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2 The Wedding Attended by the Patriarchs T O L D B Y G A D A B B A D I T O R E ’ U V E N N A ‘A N A H For many years the sister of our master, Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, who was known as the the “Ari,” was childless. She urged her saintly brother to pray for her and entreat God to end her disgrace. “Dear Brother,” she used to say, “you never turn anyone away empty-handed. Why, then, won’t you heed your sister’s tears?” But he never answered when she spoke to him in this vein. Finally there came a day when she cried so much, with rivers of tears pouring from her eyes in an unbroken stream, that he took pity on her. “Believe me, Sister,” he told her, “I’m more concerned about you than you are about yourself. But what can I do? The gates of mercy are closed.You must beseech God yourself and He will come to your assistance.” These consoling words were like balm to her pain. It was as if her brother had hinted that all hope was not lost and her salvation would come soon. Weeks passed and she came to her brother again. “Dear Brother, didn’t you promise me, with your own mouth, that God would help me? But I still haven’t been helped. Now I’m not going to budge from this spot until you promise me that God will act speedily and give me a child who will live.” She camped out in her brother’s house, weeping day and night and giving him no rest. Finally he told her, “Go home. In a year you will be embracing a son.* But I warn you: Do not let yourself be carried away with pride and tell people, ‘This is my wonderful son, the fruit of my womb.’If you don’t listen to me and boast about your son, the sin is not mine should disaster befall him.” The sister went home, her heart brimming with love and joy. God remembered her and she conceived and bore a son. God was with the boy and he was very bright. When he was three years old, she brought him to the heder,** where he 7 * Echoing Elisha’s promise to the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:16. ** School where children study Torah and Talmud. surpassed all the other children of his age. At four, the whole town knew of his brilliance. By the time he was five, he sat and learned Torah like an adult. Once his father was sitting with a group of men, who were all bragging about their offspring. The father could not restrain himself. “I can’t afford to pay tuition fees the way you can. Still, your sons would be put to shame by mine, who excels in knowledge of the Torah.” The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the boy was struck deaf. When his mother saw the disaster that had overtaken her son, she remembered her brother’s blessing and warning. Going to him, she fell at his feet and begged him to save her only son. Her brother, unable to withstand her entreaties, prayed to God. In a flash, the boy’s hearing was restored. “Here is your son, healthy. Take him with you. But again, I warn you not to boast of his virtues or beauty, if you love him. I have saved you this one time only. If you come again it will be in vain.” She took the boy and went. One day the mother was sitting with her friends, who were all extolling their sons. “My son is only ten and is already learning Gemara,”* said one. “My nine-year-old grandson is famous for his scholarship,” countered another. Then Rabbi Isaac Luria’s sister opened her mouth. “My son is still very young, but he already knows several tractates by heart. Nothing in God’s Torah is beyond his grasp.” No sooner had she spoken these words than her son went blind. When his mother perceived this new disaster she cried bitterly. The tears streamed from her eyes when she remembered that there was no hope, because her only source of assistance was her brother, who would not show her mercy after she had failed to heed his repeated warnings. In the end, though, she resolved to go...


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