Thursday, 6 April 2017

Miriam's Yahrtzeit and The Mysterious Well


The 10th of Nissan is the day upon which Miriam - the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, died. Miriam's greatness lies not only in the fact that she was a prophetess and that she led the women in song after the Jews crossed the Red Sea as they fled Egypt, but also due to an event that occurred in her youth. 

When just a child, her father Amram, and mother Yocheved had separated from each other due to the harsh decree of Pharaoh to kill all first born sons - to have them thrown into the River Nile. She explained to her parents that while Pharaoh had made his decree only upon the sons who would be born, he had made no such decree against daughters! Surely their decree was even harsher than Pharaoh's! Her words found favour in their eyes, and they united again. Through the union that took place - her brother Moshe would be born - the man responsible for being the leader of the Jewish people some 80 years later, receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, and thereafter taking them out of Egypt to lead them into the Promised Land (which Joshua would ultimately do.)

Indeed, after Moshe was born, and Pharaoh's guards kept a watch out for any "transgressors", Miriam watched her brother as he was placed in a basket that was placed on the river - in order to save his life. She wanted to continue to care for her brother and to find out what would happen to him. She watched as Pharaoh's own daughter (Batya) drew Moshe out the water, taking him in to the palace in order to be taken care of!

Miriam was 126 years old when she died, making her approximately 5 years old at the time she had encouraged her parents to unite, and just about 6 years old when her brother Moshe was born!

When the Israelites journeyed through the desert, three miraculous things accompanied them. There was the Manna (the food which rained from heaven) that came down to them in the merit of Moshe. There were the Clouds of Glory that protected the Israelites through their 40 year journey. These were granted to them in the merit of Aharon. Then there was the Well. The Well was given to them in the merit of Miriam through her righteous acts and her piety. The Well brought the Israelites water while they journeyed.

A mysterious story is told about that Well which teaches us a fascinating teaching about the study of Torah. The Well would end up in the Lake Kinneret - where it is to this day...

Many years ago - the great kabbalist known as the Arizal lived (1534-1572). He was told through mysterious Divine inspiration that he was to journey from his home in Egypt to Sefad where he would find a great man by the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital (1542-1620) - who he would have to teach his Torah to. The Ari revealed that it was in fact for this purpose that his soul descended to the world - in order to teach the secret teachings of the kabbalistic tradition to Rabbi Chaim Vital. We must remember the level of both these giants in Torah - both who were very young when they met - Rabbi Yitzchak Luria being only 36 years and Rabbi Chaim Vital, just 28! When Rabbi Chaim Vital met the Ari for the first time, he felt he was more qualified to study and teach Kabbalah than the Ari - though his thoughts would change swiftly! 

In just two years, the holy Ari taught Rabbi Chaim Vital everything we have today of the teachings of the Ari - including the 8 Gates (the Shemonah Shearim), the Eitz Chaim (the Tree of Life), the Otzrot Chaim and other various manuscripts. It is incredible to believe that not only was this material taught, but that it would be transcribed in such detail - through just two years of teaching! Even the seasoned student of Torah today knows just how difficult the material is, how abstract the concepts are and how ultimately they include the secrets of Creation, the secrets of how the world is directed by G-d (in a theoretical context) and the "magic" that exists in life.

When Rabbi Chaim Vital met the Ari and the Ari began to teach him, Rabbi Chaim Vital would sit, listen, and then simply reply that he understood nothing of what the Ari was talking about. True humility from a scholar who had once thought himself greater than his teacher! The Ari told him to take a journey with him one day. They went in a boat in Lake Kinneret and began sailing. At a certain point, the Ari stopped the boat, scooped out some water and gave it to Rabbi Chaim Vital to drink from. He told Rabbi Chaim Vital that right there - where they were - was the Well of Miriam - and that the water he was drinking, was from this mystical well which accompanied the Israelites throughout their 40 year journey in the desert!

From that day onwards - says Rabbi Chaim Vital - he was able to understand everything that the Ari told him!

Torah is not always easy to understand. Sometimes we cannot remember things. Other times we cannot understand the abstract points being mentioned. Other times, nothing seems to make sense at all! Sometimes there are just too many opinions on the same matter, making us retreat wondering what the correct approach should be to take!

Rabbi Chaim Vital merited to understand the Ari's teachings, only because he drank from the Well of Miriam - and again - these teachings that he could not understand before, are the very teachings the serious student of the mystical tradition of Torah will learn today! Our Rabbis teach us that when Moshe went on to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he was only able to understand it when G-d eventually gave it to him as a gift!

We too should realise that the gift of Torah is ultimately something that G-d gives to each of us when we thirst for it enough. We must never give up. We must never think it is in *our* hands to succeed in either. Rather, we must realise, that ultimately the blessing of understanding Torah comes from G-d. In the merit of our efforts and in the merit of the greater souls who we connect with throughout the generations - we are able to merit the beauty of Torah, whether the simplest parts with the most basic of meanings, to the most mysterious secrets of life and creation. Ultimately, our lives, and everything we have are a gift from G-d. Let us be grateful for all of this. With this - let us become stronger in our learning and know that our success, our health, our wealth, our intelligence and actually - everything - is not ours by the strength of our hands, but rather, it is a gift from G-d.

For those interested in learning more about some of the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Vital, I have provided a link for a book on Amazon.com. For more information about English translations of his books, see Rabbi Chaim Vital's Books Translated into English.

For the serious student of Torah wanting to learn some of the wonderful books of Rabbi Chaim Vital such as the Shaarei Kedushah (Gates of Holiness), the Shaar HaGilgulim (Book of Reincarnations) or others - in the original Hebrew, make a time to learn with Reb Eliyahu Online today with Skype and Webcam!


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