Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Story from the ARIZAL

Graves of the Kabbalists in Zfat (Safed) / Northern Israel 

Photo: Miriam Woelke


This Friday, 5th Av, is the Yahrzeit of the famous Kabbalist, the ARIZAL, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, who died in 1572. 

The wife of Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, Rabbanit Henny Machlis, very much likes to tell the following story on Shabbat:

It was at the time of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534 - 1572) in Safed.

There was a certain poor couple which one day decided to give G - d a present. They were thinking and thinking what they could give to G-d. Eventually they came to the conclusion to bake Lechem HaPanim (the shewbread from the Temple).

On a Friday morning they started to bake the Lechem HaPanim. They were singing and dancing through the kitchen, and their house was full of joy. An hour before Shabbat, the husband of the couple went to the synagogue and put the Lechem HaPanim into the Aron HaKodesh. The couple hoped that G - d would accept their present for Shabbat.

A little later, the rabbi of the synagogue found the Lechem HaPanim in the Aron and thought: Who could have been so crazy to put Shabbat challot into the Aron HaKodesh.
Finally he took the challot home.

In the middle of the night, the husband of the couple came back to the synagogue, checked the Aron and saw that the bread was gone. Happily he went home and told his wife that G - d had accepted their present.

From now on they did so every Friday. The house was full of joy and they were dancing around the kitchen table. And every Friday, the rabbi was wondering who had put the bread into the Aron. Until one Friday he decided to hide in the synagogue and see what is going on.
That's what he did and after a while he saw the man putting the Lechem HaPanim into the Aron. The rabbi jumped unto the man and said: "What are you doing here?"
The man replied that him and his wife baked the Lechem HaPanim as a Shabbat present for G - d.
You fool, replied the rabbi. Do you really think that G-d needs you presents ? Go home and take your challot with you.

Disappointed and broken came the man home to his wife and told her what had happened. They started crying.

A few days later, the Arizal came to the rabbi and told him that there was a decree in the heavenly court. The rabbi will die within a few days.
Why ? asked the rabbi the Arizal.
The Arizal answered: When the couple baked the Lechem HaPanim, there was so much joy in the upper worlds which had never been since the Temple was destroyed. And you just destroyed the couple's joy. That's why the heavenly court made its decision.

It is not known if the rabbi really died later on or if his Teshuva was accepted.


  1. B'H

    Our Rabbi told us that story some years ago, and I really like it.

    According to the version he told us, the Rabbi confessed publicly in the Synagogue, in front of all, what he did and what the Arizal told him, but despite his confession and his Teshuvah, he died on the day the Arizal had predicted to him.

    The lesson was this: When we serve G-d, there are two things very important: to serve Him with joy and with a simple heart like a child, believing sincerely that He accepts our Avodah, whatever what. If you cannot serve G-d that way, with joy (but you serve Him as if every day was Yom Kippur) and with a simple heart (but you always ask "why", "how" and "when" before acting, as it is written "Naasei V'nishmah - FIRST we will do, and THEN, we will try to understand") or if you ridicule those who serve G-d that way, G-d cannot bear such attitude. The poor couple was so broken by the behaviour of that Rabbi that they could have lost their faith in G-d altogether. That's why, even after his teshuvah, he died! Middah Kneged Middah (mesure for mesure): he almost killed their faith, so he had to die whatever what!

    This may be also a message relevant to Charedi parents: sometimes, they ask too much from their children, and in behaving like that, they are killing the joy and simpleness of their children in serving G-d. And when the children grow, they become rebels against the Torah and their parents. Not that they don't believe anymore in G-d and His Torah. But they parents, by pushing them too much, broke their joy and simple faith in G-d. Sometimes parents don't realize that they are behaving like that Rabbi in the above story. And they are crying that their children went out of the derech. But more often than once, it's their fault. When their children were little, they pushed tgem so hard that it broke their joy and their simple faith. When you don't feel joy in your Avodas Hashem, and you lose tou simple faith in G-d, concequences can be desastreous. Parents should learn that there is nothing more important than to serve G-d with joy and with a simple heart. It's in raising their children that way that they will remain in the derech of Torah and Mitzvos.

  2. B"H

    I think it is very different when you already grow up haredi. When I was in Yeshiva, many times I just wished that G - d would have let me grow up in a real haredi family. Mea Shearim, Toldot Aharon, Satmar, something like that. The good thing is that then, you just know the Brachot because you grow up with them. You know the Tefilot by heart whereas I am still searching through the Sidur. Especially when it comes to chassidic Siddurim where different groups have their own ones. In Toldot Aharon, Karlin or in the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak.

    As a newcomer you sometimes feel like a real idiot. I like to go to the Toldot Aharon Shul on Shabbat. As I live in Tel Aviv now, this hardly ever happens anymore but I am planning to move back to Jerusalem in some months.

    However, the women in TA told me what prayer the Rebbe is saying and I was busy going through the pages in the Siddur to find it. I have a chassidic Siddur but very general; although with the additions of the ARI.

    There is a custom in Toldot Aharon that the Rebbe says a certain prayer towards the end of the service on Shabbat Shacharit but it is not in my Siddur, as one TA woman told me. She checked herself but couldn't find it.

  3. B'H

    There are, for sure, some advantages of being born in a real Charedi family, but there are also some advantages of "eing a newcomer" into the Charedi world. And each posess their own fawls also, even if things are more easy when you were born Charedi. For isntance, you don't have to fight for acceptance. And sometimes, just by saying your name, people respect you, as they know that you are the son of such and such. And to study and master the Torah is also more easy. But with time, your enthousiasm can disapear, and this is the advantage of the newcomers. They are sometimes more dynamic and want to know everything, they have so much energy, etc. It can help the Charedi from birth to regain their vigor in their Avodas Hashem (but on the other hand, it can be bothering, as the newcomers tend sometimes to be "too much" and give the impression of knowing better than a Charedi from birth, and because they were into the secualr world, they know things a Charedi does not know, etc. That's why a newcomer should never forget to be balanced in how he behave within the Charedi world). But when you are a Charedi from birth, peer and family pressure can be unbearable. Except that, I don't see other inconveniant to be a Charedi from birth. In fact, it's great to a Charedi! It's a life that is worth to be lived, despite what many unlearned and biaised people may think about us and our lifestyle.

    Generally speaking, even when you know how to pray by heart, the best is to still look into the Siddur to avoid distractions, etc. See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSdM_U-HPjE

    Baalei Teshuvah and newcomers often tend to be too "Chitzoni" (superficial, external), praying out loud or by heart, while most of us still look into our Siddur, eventhough we know, for sure, all (or most) of our prayers by heart. In the Charedi world we say: "How do we recognize a newcomer? He never removes his hat from his head!" With time passing, they tend to be less focused on the Chitzoni and much more on the Pnimi (internal).

  4. BS"D
    I enjoyed your inspiring story and will check with Rav Yehudah Alfasi (one of a select group of mekubalim who specialize in the teachings and kavanot of Rabbeinu Ari) and see if he has any comment.