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Rabbi Chalafta, light and guide of the changing times


​Few events in Jewish history have been so shocking as the destruction of the Second Temple. Many of the great Tannaimwho lived through it, saw that this event represented a massiveshift that would continue until our modern days. Rabbi Chalaftawas one of these sages, and instituted measures to make sure Jewish life could be sustained while in Exile.

​Often referred to by his son R’ Yose as Abba Chalafta, Rabbi Chalafta led a Yeshiva in Tzippori and was friends with many great sages of the generation, including R’ Akiva, R’ Elazar Ben Azaria and Rabban Gamliel II. While we don’t have many rulings in his name from the Talmud, his son R’ Yose is the 5th most mentioned sage in the Mishnah.

​While we know little about Rabbi Chalafta himself, we can have a few clues about his greatness based on one of his rulingsfrom the Gemara. There’s a principle in Kabbalah that we only mention the names of Hashem that we have perception of. For example, we don’t say the holy name יהוה as it’s written but rather say Ado-nay. While this name is still very holy, it’s a few levels below the Tetragramaton and therefore, relatable. The same thing happens with the name אהיה, which is usually only pronounced as its written during Yom Kippur when the cantor prays that the Prayer of Mussaf should be well received.

There once was a fast and Rabbi Chalafta and Rabbi Chanina Ben Tradyon answered Baruch Shem Kevod MalchutoLeolam Va’ed (“May the honor of His Name and Kingdom be Blessed Forever”) to the blessings of the cantor, instead of the customary Amen. Since this was after the destruction of the Temple, the sages reprimanded them as this phrasing was exclusive to the Temple when the Shekhina was in its full glory. Therefore, it could be surmised that, even after the destruction, these two giants could still relate to Hashem as if the Temple still stood and that’s why they continued to say this response for the blessings as it was!


What the Temple meant Kabbalistically

​The Sad’eh (Rabbi Chaim Shaul Dweck HaKohen), a major kabbalist and commentator on the siddur of the Rashas’h(Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) explains that sustenance cannot come down to this world without a union happening above. We learned in the previous article that it’s necessary to first elevate Feminine Waters, but that alone is not enough. Once the Masculine Waters come down and a Divine Union happens, that’s when Shefa can come down. The Arizal explains that there are actually 8 levels of such Divine Unions and that up until the destruction of the Second Temple, all of them were available. After then, only 7 remained.

​While it might not sound like a big difference, there’s a quantum leap between the two epochs, namely in how prayers are answered. In a theoretical sense, Hashem hears all our prayers. However, it’s written in the Zohar Idra Zutah that in truth, prayer has to travel across the spiritual worlds and overcome many barriers to reach its true place, “Hashem’s ears”. This path is usually long and filled with negative spiritual agents that want to tear down this prayer. Even after it arrives there, Hashem can still choose to dismiss it due to the person’s lack of merit.

​When the Temple stood, prayers were more or less readily accepted since the special Union was there. There was less travail to fulfil our requests and they didn’t require as much efforts as nowadays. However, this is not meant to demotivate anyone from praying, but rather to inspire us to try even harder!Although our prayers can have a harder time reaching their final destination, they are certainly worth a lot more! This also underscores the importance of personal prayer (Hitbodedut), which Rebbe Nachman of Breslov so much emphasized since, in effect, a person is carving for himself new pathways that are unknown to the agents, and may be even more readily accepted since it’s a new creation and might come from the heart even more.

​When the Third Holy Temple is built, this Divine Union will be much greater than even the First Temple and the righteous will experience an even greater revelation than on Mount Sinai, as Creation finally reaches its completion. Rabbi Chalafta kept the memories of the Holy Temple in his mind, possibly as a means of expanding his consciousness, or of hastening its actualization. Either way, we should derive inspiration from this great sage and b’ezrat Hashem we should merit to see its reconstruction!

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