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A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Shvat 5773 - January 17, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The RaShash — the Mekubal Rabbi Shalom Mizrachi Sharabi zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 10th Shevat

From faraway Yemen, a young boy made the arduous journey to his dream — Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. Upon entering the Old City, his soul was drawn to the famed yeshiva Beth-E-l, the renowned academy where the greatest kabbalists studied the esoteric secrets of the Torah.

At his young age, Shalom Mizrachi Sharabi knew he would not be readily accepted into this group, all of whom were many years his senior and who had first thoroughly learned the Toras Hanigleh and only then were deemed worthy of spending their days and nights delving into the secrets of Hashem.

So he decided to try to join the yeshiva as its shamash, a caretaker of sorts, to serve the lomdim and prepare the benches and tables.

Inside, he could listen to the shiurim. He did not mind being anonymous, since he could thus even better devote his time and energy to avodas Hashem.

He approached the great rosh yeshiva, HaRav Hakodosh R' Gedaliah Chiyun zt"l and asked if he could work as a caretaker in exchange for room and board. Rabbi Gedaliah agreed.

Rabbi Shalom carried out his menial tasks faithfully, rousing the talmidim at midnight for Tikkun Chatzos, serving them warm drinks and tidying the seforim so that all was in order for the shiur. For most of the day, he was free to sit quietly in his corner of the beis medrash, listening to the deep shiurim and learning, together with the talmidim. It never occurred to anyone there that the young shamash even understood any of what was being studied.

Rabbi Shalom's life was a virtual Gan Eden for him. Sitting in this study hall permeated with holiness he could learn, absorb and plumb the depths of the Torah's secrets and grow — all in the guise of a simple caretaker. He was prepared, and indeed it was his ardent wish, to continue this way all his life.

However, it was ordained from Heaven that this precious jewel not remain hidden. The world needed to benefit from its dazzling beauty.

It happened at times that the chachomim of the yeshiva would remain locked in a difficulty in chochmas HaNistar without finding the solution. The first time this happened in the presence of the new young shamash, he watched their toiling and their anguish at not comprehending. Sitting in his corner, Rabbi Shalom's mind worked tirelessly, coming to a clear answer and conclusion to the problem that was bothering the chachomim already a number of days.

With a great degree of self-control, Rabbi Sholom refrained from revealing the answer, knowing that with it his ruse would be uncovered. Seeing, however, the Rosh Hayeshiva, the elderly Chacham Rabbi Gedaliah, looking so mournful and troubled, he could contain himself no longer.

At night, while all were asleep, he wrote the teirutz on a small paper, which he slipped between the pages of Rabbi Gedaliah's sefer.

Following Tikkun Chatzos, the talmidim sat down to learn with their Rosh Yeshiva. The latter, opening his sefer, found the small paper with its wondrous answer. His eyes lit up in pure joy as he shared the explanation with his students and all of them were elated that the gates of wisdom had been opened for them.

Immediately Rabbi Gedaliah insisted and commanded his talmidim that the writer of the note step forward. However, his comment was extended to his talmidim only, obviously excluding this boy in the corner who hid his secret.

The pattern repeated itself several times, with the difficulty in learning, the despondency and then the mysterious note with the enlightening solution.

Some of the talmidim sought to discover the writer's identity, but to no avail. Never did it occur to them to suspect their shamash. Rabbi Shalom kept his secret by writing the notes only when he was certain that all of the yeshiva's students were sound asleep.

One day, however, Rabbi Gedaliah's daughter reported to him in jest that perhaps the shamash who worked in Beth E-l knows how to learn, for she once saw him removing a sefer of her father's and inserting a paper inside.

In bewilderment, Rabbi Gedaliah ran to the young boy and sternly commanded him to disclose the secret of the mysterious note-writer. Having no choice, Rabbi Shalom admitted his deed, but begged R' Gedaliah not to pass the word around. The Rosh Yeshiva of the holy mekubalim, however, perceived in the incident a sign from heaven that the time had come for Rabbeinu's light to shine on the world.

He duly seated him at the head of the table in the yeshiva and, a few months later, took him as a son-in- law. Thus he became the husband of the very girl who had publicized his "sin."

From then on this bright sun shone from the East, illuminating and warming the Torah world with his rays of brilliance. Eventually, following the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Mizrachi Sharabi became Dean of the Yeshivas Hamekubalim.


Often, just being in the presence of the tzaddik Rabbi Shalom provided the solution that people came to him to seek.

A man who had suffered many troubles and tribulations came to the RaShash (as Rabbi Shalom is known) to ask for guidance. How could he better his ways so that he would no longer be subjected to so many sorrows?

The Rabbanit Sharabi bade him be seated until Rabbi Shalom was available to see him. The man sat down in a chair and drifted off into a fitful sleep. He dreamt he was walking alone along a desolate path, when suddenly there sped past him a beautiful white carriage. This was followed by another one like it, all heading in the same direction.

As he watched, wide-eyed, the man saw a black carriage from the distance looming over the horizon. One after the other, the gloomy black wagons thundered past. Our friend began running after the carriages, desperate to see where their destination was. He followed them until they and he came to a large open square, which he understood to be the heavenly court.

The white carriages were full of mal'ochim created by mitzvos and virtuous deeds. Of these some were strong and healthy mal'ochim, having been created by mitzvos done meticulously, joyfully, and according to halochoh. Others were sorry-looking and shriveled, having been created by mitzvos done by rote or only half-done.

Inspecting the black carriages, the man saw a similar idea in the opposite context.

Black mal'ochim of varying conditions, created by aveiros, done either with full intentions or unintentionally, by force or in glee.

All at once, a large pair of scales appeared. The mal'ochim were piled onto the scale in preparation for the court case. "Who is being judged here?" the man asked curiously.

"Why, it's you yourself," came the reply.

A cold sweat broke over him, as he was now transformed from casual observer into defendant in this increasingly frightening scene. A choking sensation gripped him, as he watched the evil prosecuting angels tipping the scales in their favor, outweighing the defending ones by far.

"Are there are any more mal'ochim?" a mighty voice called out. None came forward. The announcement was then made to add to the scale any yissurim — pains and troubles the defendant had suffered during his lifetime — to the side of the merits.

With a sigh of relief, the man felt his color return, as wagonloads of yissurim began to role up. They were duly placed on the white side of the scales, which slowly began to descend, for yissurim atone for a person's sins.

As the most recent of his tzoros was hoisted upon the scales, however, the man saw that he was still not safe. With all his troubles, it was still tipped on the side of the black mal'ochim, dooming him, it seemed forever.

In desperation, the man began shouting, "More yissurim. I want more yissurim, just bring me some more . . . " and then awoke, startled by his own hysterical shouting.

"Did something happen?" inquired the Rabbanit gently. "The Rabbi is ready to see you now."

"It's OK," stammered the man, rising shakily to his feet. "I . . . I think I have the answer already, just by being in the holiness of his home."


On the Pesach preceding his petiroh, during achilas matzoh, Rabbi Shalom remained absorbed in his lofty thoughts and kavonos for a long time. When the Seder was over, he quietly informed his family that this coming year would be his last.

The following 10th Shevat, Rabbi Shalom Mizrachi Sharabi wrapped himself in his tallis as usual. Then, while he was concentrating on the holy sheimos and yichudim, his holy soul left its earthly shell. Before breathing his last breath, Rabbi Shalom promised those surrounding him that anyone who davens in the correct way at his kever will surely be answered.

Zechuso Yogen Aleinu


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