Love of the Land

For the week ending 11 January 2003 / 8 Shevat 5763

Rabbi Chayim ben Atar The Miracle of the Fig Tree

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

One of the many old Jerusalem synagogues destroyed by the Arabs in the War of Independence was the "Ohr Hachayim Beit Midrash". It was called by that name in honor of the classic commentary on Chumash written by the great sage Rabbi Chayim ben Atar who arrived in Yerushalayim 260 years ago after a long, dangerous journey.

The author of "Ohr Hachayim" spent most of his time studying in this synagogue wrapped in tallit and tefillin, his face beaming an angelic radiance.

There was, however, one obstacle to his intense Torah study. In the courtyard of the synagogue was a fig tree which attracted the local Arab youngsters whose loud activity of picking the fruit greatly disturbed his ability to concentrate. The sage thereupon commanded the tree to cease producing fruit, and this barren tree stood for many years in the courtyard as a monument to the value which Heaven placed on the Torah study of Rabbi Chayim ben Atar.

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