GATEWAY TO HEAVEN
In the heart of the holy city of Jerusalem, there sits an elderly Torah Sage teaching Kabbalah – the mystical texts and understanding of the Torah – to a large group of Torah scholars. The name of this great Sage, beloved and respected worldwide by all segments of the Torah community, is Rabbi Yechiel Fischel Eizenbach shlitah, the Rosh HaYeshivah (Dean) of the renowned Torah academy Sha’ar HaShamaim.
Rabbi Yechiel Fischel Eizenbach zt”l
(Seated left [to his right] is Rabbi Daniel Frish – author of Matok Midvash commentary on Zohar)
Among the handful of leading Torah Sages in the area of Kabbalah, Rabbi Eizenbach’s stature is however unique: aside from his exceptionally warm and unassuming manner, he is the son-in-law of the late Rabbi Asher Zelig Margolios zt”l (1890 – 1969), one of the great Ashkenazi kabbalists and tzaddikim (righteous persons) of bygone Jerusalem, and author of an acclaimed commentary on Sefer Yetzirah – The Book of Creation, one of the earliest extant kabbalistic works known today, the authorship of which being attributed to either Adam HaRishon or the Patriarch Abraham. When noted Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l, for example, made accessible to the English speaking public his famous translation-explanation on Sefer Yetzirah (Weiser, 1991), he based his rendition primarily on Rabbi Margolios’ authoritative commentary.
Moreover, Rabbi Margolios learnt Kabbalah directly from the Sadeh, the acronym of the name Rabbi Shaul Deweik HaCohen zt”l (1858 – 1932), the towering Syrian kabbalistic master who lived in Jerusalem at the turn of the 20th century, and whose writings are the springboard to truly fathoming the inner meaning of all Kabbalah. (Only the most adept Torah scholars can fully comprehend these important works.) Rabbi Eizenbach has thus been privy and privileged to have received an authentic transmission of the Kabbalistic tradition, handed down from teacher to pupil, for many unbroken generations.
The Mezuzah Story
By “profession”, Rabbi Eizenbach is a Torah scribe. Being a master kabbalist, he has the added advantage of imbuing the holy Torah letters he inscribes with the mystical intentions prescribed by the Arizal himself in the book Sha’ar HaKavanot, the Gate of Intentions. (Sha’ar HaKavanot basically deals with celestial mechanics: it describes in detail how the spiritual power and energy invested in G-d’s holy Names enables spirituality to manifest into this world.) Needless to say, to be a Torah scribe of this caliber requires a formidable background in the knowledge of Kabbalah, the intricate complexity of the mystical intentions being a highly skilled discipline.
To illustrate the efficacy of Rabbi Eizenbach’s righteousness and skill, there is a heart-warming and true story about some Mezuzot he once wrote.
Many years ago, an American visitor to Jerusalem was introduced by a friend to Rabbi Eizenbach. Aside from receiving a warm blessing from the Rabbi, the visitor also purchased three Mezuzot which he affixed to his house upon his return to America. Sometime later, a fire unfortunately broke out and the entire house burnt down – except for those three places where the Mezuzot were attached. One of those strategic locations was none other than the baby’s room, which miraculously remained intact saving the child’s life!
When rebuilding his home again, the father got in touch with his Jerusalem friend and requested of him, “Please, can you go to Rabbi Eizenbach again and acquire some more of those Mezuzot for me!”
There is another beautiful and true story told about how the Yeshivah Sha’ar HaShamaim actually began, which also highlights the special character of the Yeshivah itself and the great Torah scholars who learn there-in.
One night, Rabbi Chaim Leib Auerbach (the father of the world renowned Torah Sage and tzaddik, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, c. 1910 – 1995) awoke from his sleep. He’d just had a truly amazing dream that galvanized him to get out of his warm bed and to go out into the cold night. He was headed towards the Jerusalem neighborhood, Batei Broide, to relate to the great kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Horowitz, this awesome experience.
Nearing deserted Batei Broide, he suddenly heard footsteps approaching, and barely made out the form of another fellow Jew. To his utter surprise, it was none other than Rabbi Shimon Horowitz himself!
