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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The First Chareidi

By Rabbi Sender Haber

About five hundred years ago Rav Elazar Ezkari of Tzfas wrote the “Sefer Chareidim”. Not directly related to the “Chareidim” of today, Rav Ezkari’s objective was to catalog the obligations of a Jew and organize them according to the various limbs. The Chareidim was a colleague of Rav Yosef Karo, the Arizal, the Alshich and the other great luminaries of Tzfas. He is quoted often by the Mishna Bereurah and other classic halachic works.

In the section of Mitzvos relating to the heart, Rav Ezkari devotes chapter thirty-four to the mitzvah of loving Hashem. He points out that the best way to express love for Hashem is with songs of love. He goes on to record some of the songs that he and his colleagues would sing to express their love to Hashem.

One of those songs is the Yedid Nefesh, which Rav Ezkari himself composed. It is a Kabbalistic song of the yearning and desire of the soul to come closer to G-d.

In the second stanza Rav Ezkari speaks of how the soul is sick with love for HaShem. He begs, “Ana! Refah na lah!” – “Please! Cure her!” – using the words that Moshe used in praying for his afflicted sister.

This seems odd. How does Moshe’s prayer for Miriam’s leprosy relate to our feeling of love toward G-d?

I think that answer lies in the reason for Miriam’s leprosy. When Miriam was young she saw in a prophetic vision that it was not proper for her parents to separate from one another. As a result of her prophecy Moshe was born and the Jews were ultimately redeemed. When she spoke ill of Moshe, Miriam was merely repeating the same sentiment: Moshe should not separate from his wife Tziporah.

Miriam was right in Egypt because she had the benefit of prophecy.  When Moshe prayed for his sister, he went straight to the root of the issue. “Please cure my sister! Please restore her sense of prophecy so that she will not make this mistake again!”

In Yedid Nefesh, Rav Ezkari has all of us praying for the most fundamental cure. We want to reconnect with Hashem. We want to become prophets.

And until we do, we have no right to judge, criticize, or speak ill of one another.

(Based in part on ideas from Rabbi Avie Gold and Rabbi Aryeh Leib Heyman)

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