Archive for the 'hilula' Category

31
Aug
12

Hilula d’Ben Ish Hai at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation


Last evening, the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation held a dinner for the Hilula of Rabbenu Hakham Ribbi Yoseph Chaim ‘a”h, also known as Ben Ish Chai (the title of his best known sefer).

Who was the Ben Ish Chai? He was born in 1834 and was niftar in 1909. In 1859, at the age of 25 he became Chief Rabbi of Baghdad when succeeding his late father the Hakham Rav Elyahu. Rav Yoseph Chayim became one of the greatest of the modern-day Sephardic poskim. With his encyclopedic knowledge of all facets of Judaism (from the hidden and from the revealed),  his approach was all encompassing; he considered the opinion of Ashkenazic scholars as well as Sephardic ones, and insisted that the opinions of “Acharonim” (Torah scholars from the 16th century onward) be considered along with the Talmud, of course, and the “Rishonim” (Torah scholars from North Africa, Egypt, Europe and Palestine between ca. 1000 C.E. and ca. 1500 C.E.) These included such great authorities as the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the “Chayei Adam,” and many others.

On the 8th of Elul 5669, he went on a pilgrimage to he tomb of Yechezkel Hanavi. He became sick and on the 13th of Elul he passed away. The number present at his levaya was huge, and consisted of Jews and non-Jews alike who came to give honor to this great man.

During a festive repast of authentic Iraqi dishes, Rabbi Raphael Benchimol (Rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation), spoke and made a siyum Mishnayiot, culminating the study of the whole Seder Mo’ed. He ended with the last Mishnah in Chagigah, “Keitzad ma’avirin al taharat azarah? – How did they remove [the utensils] for the purpose of cleansing the Forecourt?” He explained it by bringing down some of the Ben Ish Chai‘s commentaries. The siyum was done during the year of passing of Rabbi Benchimol‘s father – Aharon ben Avraham, as well as in memory of the other sponsors’ parents: Eliyahu ben Reuven, Victor Gourji ben Lulu vChoua and David ben Avraham alehem hashalom. As part of his explanations on the Mishna, the Rabbi connected it with the theme and importance of the mitzvah of kibud av va’em – honoring one’s father and mother.

Rabbi Matatia Chetrit spoke next about the lasting relevance of the Ben Ish Chai teachings, 103 years after his petirah.

Rabbi Shalom Sibony, head of MSC‘s Kollel teaching staff, spoke next.

There were almost a 100 people in attendance though the shot above gives only a partial view of the crowd. The food was prepared at Sidney and Tammy Cohen‘s 18 Restaurant. The sponsors of the Hilula were the Benchimol, Iny, Moche and Mukamal families.

It was an inspiring, informative, delicious evening. What more can one ask?

CS

03
Aug
12

Hillulah of Amram ben Diwan


Today’s is Tu b’Av (15th of Av), but it is also the yohrtzeit of Nachum Ish Gamzu, and the venerated Moroccan tzaddik Rabbi Amram ben Diwan.

The grave of Amram ben Diwan in Ouazzane, Morocco

Last evening, my good friends Raymond and Kim Amzallag hosted a get-together at their home for Rabbi ben Diwan‘s Hillulah. Who was this venerated 18th century Rabbi whose tomb became the site of an annual pilgrimage?

As Kim explained:

Born in Jerusalem, he soon moved to Hebron in 1743 and was sent to Morocco in order to collect donations for the Holy land from the Jewish community there.

He took up residence in Ouazzane where he opened a celebrated yeshiva and had many disciples. After 10 years in Morocco, Rabbi Amram returned to Hebron and, according to legend, entered the Cave of the Patriarchs disguised as a Muslim because it was forbidden for Jews at the time. Someone recognized him and reported him to the Ottoman Governor, who ordered his arrest. Rabbi ben Diwan fled and returned to Morocco, where he was welcomed by the Jewish community of Fez. He is credited with many healing miracles and had at least one son, Rabbi Hayyim ben Diwan. While touring Morocco with Rabbi Hayyim, the latter fell ill and doctors gave up all hope. Rabbi Amram prayed that Hashem take him instead of his son. Miraculously Rabbi Hayyim recovered almost immediately but Rabbi Amram  fell ill and died in Ouazzane in 1782.

