Wednesday, Dec 7, 2022

Taanis 25: “For the Sake of My Son Chanina”

Rav Yitzchok of Bohush was quite poor. To try and allay the situation, the Bohusher Rebbetzin purchased a lottery ticket and asked her husband to daven that their number be drawn. To her surprise, the rebbe gently refused. “A rebbe’s job is to daven for the livelihood of his chassidim. This will automatically send us our livelihood as well. We find in Taanis 25 that a heavenly voice would proclaim daily that “the entire world is sustained in the merit of My son, Chanina ben Dosa.” We see that people are given a livelihood in the merit of the tzaddikim. If a tzaddik asks primarily for his own needs, he limits the influx he will draw down for the needs of his people. How can I do anything that may damage my beloved flock?”

As is well known, Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin lived a life of wealth. He had a beautiful coach, a palatial dwelling, and many outer trappings of royalty. To a simple person, this appears strange. In retrospect, we learn about what he did and the wondrous Torah he revealed, and we understand that his every act was for the sake of heaven. But while he was alive, many criticized him for what they perceived as unnecessary grandeur.

A certain person actually chided the rebbe about his opulent lifestyle, saying, “In Taanis 25 we find that although the entire generation was supported in the merit of Chanina ben Dosa, he himself lived on only a kav of carobs from Shabbos to Shabbos…”

The rebbe responded with characteristic brilliance: “That Gemara is a proof to the contrary. The heavenly voice exclaimed there, ‘The entire world is nizon, supported, bishvil, or in the merit of, my son Chanina.’ Rashi in Gittin 12 explains the difference between nizon and mefarneis. The former connotes limited support, while the latter alludes to being generous. The word bishvil also means in the channel. This teaches that the world was supported through Chanina’s channel. He was poor and therefore his generation suffered from poverty. But if a tzaddik lives a wealthy lifestyle, he can draw down wealth for his entire generation” (Siach Yitzchok).

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