שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Master of Repentance: Rabbenu Yona of Gerona

One of the greatest giants in Torah and Mussar during the Middle Ages, and author of the Sefer ‘Shaarei Teshuva’, a phenomenal work designed to arouse the soul to repentance

Avi Lazar 16/11/2009 10:41
Rabbenu Yona was born in the year 4970 (1210). In his early youth he travelled to France to learn Torah in the great Yeshivos there. Amongst his teachers were Rav Shmuel ben Rav Schnuer, and Rav Shlomo son of Rav Avraham Montpelier (‘Min Hahar’). In 4992 (1232), a fierce dispute arose over the Sefer ‘Moreh Nevuchem’ of the Rambam. There were those who claimed it held the flavor of Greek philosophy and was thus a danger to Jewish faith. Rabbenu Yonah joined the conflict together with his teacher Rav Shlomo Montpelier, who was one of the opponents to the work of the Rambam. Rabbenue Yonah himself even went so far as to hand over the Sefer Moreh Nevuchim to Christian priests, to burn. He requested of the priest that they mete out justice with the Jewish ‘heretics’ who were following the ways of the Rambam, just as they did with Christian infidels. However, after Rabbenu Yonah saw the devastating results of the whole dispute, including the burning of the Talmud in France, he had a change of heart and resolved to visit the grave of the holy Rambam and publicly admit that he had sinned to the G-d of Israel and to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.

Rabbenu Yonah was an undisputed giant in Torah and piety, and even his rivals admitted to his greatness and accorded him great respect. Because of his immense piety and fear of Heaven he was often described as ‘the pious one’, or ‘the holy one’.

Rabbenu Yonah spent his days disseminating Torah and he founded several Yeshivos. From amongst his illustrious students, the most outstanding was Rav Shlomo ben Avraham (the Rashba). Of all the Chachamim of the generation, he held the closest relationship with his cousin – the Ramban (the mother of the Ramban was Rabbenu Yonah’s father’s sister). He even married off his daughter to the son of the Ramban, Rav Shlomo. When Rabbenu Yonah passed away his daughter was expecting a child, and when she gave birth to a son the Ramban said: ‘Even though you would have called the child after me, I want you to call him Yonah after his mother’s father, so that he should grow great in Torah and fear of Heaven.’

More Nevuchim-book cover  

Rabbenu Yona established his Yeshiva in Barcelona, and with every Halacha that he expounded he mentioned the Rambam’s name with reverence. After three years in Barcelona he set out to fulfil his vow: to ascend to the holy Land and prostrate himself before the grave of the Rambam. However, as he passed through the city of Toledo, the members of the community pressed him to stay there a while and teach them Torah. Rabbenu Yona acceded to their request and established a large Yeshiva there, and postponed the implementation of his vow. Alas he was unable to fulfil this promise since he passed away suddenly, on the 28th of Cheshvan 5024 (1264).

He left behind a treasure-trove of holy writings, which are studied in depth to this day. Many are no longer in our hands, but references to them are made in a number of commentaries of the Rishonim. Amongst the Sefarim we are privileged to have in our possession today are: a commentary on the Tractate Avos, printed in the Shas Vilna; ‘Sam haChaim’ on Tractate Sanhedrin; ‘Aliyos d’Rabenu Yona’ on Tractate Bava Basra. The name of this Sefer is derived from the fact that at the end of each discussion Rabbenu Yona writes “Mah she’ala b’yadenu”. On Tractate Brachos, there is a commentary on the Rif (Rav Yitzchak Alfassi – a Halacha Sefer) which was compiled by his students, and given the name ‘Talmidei Rabbenu Yona’.

Of all his impressive compilations, the Sefer that gained most fame was the Mussar work “Shaarei Teshuva” (Gates of Repentence), delineating the gateways to arouse a person to fear of Heaven and a return to his Creator in true repentance. It is an accepted component of Mussar study in all Yeshivos, particularly during the month of Elul as preparation for the Days of Awe. The Sefer is divided into four ‘Gates’ – The First Gate discusses the pathways of repentance that a person must tread to ensure his repentance is complete and long-lasting. In the ‘Second Gate’ he defines various aspects that can arouse a person’s heart to return to his Creator. The ‘Third Gate’ instructs a person to inspect all his deeds so as to ensure he won’t inadvertently sin due to lack of knowledge or insufficient attention. Here Rabbenu Yona details many positive and negative commandments which are frequently transgressed. He also explains the reasons for the widespread negligence in these areas, and outlines the essence of the sin and the extent of the ‘stain’ that sullies the soul of the transgressor. This section could constitute an entire Sefer in and of itself. Finally, the ‘Fourth Gate’ discusses methods of atonement for those whose souls are sullied by serious sin. This section is divided according to the severity of the sin and its punishment.

It is told in the name of Rabbi Akiva Eger, that the teachings in ‘Shaarei Teshuva’ deeply obligate us since Rabbenu Yona was an Halachic authority (Posek) and his words are quoted in the Shulchan Aruch. If so, his rebukes are also of Halachic potency! This compilation was part of a larger Sefer called ‘Shaarei Tzedek’, in which there was ‘Shaarei Torah’, ‘Shaarei Tefillah’, ‘Shaarei Avoda’ and ‘Shaarei Sinah’; however we were not privileged to enjoy their contents as they are not in our hands today. Together with the Sefer ‘Shaarei Teshuva’ other Sefarim were also printed – small in number but immeasurably great in value: ‘Sefer haYirah’, ‘Igeres haTeshuva’, and ‘Yesod haTeshuva’.