By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And He Shall Take the Ashes
Our Sages teach that even though Yitzhak was not slaughtered and burnt at the Akeida on the Temple Mount, yet still it is considered before HaShem as if his ashes are placed on an altar before Him, giving tremendous merit to us, his descendants. This teaching sheds light on the commandment to ‘raise the ashes of the altar’, hinting to the ashes of Yitzhak. This attribute of Yitzhak, i.e the attribute of self-sacrifice, is actually a constant method in the service and love of Hashem that can be seen, for example, in the daily intent of reciting Shema, as our Sages interpreted the words “bechol nafshecha – [to love Hashem] with all your soul” to refer to the willingness to sacrifice one’s soul for Hashem’s Namesake. Another example of self-sacrifice is subduing the needs of the body for the sake of the soul. The Arizal teaches that this self-sacrifice is a crucial factor in causing lofty processes called “raising spiritual sparks” and “spiritual unity” to occur. With this, the Arizal continues to explain that as long as Israel are meritorious just having intent towards self-sacrifice is sufficient for these processes to occur. However, when there are not too many sins among the People, God forbid, then literal “sacrifice” is decreed upon individuals (or more) among Israel, God forbid.
Another example of “self-sacrifice,” i.e “separation of the soul from the body for a holy purpose” on a daily level, aside of the intent in reciting Shema, is engaging in sleep for a holy purpose (for example to have strength to serve Hashem), for in sleep the soul leaves the body, to a certain extent. Indeed, our Sages teach that “sleep is 1/60th of death [God forbid].” Here too, through the process of sleep, the Arizal teaches, the soul and the “sparks it raised” throughout the day are lifted to Heaven, thus triggering spiritual invigoration and strength.
Our Sages teach (Midrash Raba Ester 7, 12) that Haman, when saying “yesheno am echad,” wanted to say that the God of Israel is “asleep – yeshen(o).” The Arizal teaches that indeed at the time of Haman’s decree the relationship of Hashem towards Israel was in so-to-speak “sleep-mode,” i.e a hiding of Hashem’s Presence that could be seen, for example, by the fact that the Beit Hamikdash was still destroyed then after its first destruction. Of course, this teaching does not touch at all on Hashem’s Essence, which is never “asleep,” God forbid. The Arizal teaches that the miracle of Purim was that even in this “sleep mode” high Divine intervention was manifested, saving Israel in this miracle. The Arizal goes further to say that, not only when this miracle occurred at the time of Mordechai and Ester did this manifestation take place, but every year on Purim this tremendous spiritual manifestation takes place. For this reason Purim is unique in respect to the fact that even when, in the future redemption, all holidays will be considered as if null compared to the great future redemption, nevertheless Purim’s spiritual power will forever last. This matter sheds light on the Rambam’s ruling that “a man is to drink on Purim till he falls asleep,” as if hinting to the fact that this miracle occurred even in spiritual “sleep mode.” Fascinating too is the fact that it is specifically in regard to Yitzhak, the Father of self-sacrifice, that a banquet of wine – “mishteh” – is mentioned numerous times in the Torah. Indeed, through wine-intake the spirit and soul are uplifted from the regular constraints of body and consciousness. [However, caution must be taken in this matter, as is well-known]. Obviously, remembering Yitzhak also evokes Hebron, City of the Patriarchs, which is also the place of elevation of souls towards Heaven in the afterlife.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #307
The “saving” of the Jewish community of Hebron was celebrated throughout many years in Hebron on the fourteenth of Kislev (which occurred at the end of last week) called “The Window Purim” after the following miracle: A cruel Pasha ruled over Hebron in 5574 (1824). One day he summoned the head of Hebron’s Jewish Community. The Pasha demanded the following ultimatum: In three days you will bring me 50,000 grushim. If you do not, half of your community will be burned and the others sold as slaves.Consequently, the rabbis declared a fast, and everyone gathered in the synagogue pouring their hearts out before Hashem. They fasted for three days — night and day. At midnight, before the third day began, the Pasha suddenly awoke to the sight of three awesome old men standing by his bed. They demanded of him 50,000 grushim. Refusal meant immediate death. The frightened Pasha was petrified. But he managed to get out of bed and gave them his purse full of gold coins. He added his wife’s gold necklace, to complete the requested sum. The next morning the Pasha sent soldiers to demand the tax he had decreed upon the Jews of Hebron. When they pounded on the gate of the Jewish quarter, a Jew ran to open it. But before he got to the gate, he stumbled over a bag lying on the ground and picked it up. The Jew noticed a small window by the side of the gate where he had found the bag (the bag apparently coming from that window). Meanwhile, other Jews opened the bag and found it filled with gold coins. Counting it, they found that it was the exact amount the Pasha had demanded of them. Joyously they ran to the Pasha’s home to pay him the money he had demanded, in addition to the gold necklace that was in the bag.The Pasha, seeing the money and the necklace was stunned, and said, “Be aware, the bag and its contents are mine. It was taken from me last night by the three Patriarchs, to save my soul from an evil sin. And now, knowing that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob awoke for fear of your lives, and for your sakes they rose from their graves, from this moment I have only the greatest respect for you. I cancel my decree. Take back this money. It belongs to you. Pray for me that I should be saved from misfortune all the days of my life.”
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 306.
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