Lighting a candle to the memory of Rabbi Amram ben Diwan and meditating on one’s personal requests…

His burial place in Ouazzane became a pilgrimage site and is regularly visited, particularly by people who invoke him to heal their illness.

May Rabbi Amram ben Diwan succesfully intercede with Hashem on behalf of everyone who needs a cure of any kind!

CS

18
May
11

Hillula d’Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness


Last evening, SYR and I had the privilege to be at Sidney and Tammy Cohen‘s (partners at 18 Restaurant) apartment in Manhattan. We were there to commemorate the Hilula (yohrtzeit, as we ashkenazim call it) of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness. I had never heard of this custom until I got Tammy’s email last week… How I wish I had known of it earlier in my life!

Among walls covered with portraits of a very young Baba Sali (whose haunting eyes seemed to pierce right through me) and Chagall like paintings, the crowd, the tfilot, the candles, the food, made it all very special…

Dips galore, mashed potatoes, fish, couscous, chicken, beef and more...

Who was Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness? The Babylonian Talmud, in Tractate Gittin 56a relates:

As he [Nero] came close, he shot an arrow towards the east and it fell in Jerusalem. He then shot an arrow to the west and it fell in Jerusalem. [He shot] towards the four points of the compass and it fell in Jerusalem. He then asked a [passing] boy, “Tell me the verse [from Scripture] you learned [today].” He [the boy] said, “I will place my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel [Ezekiel 25:14].” He [Nero] said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, wishes to destroy His House and lay the blame on me.” He [Nero] ran away and became a proselyte. From him came Rabbi Meir.”

Rabbi Meir, the descendant of a former Roman emperor, eventually became a staunch supporter of Bar Kochba‘s rebellion against the Romans. Why was he called Meir, when tradition says that his name was either Nahori or Misha? “Meir” means “Illuminator,” as someone who illuminated the mind’s eye of students and scholars alike to give them an understanding of both the Written and the Oral Laws, he came to be known as Meir.

“Ba’al Haness” means “Master of Miracles,” why was that name added to him? It is related that on a certain occasion when a pack of wild dogs ran over to tear him apart, Rabbi Meir cried out: “Eloka d’Meir aneini – God of Meir answer me,” the dogs retreated. The Roman guard of a brothel was about to be hanged for having taken a bribe. He was bribed so as to allow Rabbi Meir‘s wife (Bruriah‘s) sister to escape (while still untouched) from the brothel where the Romans had condemned her to live her life in shame (after they killed her parents, the saintly R. Chananya ben Teradyon – one of the 10 martyrs we mention in the kinot of Tisha B’Av – and his wife). As the noose was tightened around the guard’s neck he cried out, “God of Meir answer me,” the rope tore – to everyone’s amazement – and the guard was saved!

Harav Raphael Benchimol, rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, very eloquently told the evening’s participants that the specific date 14th of Nissan (Pessach Sheini). was a very propitious time for asking Rabbi Meir Baal Haness to intercede in one’s behalf. As I walked around the room, I heard touching, gripping stories of people’s prayers being answered. Even over this last weekend in Providence, RI, I heard one such story…

Rabbi Benchimol: "If you need anything, or if you have lost your way, Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness will help you find it..."

After Ma’ariv, people lit candles – on a specially set up table – while saying twice, “Eloka d’Meir aneini,” as each silently concentrated on his/her requests…

The emotions, the fervor, were contagious...

Meeting friends and friendly strangers, praying with them mincha and later ma’ariv, listening to the Rabbi’s divrey Torah, pouring out my heart as I concentrated on my personal requests – while lighting my candle – the delicious food, the drinks, made this a very inspiring and enchanted evening. Thank you Sidney, thank you Tammy.

Eloka d’Meir aneinU! God of Meir, answer US all!

CS




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