“What are you doing here so late at night, young man?” asked Rabbi Horowitz.
“I was on my way to see you,” replied Rabbi Chaim Leib. “I had this dream and I wished …”
“Remarkable!” Rabbi Horowitz uncharacteristically cut off Rabbi Chaim Leib in mid-sentence. “I, too, had an unbelievable dream tonight, and I was on my way to see you!”
It quickly became apparent to them that they’d both had the selfsame phenomenal dream. They both saw a distinguished, awe-inspiring Jew standing before them, whose entire face radiated a deep glow of Heavenly splendor and grandeur.
“Why is no one learning my Torah?” his voice thundered.
“My Torah has the power to bring the exile of the Divine Presence to an end!”
That was the entire dream.
Rabbi Horowitz immediately understood that this awesome figure was none other than the holy Arizal himself. Clearly, the message was that the Arizal was bemoaning the fact that so few Torah scholars were dedicating themselves to the study of Kabbalah in that generation, hindering thereby the coming of the Final Redemption. His revelation was to inspire them to do something concrete about it. Thus, there and then, in the middle of the night, Rabbi Horowitz and Rabbi Chaim Leib decided together to establish Sha’ar HaShamaim, the Yeshivah for the learning of Kabbalah. The year was 1905.
A year later, and after much effort, the Yeshivah was founded in the Old City of Jerusalem, with Rabbi Horowitz zt”l acting in the capacity of Rosh HaYeshivah (Dean), and Rabbi Chaim Leib zt”l as Administrator. It was the fulfillment of a dream come true!
Today, after experiencing many political, geographical and economic changes, the Yeshivah was relocated and rebuilt in the center of Jerusalem proper. Many of the Torah scholars who learn in the Yeshivah are still elderly veterans of time-honored Jerusalem – the “old school” – which imbues the learning atmosphere with a rarefied ambience. A visitor to the Yeshivah, for example, can immediately sense that he has entered into a sanctified sanctuary of holiness and purity, in which great Torah scholars toil in studying and praying according to the ancient mystical texts of the Arizal, infusing our world with spirituality. Many of these great scholars are also recognized worldwide for their outstanding Torah works, aside from those classical kabbalistic publications the Yeshivah itself had reproduced over the years. (A partial list is provided below.) Indeed, people come from all over the world to visit Sha’ar HaShamaim – to absorb a little of that special ambience; to have a little peek into that Gateway to Heaven.
Partial list of classical Kabbalah books published by Sha’ar HaShamaim, as well as contemporary works from scholars studying in the Yeshivah:
Kanaf Renanim v’Ma’ase Choshev
Me’iyl Eliyahu HaShalem
Siddur HaRashash (3 vol.)
Siddur HaYa’reh (3 vol.)
Arizal’s Haggadah shel Pesach
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz: Tiv HaKavanot
Rabbi Chaim Uri Brizel: Chumash HaArizal (5 vol.)
Rabbi Raphael Moshe Luria: Beit Genazi (20 vol.)
Uri VeYishi (15 vol.)
Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe Erlanger: Shivas Einaim (3 vol.)
Rabbi Yosef Spinner: Da’as Tevunos im Peirush
Works of the Ramchal (Adir BaMarom; Tikkunim Chadashim; Razin Genizim; Kitzur HaKavanot; Derech Hashem; Mesillas Yesharim; etc.)
Rabbi Moshe Dovid Valli (sets: Chumash; Nach; Likutim)
Rabbi Chanina Karpman: Cherev Piphios
Rabbi Amram Ofman: She’eris Yisrael
Rabbi Moshe Nachman Shapiro: Har Kodesh
Rabbi Rosenberg: Hanhagos HaTzaddikim
Rabbi Yitzchak Tzror: Otzros Chaim im Otzer Mefarshim
Rabbi Dovid Rossoff: V’zeh Sha’ar HaShamaim
(Engl.) Where Heaven touches Earth
Rabbi Yehoshua Levine: Alei Ohr
Rabbi Ezra Jacobs: (Engl.)Coming Full Circle
Article written by Rabbi Ezra Jacobs.