The Holy Ohr Hachayim

ohr hachayim tzadikim tzfat Jul 04, 2023

Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, commonly known as the Ohr Hachayim, was an 18th-century Moroccan rabbi revered for his profound scholarship, mystical insights, and ethical teachings. His magnum opus, "Ohr Hachayim," is a comprehensive commentary on the Torah that continues to be studied and cherished by scholars and seekers alike.

The Ohr Hachayim's teachings delve deep into the mystical dimensions of Jewish thought, emphasizing the importance of connecting with the divine through prayer, study, and ethical conduct. His insights on the interplay between the physical and spiritual realms reveal a profound understanding of the inner workings of creation and the divine plan.

It is said that Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, may his memory be a blessing, recounted a story about the Ohr Hachayim, which he had heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Levi, may his memory be a blessing, of the city of Sali.

Every year, on the fifteenth of Tammuz, the eve of the yahrzeit of Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar, he would gather prominent rabbis, including those from the Charedi community, and share with them the wonders performed by the holy Ohr Hachayim, while imparting his Torah wisdom.

Upon his arrival in the land of Israel, the Ohr Hachayim first stayed in Livorno, where he convened a meeting with prominent rabbis and implored them to support the Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. He sought their assistance in revitalizing Torah education in Jerusalem. Shortly after that, he journeyed to Israel, passing through the port of Acre, visiting the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, and making stops at the graves of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Chiyah in Tiberias before finally reaching Jerusalem.

During his visit to Tiberias, the Ohr Hachayim approached Rabbi Chaim Abulafia, may his memory be a blessing, and asked him to establish his base in Tiberias, a significant Jewish settlement in those days. However, the holy Ohr Hachayim declared that his destiny lay in Jerusalem, the holy city. This promise was his commitment to the wealthy Jews of Italy, who had established a yeshiva there.

Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar sought a suitable place where he could settle and teach Torah. He discovered a location in the Old City that emitted an aura of importance as soon as he entered it. It was no coincidence that this place held such significance; it was the former residence of the author of "Charedim," who later lived in Tzfat during its Golden Age, Rabbi Elazar Azkari, may his memory be a blessing. There, he taught his Torah and likely authored his famous book and the song- piyyut "Yedid Nefesh."

The Ohr Hachayim approached the house's owner and discovered that a non-Jew controlled this sacred place. Without hesitation, the holy Ohr Hachayim rented the property from the Arab owner and paid him a full year's rent in advance. He promptly established a yeshiva and a place of Torah study, where students flocked to learn from his teachings.

When the non-Jewish landlord realized that the holy Ohr Hachayim had transformed his property into a center for Torah study and prayer, attracting many students and worshippers, he saw an opportunity for financial gain. He attempted to demand additional rent from the Ohr Hachayim, believing that the income from the students far exceeded their rental payments. He approached the holy sage with his demand.

The Ohr Hachayim responded, "It is known that in Jerusalem, one rents a property for a full year, from Rosh Chodesh Av to the end of the year (from Ramadan to Ramadan). Therefore, I have already paid you in advance for the entire year."

However, the non-Jewish landlord remained stubborn and insisted on his demand for additional rent.

The Or HaChaim, the holy sage, said to that gentile, "It is known that here in Jerusalem, apartments are rented for a year, from the beginning of the Arabic month until the end of the year (from Ramadan to Ramadan). Therefore, I have paid you in advance until the end of the year!"

But the gentile did not relent and remained standing in his place, demanding an increase in the rent. Then Or HaChaim, the holy sage, said to him, "Go away from here! We need to study Torah with the students!" The gentile stood firm and remained in his place. The Or HaChaim turned to him again and said, "If so, then stay standing."

That gentile, in whom "their mouths speak falsehood, and their right hand is a right hand of deceit," remained standing in his place without the ability to move. Frozen and immobilized, he couldn't even speak. It was as if his feet were planted in the ground of the house. And Or HaChaim, the holy sage, turned to his disciples and said, "Now let us continue studying the Torah, and soon things will return to their place in peace."

Some time passed until the entire city buzzed and reverberated from the miraculous event that occurred at that hour in the study hall of Or HaChaim, the holy sage, and the news reached the Sheikh as well, who was the prominent and important figure in the old Jerusalem. He also came to witness with his eyes the great miracle of one of his community members being rooted in place without the ability to move due to the rebuke of the new Jewish rabbi.
The Sheikh and his assistants tried to move the stubborn Arab from his place, but their efforts were in vain. The Sheikh approached Or HaChaim, the holy sage, who was engaged in Torah study with his students then, and asked him to release the homeowner.

Or HaChaim, the holy sage, asked him, "Is it acceptable among you, Arabs, that when someone signs a rental agreement with someone else, they can break it in the middle of the year?" God forbid," said the Sheikh, "this word is a word, and we do not change our words."
"If so, why is this man breaking the agreement between us? All this punishment comes upon him for violating the agreement and demanding a rent increase contrary to the agreement we signed shortly ago," asked Or HaChaim.

The Sheikh answered and said to Rabbi Chaim ben Atar, "If so, I guarantee on his behalf that he will not ask for any more rent increases on the apartment. Release him from his place; let him go to his home, to his wife and children waiting for him." But The Or HaChaim, the holy sage, did not agree to that. The Sheikh raised the price and told Or HaChaim, the holy sage, "Take the apartment as a rental for all your days."

The Or HaChaim, the holy sage, said to him, "No, no. This man is obstinate, his mouth speaks falsehood, and his right hand is a right hand of deceit. Today he wants to be released and agrees to anything and everything. Tomorrow he will come here and try to remove me from this place. I want this place to be taboo to him. Registered in the land registry."
The Sheikh asked the Arab planted in his place, "Do you agree to what Rabbi Or HaChaim, the holy sage, is asking?" The Arab shook his head in agreement. And the Sheikh thought that this would settle the matter.

"But the holy Ohr Hachayim knew who he was dealing with and said, 'No and no. Unless the land registry official comes and imposes the taboo on my name, I will not let him move from his place at all.'
The sheik understood that he had no choice and summoned the land registry official, who arrived with all his documents. In the presence of the sheik, the land registry official wrote the house under the name of the holy Ohr Hachayim for generations to come.

After all the attendees left the study hall of the holy Ohr Hachayim, the disciples asked him why he performed this miracle. He told them that there is great significance in redeeming Jewish homes in the land of Israel, especially in Jerusalem, the holy city. And certainly, the house of great righteous individuals who studied Torah in it with sanctity and purity.

He explained to them that this place did not originally belong to an Arab; it belonged to Rabbi Elazar Azkari. This Arab stole the land from its rightful heirs, as the Talmud says (Sukkah 30a), 'Gentiles have stealthily taken our land.' That's their way, the Ishmaelites, to steal Jewish land and later claim it as theirs. Despite that, I agreed to pay him money because I didn't want to argue with him. But after he broke his word, I found the opportunity to return the theft to its owner. To this day, the house in the Old City of Jerusalem is a redemption from the Gentiles by the holy Ohr Hachayim. It is a house where he studied and taught his Torah to many, and it is now in Jewish possession."

May his memory be a blessing upon us 🙌


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