, on the left, with the hat.  Eliezer Hagar.

And at a (Hebrew-language) Hareidi site, it’s the talk of the town.

 

^

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The Ropschitzer Rebbe on Succot and Shadow

Naftal Tzvi Horowitz, the Ropschitzer Rebbe, 1760-1827, comments on the holiday of Succot by employing the traditional metaphor of shadow in his book, Zera Kodesh, Volume II, p. 56, ‘First Night Succot’ (my rendition):-

‘You shall dwell in succot’, et al. and we know that Chazal, our Rabbis-Of-Blessed-Memory, refer to one sitting under the schach as being in the shade and the Zohar terms that shade צלא דמהמנותא, the shade of faith.  It is used in the Talmud as well, based on this verse in Isaiah 4:6 – “And there shall be a booth for a shadow in the daytime from the heat”.

But there’s a problem.  As the law of physics indicates, a shadow is formed not when someone is directly under what casts the shadow.  The object, and in our case, the person seeking to fulfill the mitzva of being in the succah, can only create a shadow by distancing oneself.  That, however, would seem to defeat the purpose of the essence of the mitzva.  One should be, at this holiday time of joy, as close as possible to God, to his instructions, to his purposes for life.

All man’s movements, or, in other words, his actions and deeds, are what create his shadow and, in creating a shadow, his actions and deeds can be observed and judged.  What man does on earth is what bestirs on high just as what man perceives and comprehends what is intended from on high, above, is what causes him to do what he does on earth, below.

This line of influence, a mutual line of thought and doing, from up to down and from down to up, is one that is imagined through the miztva of the succah.  In essence, our “shadow”, that tracing of our deeds, should be, must be, in direct parallel to the heavenly succah so that the shade cast from above will favorably influence us here on earth. 

And similar to the laws of the holiday, that there must not be any partition between the sky, whether the sun or the stars (and the Ropschitzer employs a zoharic interpretation of the Hebrew כוכב as being read כו כב which is God’s name in a certain inner manipualation of the letters), that need be seen just enough, and the person under the schach must not be too much in the shade for otherwise it is as if one is being shaded by the wall and not from above (as the very first page of the Tractate Succah above reads: “but with one higher than twenty cubits he sits, not in the shade of the booth but in the shade of its walls”), so too our faith and commitment must originate and be motivated by as direct a connection as possible between what is above and we below.

We need the light that shines and enriches and provides to better ourselves.  The succah, then, actually represents the entire Torah for us.

 

(spoken at the succah of the Spetter family, Shabbat Chol Hamoed, 5772)

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The yahrzteit of Naftali Tzvi is 11 Iyar.

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In the Month of Elul

The Hebrew month of Elul precedes the season of the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  It is described as a period when “the King is out in the field”.  As Schneur Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad, explains:

The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of royal secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.  The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman [Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b], is when the king is in the field.

Although there is a custom to marry only within the first half of the Hebrew month, Ellul is considered an appropriate time throughout the month.  As much joy as possible through the doing of mitzvot is to be encouraged.

The month of Ellul is propitious for happiness and joy in that man, sinner that he may be, can come close once again to God through the process of t’shuvah and that is reflected in a love relationship: just like humans marry, so, too, can Knesset Yisrael unite with the Shechinah.

Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, the Divrei Chaim, (1793–1876), has had his thoughts, stories and parables, as well as reminisces of the same and other traditons by his many sons and followers, recorded in a new book, B’sefer Chaim.  On page 66, I found this thought:

There is a reference in the Bible to the very special relationship that can be developed between those that stray from the path and God who forgives out of joy as a parllel to the marriage and love between a man and a wife.

In Genesis 24:14, the chapter that describes the mission of Eliezer to obtain for Yitzhak a wife in Aram-Neharayim, and the sign that he sets for himself by discovering an act of unique grace, we read

14 So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto my master.’

The Hebrew for “for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know” is:

לְעַבְדְּךָ לְיִצְחָק, וּבָהּ אֵדַע

and the first letters of those four words are ל, ל, ו, א and rearranged they spell  אלול, the Hebrew month of Ellul.

