It’s often fascinating to realize how nothing the sages did were in vain. Everything has a deeper meaning once we probe deeply into their stories. Yet, the doors to understanding their deeds only open properly when we do Teshuva and learn also the simple meaning Torah.
One of the least-known sages was Rabbi Oshya IshTyria, a 4th Generation Amorah,who was known to be a launderer. At first sight, it seems like Rabbi Oshya was simply a humble Tzadik doing whatever work was allotted to him.
His story is brought in the Talmud Yerushalmi(Bava Kamma, Chapter 10) and at first glance seems rather unimpressive:
It once happened that the queen lost her jewels and Rabbi Oshya found them. When he came to return to her, she told him to keep them since she had plenty. Nevertheless, he insisted on giving them back and thereupon she blessed “Blessed is the God of the Jews”, which was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.
What is the big secret with clothes and Kiddush Hashem?
Let’s find out!
The secret of clothes
They say that “clothes make the man” and that’s very true. People tend to naturally respect someone well-dressed and even give more credence to his words. In a deeper sense, however, clothes represent the Ohr Makif (surrounding light) of a person. Every spiritual vessel (like a soul or a Sephira) has an internal light (Ohr Pnimi) that animates it from within and a surrounding light that shines from the outside. The surrounding light cannot enter the vessel precisely because it is too strong and cannot be contained. Nevertheless, in Etz Chaim the Arizal writes that the surrounding light desires to enter the vessel and since it’s unable to, it gives power to the vessel from outside, rectifying its external part up to the middle of the vessel’s thickness. The internal half of the thickness is rectified by the internal light.
Clothes have also many segulot, and they are all based on Kabbalistic teachings. For example, the Arizal writes that putting up two pieces of clothing (like a shirt and a sweater) at the same time can cause forgetfulness. The same can happen if someone sleeps using his clothes as a pillow.
In a spiritual sense, just like clothes protect us from the physical elements, so too, they protect us from bad spiritual elements. More than that, with time, clothes acquire energy from the person wearing them. This is the basis for many Rabbis keeping pieces of clothing from Tzadikim, like Rav Kaduri who kept a belt from the Ben Ish Chai or the Chabad custom for grooms wearing the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe’s shirt on their wedding night.
What is Kiddush Hashem all about?
The whole world belongs to Hashem, and while we know that, some people still reject this fact and decide to go against Him. From the drawing of the Merkavah (divine chariot) with the divine names, one can see that every aspect of ourselves can be imbued with holiness, including our speech. A prayer uttered with a divine name in mind is much more powerful. This is because Hashem’s holiness can be said to have permeated that place.
Yet, some places are more difficult to reachbecause the Sitrah Achra’s (“the other side”, evil) grasp is much stronger. This is what happens when someone is so far away from Hashem: his soul may be pure and good, but it’s simply drowning in Tumah (“impurity”) and can’t get out on its own.
Essentially, Kiddush Hashem is bringing the spark of the soul that is deep in these unclean places and making them shine. When we publicize the knowledge of Hashem by performing a great deed (without trying to show off) in public, and people recognize that Hashem is the only Creator, that’s what’s called “Kiddush Hashem”. This is what happened when the Queen, who was obviously an idol-worshipper back in the days of Rabbi Oshya, blessed Hashem.
The greater the challenge to bring Hashem’s light into the world, the greater the Kiddush Hashem performed. And, just like Chillul Hashem (the desecration of Hashem’s name) is the worst possible sin, Kiddush Hashem can conversely be the greatest possible Mitzvah. This is what made Rabbi Oshyamerit that in his death, his bier was lifted to Heaven.
It is remarkable that Rabbi Oshya was a “launderer”. In a simple sense, he was simply cleaning clothes. But perhaps we can surmise that in a deeper sense, he was cleaning the spiritual stains of the people, which got accumulated in the clothes they wore. It could be for this reason specifically he merited to make such a huge Kiddush Hashem in the story of the Queen who lost her jewels.
Rabbi Oshya is buried in the North, in a small region called Tyria close to the Druze land of Peki’in. Some commentators write that his Hilula is on Tu B’Av in the famous Jewish Holiday we celebrate every year.
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May we all merit to perform great Kiddush Hashem in this world!
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