Shabbat Mevorachim - Blessing the New Month

Biographical sketches (in chronological order) for the weekly Torah essay.

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki - Rashi (1040-29 Tammuz 1105) lived nearly his entire life in Troyes, France. Although considered the greatest scholar of his generation, he humbly refused all rabbinical positions, and taught and wrote while earning his living as a wine merchant. His commentary on Scripture and his commentary on the Talmud are both each indispensable aids to attaining a basic understanding of the texts. Thus, for nearly 1000 years, Rashi has been the primary Torah teacher of the generations!

Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, the 'Shelah' (1565-1630), was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, Rabbi Horowitz remarried and moved to Israel in 1621. He became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. After being kidnapped by the local pasha, and ransomed by the Jewish community for a backbreaking sum of money, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Tiberias in order to prevent a subsequent kidnapping. He is known as the 'Shelah', which is the abbreviation of the title of his magnum opus, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, a classic work in Jewish tradition, combining insights into the weekly portion, the holidays and Jewish law. His burial site is in Tiberias, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Rabbi Yisrael (18 Elul 1734 - Shavuot 1760), the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos.

Rabbi Yechiel Michil of Zalotchov (1731-25 Elul 1786) was the son of the great scholar, Rabbi Yitzchak of Drorhovitch, who brought him at a young age to the Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. He eventually became an important disciple of both the Baal Shem Tov and his successor, the Maggid of Mezritch. 'Reb Michel' served as a 'maggid' (preacher/lecturer) traveling from town to town, teaching the Jewish residents how to connect to their Creator. He was famous for his spiritual insight and extraordinarily effective speaking ability. Many of his teachings are collected in the book, Mayim Rabim. R' Michel was survived by his five renowned sons, each of whom became a Rebbe.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

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