May we all find our way to the field and to that special relationship and during the month of Ellul, prepare ourselves.

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Providing From Strength

“At the time of evening, when the water-drawers go out”(Breisheet 24:11)

The servant of Avraham, Eliezer, arrives at his destination so as to fulfill the task he swore to undertake: finding a proper wife of Yitzhak.  He approaches the city well and it is as the evening comes, when the young women fill their pails and flasks.  What could be the significance of such a setting for the story to unfold?

The symbolism that is evident is that the world needs nourishment and that originates with the sphere of Grace (chesed).  In seeking out the ‘special’ woman, it was not enough that Eliezer be provided with what he needed, which is “chesed rak middat rachmanut” (grace only in a merciful amount) whereas one who provides more than this minimum is full chesed.

Eliezer was looking for the character trait that would provide not due to a feeling of concern, of being sorry for someone’s position but rather through the grand ability to grant charity, to give out of gevura (might), for gevura is that personality element attributed to Yitzhak.

The best situation is where one realizes that one has a duty, almost as if noblesse oblige, to provide but not because feelings of sympathy but of a grand realization that this is part of our task as Jews: to provide from strength.

 

Rebbe Shimon Shlomo of Bender in Or HaShemesh p. 19

Rebbe Shimon Shlomo 1805 – 1862 was the grandson of Rav Shimon Shlomo whose uncle was Rav Moshe of Savran.

His yahrtzeit is 20 Adar II.

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Who Are You?

“And he said: ‘I am Avraham’s servant’.” (Breisheet 24:34)

Avraham had sent his faithful servant, Eliezer of Damascus, the “elder of his house” who “ruled over all that he had”, after having him take an oath, to go back to Avraham’s home country to take a wife for Yitzhak so that he need not have to take a wife “of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell” (see verses 2 – 9 there).

When Laban inquires as to the identity of this man who had merited the kindness of Rivka, the man announces “I am Avraham’s servant”.  Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin, in a Third Meal conclave, found the language problematic.  Eliezer used the first person pronoun, “I”, in a unique form.  In Hebrew, it is אנכי, ‘Anochi‘, which is usually reserved for God as in the first verse of the Ten Commandments: אנכי ה’ א-לקיך, “I am the Lord, Your God” and in Breisheet 15– the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, thy reward shall be exceeding great.’ (but not exclusively)

Was Eliezer being presumptuous?  Self-centered? Haughty?

R’ Shlomo suggests not.  He explains that Avraham was constantly involved in bringing people closer to God, making Jews.  As such, he was always mentioning God’s name, actually shouting it out.  And he used the form אנכי, the special “I”.  He was revealing the reality of the divinity that was the one true God as distinct from the idolatrous spirituality that existed.  That was Avraham’s revolution.

Avraham’s faithful servant, the one he trusted to arrange the correct marriage for his son, having been the closest to Avraham, constantly heard God being referred to in all Avraham’s doings.

So when he was asked who he was, he actually responded, “I am the servant of Avraham, the one who constantly calls out the name of God as  אנכי – ‘Anochi‘”.  Just as Avraham would seek to enthuse all about God, to excite them with the new burning fire, so, too, was Eliezer caught up and when asked about himself, when he mentioned Avraham, the defining characteristic of ‘Anochi‘ naturally followed.

Eliezer knew who he was – the assistant and follower of a man who bound on a life’s mission.  And he absorbed that path for himself and identified with it so fully that when he revealed who he was, he also called out “I am with Anochi“.

Can we all reach that level of identification with a cause, with a mission, that we understand the vital importance of the central element and proceed from there?

Rabbi Shlomo HaLevy of Karlin in She’ma Shlomo, p. 42 sourced by the Dvash HaSadeh.

Rabbi Shlomo, (1738-1792), was a pupil of the Great Maggid and a follower/comrade of Aaron the Great, the first Chassidic Rebbe of Karlin.  He was a martyr, shot in his leg by Cossacks in a synagogue in Ludmir during a pogrom which accompanied a Polish uprising against Russia.  Refusing to be treated on the Sabbath, he died almost a week later.

His yahrtzeit is 22 Tammuz.

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