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Birchot HaTorah: Shemen Rokeiach – The Gift of Torah

The 27th of Shevat is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Elazar Rokeach (1758-1837). Born in Stanislow, Poland, he was the son of R’ Arye Leib and a grandson of the baal Ateres Poz of Lask. When he was 13, he celebrated three landmarks: his bar mitzvah, his engagement and his completion of Shas. At the age of twenty, he became rov in Piltz, Poland. During this period, he wrote his sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Shemen Rokeach in which he printed his correspondence with the Noda Beyehuda. In 1800, he accepted rabbonus in Tritch. In 1812, he took over the rabbinate of Ransburg, and it was there that he waged his famous battle against the reformer Aaron Chaviner. Together with the Chasam Sofer, R’ Akiva Eiger and R’ Chaim Banet, he fought against the reformers in letters that are printed in the sefer Eileh Divrei Habris.

From The Introduction to the Shemen Rokeiach:

There are two steps necessary for a person to receive prophecy. He must prepare himself to be an appropriate vessel to have a prophetic experience, and God must select him to receive the gift. Even a person who spends his life preparing may not receive the gift of prophecy, for he must be selected by God for such an experience.

The same is true of Torah study, which began as a prophetic experience at Revelation. We must work on ourselves to become proper vessels to be worthy to receive Torah as a full gift, not as information or knowledge, but Torah in its full transformative power.

However, we must remember that God must choose us to receive the gift of Torah. It is that choice that we celebrate in the blessings of the Torah, “Asher Bachar banu,” “Who has chosen us.”

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