Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar is one of the most mysterious rabbis in the Talmud. We don’t know much about him, but he was a disciple and servant of Rabbi Akiva, and one of the greatest of his generation.
His last name, HaSandlar, could mean that he comes from a village with that name or that he was a shoemaker. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much we can learn from him, but if we look closely, there are many deep concepts we can take as inspiration.
The other Shoemaker
The sages teach in the Talmud that there was another incredibly great Tzadik who was also a shoemaker, which preceded Rabbi Yochanan by more than 2.000 years. His name was Chanoch (translated as Enoch), and he was one of the few Tzadikim prior to the great flood at the time of Noach. Even the Torah testifies that he used to “walk with God”, and because he could’ve been corrupted by the evil of his generation, Hashem took him from the world at age 3650, and he became the famous governing angel Metatron (not to be pronounced).
What is perhaps more fascinating is that Kabbalistic tradition teaches that Chanoch, as a shoemaker, would make incredibly deep Yichudim(mystical unifications), as he was tying the shoes!
There’s no doubt that Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar, having a similar profession to Chanoch, engaged in his profession the same way as his predecessor, bringing about an abundance of light into the world. In fact, Kabbalah in general leaves little to wonder when it comes to such “coincidences”, as this “job similarity” clearly establishes a connection between the two. This, we find in many other examples, such as when Rava, the great Amorah, had to guard himself from wine, because he had a spark of the soul of Lot (who wasinebriated with wine).
Lifting the sparks in everyday life
There’s an oft quoted saying that “the secret to being in the right place at the right time is knowing that you already are”. People often lament the fact that their lives are not the way they wish for it to be, or that it’s not nearly as exciting as they had hoped.
But the truth is even as a person is tying their shoes, he can make great unifications, even if he’s supposedly a simple person. Rabbi Chaim Vital teaches in Sha’ar HaYichudim that anyone (in a state and place of purity) can intend to unite the holy names of יהוהand אהיה in their respective Milui (filling) forms by weaving them together:
The image depicts 8 holy names of Hashem that one can keep in mind at any and all times (as long as he’s not in an impure place). Each line has 2 as follows:
First Line: יהוה in the filling of 72 + אהיה in thefilling of 161
Second Line: יהוה in the filling of 63 + אהיה in thefilling of 161
Third Line: יהוה in the filling of 45 + אהיה in thefilling of 143
Fourth Line: יהוה in the filling of 52 + אהיה in thefilling of 151
In doing so, a person can purify himselftremendously and elevate the sparks wherever he is.This is a tremendously importante exercise so
Hashem puts us in certain situations so we can realize that he’s there all along with him. One way to do so is by keeping the name יהוה in front o four eyes at all times. Another, is by doing Yichudim.
While we may not be doing Yichudim like Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar or Chanoch, we can still effect great changes in the upper and lower worlds by keeping Hashem in our consciousness at all times, or at least as much as we can!
Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar is buried in Meron. Interestingly enough, he died the same. day, the 29th of Tammuz, as another luminary who would also illuminate the Jewish world, none less than Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, the famous Rashi!
This article was written in the merit of Ben tzion ben shoshana! May he have complete emuna, success in all his endeavors and may Hashem help him attain all his hearts desires speedily!
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