The indelible impression of his grandfathers' diligence
that the Ohr HaChaim observed and which was part of his
youth never left him. Their regular schedule was a full
day of learning, after which they would rest a little,
never oversleeping the midnight hour. At chatzos
they would be up, to sit and mourn the destruction of
the Beis Hamikdosh. After this, their learning
resumed, continuing unabated through the following day.
Rabbeinu was truly the prime example of the ideals that
he writes of in his sefer Ohr HaChaim al HaTorah
in Parshas Ki Sovo: "There is no goodness besides
Torah. If only people would feel the sweetness of Torah
they would become obsessed with it, chasing after Torah
with all their might. All the gold and silver in the
world would be worthless in their eyes, for Torah
supersedes all the goodness and treasures of the
The elderly Sephardim of Jerusalem related that in
addition to all his learning in the revealed Torah and
the esoteric Kabbalistic works, on erev Shabbos,
Rabbeinu would also learn Hilchos Eidus.
"Whoever says Kiddush is as though he testifies
as a witness to the Creation of the world by Hashem,"
he reasoned. "And since I have to be an eid
kosher, I should learn the halachos involved."
The princess was due to be married and lavish
preparations were under way. The Ohr HaChaim, who
worked as a goldsmith for a limited number of hours
just to earn enough to continue his learning, was
unconcerned with all the activity, until a contingent
of messengers from the king arrived at his door. Having
heard of the Ohr HaChaim's talent in the art of making
jewelry, the king wanted him to create an exquisite
piece to adorn his daughter the bride's neck on her
Placing other jobs aside, Rabbeinu began working.
However, when the time came for his usual learning
session, there was no compromise. The Ohr HaChaim's
main "job" was his Torah learning and any other trade
remained secondary, no matter who his customer was.
The long-awaited day arrived and the king looked
forward to presenting his daughter with a magnificent
piece of jewelry.
To his fury, his messengers returned from the Ohr
HaChaim empty-handed. The piece was not yet ready, for
the Ohr HaChaim had not had enough time to finish it.
"Not enough time!" spluttered the king. "I'll teach
that Jew a lesson he will not survive to forget!"
Immediately, soldiers were dispatched to fetch the Ohr
HaChaim, with a decree that he be thrown into a lion's
Unruffled, the tzaddik asked for permission to
take with him his tallis and tefillin and a
"You'll have no need for those objects," sneered the
king. "In a few moments the hungry lions will pounce on
you as their prey and devour you. They surely have no
necessity for holy books and things.
"Lower him in!"
As though a story out of the Tanach were coming
alive, instead of pouncing on his saintly figure, the
lions lay down at the Ohr HaChaim's side, heads upon
their paws in respect for him. Their previous roaring
and snarling abated and a calm, eerie stillness filled
the cage, as the Ohr HaChaim proceeded to sway softly.
The lions lay and listened to his sweet voice of Torah
and tefillah, while the soldiers trembled nearby.
Unable to believe the startled report of his guards,
the king came to see the miracle personally. When he
had recovered from the shock of the spectacle enough to
speak, he ordered that Rabbeinu be taken out of the
cage and respectfully asked how this wonder came to be.
"It's very simple," explained the Ohr HaChaim. "Since
your decree was issued because I had taken my time to
learn Torah, the Torah had to come to my defense and
protect me from evil."
Apologizing profusely and duly humbled, the king set
the Ohr HaChaim free, lavishing gifts on him as he sent
Another story is told of the Ohr HaChaim's journey
through a wild desert, where wild animals were known to
As Rabbeinu walked through the arid, endless sands, he
saw a wild beast of prey in the distance. The lion,
too, noticed the Ohr HaChaim and approached him. As he
neared, the Rabbi fearlessly stood erect until the lion
drew closer and lay down, tame, at his side.
Tzaddikim explain the story logically: Since
Rabbeinu never sinned, he had never damaged his
physical being and the tzelem Elokim, in which
man was created, was retained in him completely, so
that even the king of the beasts was afraid of him.
In his introduction to his sefer Cheifetz Hashem,
the Ohr HaChaim explains the reason for choosing this
"Know my brothers that all my learning throughout my
life stemmed out of a love for Hashem and his Torah, my
sole intention being to do Cheftzo, His will.
Furthermore, my teaching comes not from my own
intellect, but from Hashem Himself — it is all
His yeshiva, situated in a hidden spot in the hills
around Yerushalayim, was guarded at the entrance by one
of his pupils. Not every person could enter freely to
learn there and the guard would not allow anyone in
without permission from his teacher.
Once, Rabbi Avrohom Gershon of Kitov, zt"l, the
brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov HaKodosh, wanted to
join those learning in that elite yeshiva. The guard,
however, refused to give him entry, citing in the name
of Rabbeinu that indeed R' Avrohom Gershon Kitover
lacked only one thing: he had never yet done a service
to a talmid chochom.
Biding time, the Kitover awaited his opportunity and
when the Ohr HaChaim had to change his shoes, R'
Avrohom Gershon jumped to bring his footwear to him.
After that he was accepted into the holy academy.
After his petiroh, the Ohr HaChaim was buried in
Har Hazeisim in Yerushalayim, where it is known that
tefillos recited at his grave do not go unheeded.
During World War II, the Germans invaded North Africa
and advanced steadily northwards towards the Middle
East. The Yidden of Eretz Yisroel were
terrified that soon the Nazi hand might chas
vesholom have them in its grip.
A yom tefillah was announced and all residents of
Yerushalayim and its surroundings converged on Har
Hazeisim to the tziyun of the Ohr HaChaim.
Led by the Husyatiner Rebbe, zt"l, and by R'
Shlomke of Zvhill, zt"l, the Yidden poured
out their hearts, entreating the Ohr HaChaim to
intercede in Heaven and nullify the destructive decree
that was hanging over their heads.
Upon completing the fervent tefillos, the
Husyatiner turned to the crowd and announced,
"Boruch Hashem! Hashem Yisborach will help, for
we have achieved a yeshua and our enemies'
Sure enough, after a few days, the Germans were driven
back in a Heavenly ordained twist of fate and the Jews
of Eretz Yisroel were spared.
When Chassidim asked the Husyatiner how he had been so
sure of the salvation, he revealed, "As we finished
davening at the grave of the Ohr HaChaim, we saw
the Name of Hashem lighting up the tziyun and I
understood that Heaven was sending us a message that
the yeshua was close at hand."