By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Reuven the Firstborn of Israel
“Look, please, upon our affliction, and defend our cause: and redeem us speedily with complete redemption for the sake of Your Name; because You are a Mighty Redeemer. Blessed are You, Hashem, Redeemer of Israel”. “Look upon our affliction” are the words used by Leah in naming her son Reuven, saying: “HaShem has seen (“Ra’ah”) my affliction and given me a son (“ben”) for now my husband shall love me.” According to our Sages (Brachot 7b), Leah also foresaw, with Divine inspiration, that her son would save Yosef from being killed by his brothers. By calling her son Reuven she wished to say “see (“reu”) the difference (“bein”) my son (“ben”) and the son (“ben”) of my father-in-law (Yitzhak, whose “son” in this context is Esau). The Sages explain that Leah wished to highlight the kind and benevolent spirit of her firstborn son Reuven in contrast to Yitzhak’s firstborn son, Esau. She said that Reuven’s firstborn right was altered against his will and given to Yosef as it says “Reuven… was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Yoseph son of Israel” (Divrei Hayamim I 5, 1). Nevertheless, in a sense, Reuven through his benevolent spirit saved Yosef his “rival”. And Esau, even though he willingly sold his firstborn right to Yakov, nevertheless hated Yakov for “taking his firstborn blessings” from their father Yitzhak.
The Midrash Raba in parshat Naso explains that each tribe had a different intention in their offering during the inauguration of the Mishkan, even though in practice each tribe brought the exact same offering. The intention of the tribe of Reuven was to bring an offering which alludes to the benevolent spirit of Reuven when saving Yosef and also towards the repentance of Reuven for “defiling his father’s bed.”
According to the Arizal, each month of the year corresponds to one of the twelve tribes, and the month of Tamuz corresponds to Reuven. The “holiday” of Tamuz is the 17th of Tamuz, which will turn into a day of rejoicing in the future (Zecharia 8, 19). One reason for this is due to the fact that the retribution of the 17th of Tamuz that we feel today in the form of a fast-day, is actually one of the primary “springboards” towards our repentance, which will bring the Redemption. This concept fits perfectly with the power of repentance inherent with the month of Tamuz, the month of Reuven, who taught the power of repentance through his benevolent behavior towards his “rival” brother. When we examine the sources of the 17th of Tamuz more deeply, we find that this day was meant to be the day of receiving the first tablets of the Torah had the People not sinned in the Sin of the Calf. The second tablets were received on Yom Kippur. These “tablets of the covenant” represent the renewal of the covenant between HaShem and Israel. Therefore, it becomes clear that the 17th of Tamuz and Yom Kippur are integrally linked, for both are days of repentance meant to aid us in renewing our covenant and connection with Hashem.
Hebron, the City of Unity (“hibur”), is indeed the place of the renewal of the covenant, as it says, “and King David made a covenant with them in Hebron before Hashem…” Although this verse refers to a covenant of David’s royalty over all Israel, nevertheless, the emphasis “before HaShem” expresses the idea that this covenant is not a mere mundane covenant. Rather, it is through the establishment of the “throne of David, God’s servant” that the Throne of Heaven is manifest in, and “connected to”, the world. This is Hebron, City of Divine “connection.”
One of the important figures in the renewal and continuation of the Jewish presence in Hebron was Rabbi Meir Franko, son of Hebron’s chief rabbi Rabbi Rahamim Yosef Franko. Rabbi Meir Franko was one of the leading rabbis of Hebron before and after the Tarpat Massacre. He was the only member of Hebron’s Beit Din to be saved after this Massacre. Although the Jewish presence in Hebron after this Massacre was short-lived, Rabbi Franko’s perseverance, despite the odds, has served as a “long-lived” inspiration to us all to persevere, continue, and make strides towards renewal in general and specifically in Hebron.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #271
“Three days ago I asked a person (A), who I am not usually in touch with, for his cellphone number in order to be “in touch” in regard to organizing a communal assembly to take place tomorrow. Suddenly today, a friend of mine, not associated with the organization of this assembly, randomly asked me if I have the cellphone number of this person (A), to which I was able to answer, to my great surprise, “yes…” A.G
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 138
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