It’s said that very few Tzaddikim merited to have the appellation
“HaKadosh” (the holy one) added to his name. One of them was the Arizal (R’
Yitzhak Luria) and another one, of course, Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz. R’ Yeshaya
was nicknamed the Shelah HaKadosh after his masterpiece on the Torah and
Kabbalah called Shnei Luchot HaBrit (two commandment tablets). The Shelah is
also best known for his famous and powerful prayers we recited on the day
before Rosh Chodesh (new month) Sivan and Nissan.
Living between 1565-1630, the Shelah HaKadosh was one of the leading
kabbalists of Safed but died in Tiberias. His innovations on Torah are cherished by
all groups of Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
A question however, begs to be answered: Why is the Shelah one of the
few Rabbis of the previous generations called “holy”? This is a very complex
question, but, as a certain rabbi once taught that “a question is a window through
which we can see outside”, which means that even if we don’t answer it directly,
we can learn a lot from analyzing it.
What makes someone holy? The deeper books teach that holiness come
from Hashem. As we emulate Him, we become more like Him.
R’ Yosef Gikatilla teaches that as a person separates from the physical
world and works on acquiring true fear of Heaven, he can receive divine
inspiration and the Shekhina herself begins teaching him the deepest secrets of
Torah. There have been many Tzadikim that went on that path of purification and
by isolating themselves have merited to suddenly begin speaking wondrous Torah
that’s never been heard before. But it has to be genuine. The same thing
happened to R’ Menachem Rekanati, who, at the advanced age of 84 received the
visit of an angel who gave him some of the water from the “Well of Miriam” to
drink and, in the next 2 years wrote most of his commentary on the Torah!
The Shnei Luchot Habrit is an encyclopedic work with truly new
interpretations on the Torah and Talmud. It shows not only the genius of the
Shela but also how pure and holy he was. This is not a work someone can do
through “smarts” alone, but that was, without a doubt, received from Above.
Fascinatingly enough, the Chida writes that he found in the Seder HaDorot,
who himself found in the writings of R’ Leib of Slutzk that the soul of the Gaon R’
Yeshayahu Horowitz had the soul of Ruth in him!
The taste of prohibitions
The Torah commanded us many prohibitions. This is in order to safeguard
our holiness and bring us closer to Hashem. R’ Avraham Horowitz, son of the
Shelah writes that his father wrote a brilliant explanation on the taste of
In Tractate Chullin (109B), Yalta the wife of Rav Nachman kept asking her
husband the many parallels that were permitted for every forbidden thing. For
example, the Torah has forbidden us the fat (Chelev) of cattle but it has permitted
us the fat of wild beasts, it has forbidden us swine's flesh but it has permitted us
the brain of the shibbuta (a type of fish). After asking a few more equivalents, she
reaches the prohibition of milk and meat. What is the equivalent to that? Rav
Nachman told his attendants to give her “roasted udder” to see how it would
The Shelah HaKadosh gives a fascinating explanation on why the Talmud
had to list all these equivalents: He teaches us that a person should not say “I
hate to eat pork, therefore I won’t”, rather, he should say “I wish I could eat
forbidden meats, but what can I do if my Father in Heaven forbade it?!”. This is a
truly faithful child, and so the Torah specifically gave us a substitute taste for each
There’s a well-known segulah attributed to an unknown Kabbalist from the
Shelah HaKadosh for praying with purity. It involves passing your right hand over
your forehead and reciting the verse from Psalms 51:12: "Create in me God a pure
heart, and renew within me a pure spirit." If a foreign thought comes to you during a
prayer when you are not permitted by halacha to interrupt [verbally], be quiet for a
minute, pass your hand over your brow, and say this verse mentally. Then immediately
you will be able to pray with intention.
May the memory of the Tzaddik R’ Yeshaya Horowitz be for a blessing!
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!