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Ben L’Ashri-Vayechi

The 13th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yitzchak Hakohen Huberman, the tzadik of Raanana. (1896-1977). He was born in Tomashov (Tomaszow Lubelski), near Lublin . An 1895 census reveals that, out of a population of 6,077, over half the citizens, 3,646 were Jews. The first shul in this town was built in 1594, but after the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-49, only 18 of the original 200 families still remained.

The most famous Jew of the town was the Kotzker Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Tomashov, who lived here until he left for Kotzk. Rav Yitzchak became a follower of the Imrei Emes of Ger and, after his mentor’s petira, of his son, the Beis Yisrael. In 1940, Josef Stalin deported 200,000 Polish Jews, including Rav Yitzchak, to forced labor camps in Siberia and elsewhere. This saved their lives, since most of those left behind were murdered by the Nazis when they invaded Russia , a year later.

After the war, Rav Yitzchak served as a rav for six years in Germany before moving to
Eretz Yisrael, and settling in Raanana. Rav Yitzchak wrote a collection of chiddushim on Megillas Esther and entitled it Higidah Esther, in his mother’s memory.

“The hearts of Israel were closed with the pain of the exile.” (Rashi) Many commentaries ask why the Torah hints to the closing of the hearts of Israel at the beginning of this week’s portion rather than at the beginning of Shemot, where the years of slavery actually begin?

We find that a group of Elisha’s students met him as he was accompanying Elijah to the latter’s departure to heaven. “Did you know that Today God will take your master from above your head?” they asked Elisha.

How could the students believe that they were able to foresee something that their master, Elisha, could not?

We often see that when someone dies, his limbs go first before his heart and mind. The king of the body, the heart, is the last to “know.” Elisha’s students were like the limbs of a body. They sensed the death of Elijah before their master could. They asked Elisha if he knew that Elijah was leaving because as long as Elisha didn’t know, there was still time to live in a world with Elijah’s presence.

So too, long before the years of slavery began, the limbs of the nation began to experience a sense of loss. They felt their hearts closing when they realized that they would no longer be living in a world with a human being as great as Jacob.

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