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Rebbe Itamar of Nadvorna: The Baby with Mazel

 Rabbi Itamar Rosenbaum was born in 5646 (1886) to Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum, the Rebbe of Kretshnif (Crăciunești, Romania). His mother, Shifrah, was the daughter of Rebbe Yechiel Michel Tirer, the rabbi of Dorohoi, a descendant of the Be’er Mayim Chaim. He married Malkah, the daughter of Rebbe Asher Yishayah of Kolbasov (Slovakia)At the age of 15, he became the Rebbe of Chernowitz. Following the Second World War, Rabbi Itamar immigrated to the US, and in 5729 (1969) he made aliyah to the Land of Israel, settling in the Yad Eliyahu neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Toward the end of his life, he was considered the elder of all the Nadvorna Rebbes. He passed away on 22 Sivan 5733 (1973) and was buried on the Mount of Olives.

The son of the Rebbe of Nadvorna Chadera recalled: My father's ru’ach hakodesh (Divine insight) was like that of the ancient tzaddikim. One day, a Jewish man approached him with a very long kvitel (note)—he was blessed with many children and the kvitel listed them all. In the kvitel, he lamented his dire situation and how he was unable to provide for his household. My father looked at the note and responded to the man, “God will help, and next year may you be blessed with another son.” The man thought my father had misunderstood his plight and therefore said, “Rebbe, I have nothing to eat. Thank God my house is already full of children!” But my father looked at the note again and repeated the same blessing.

Indeed, a year later, a son was born to him. The Jew came to inform my father about the joyous event, and then my father responded with a smile and told him: “Last year, when you gave me the note, I carefully examined the names of all the household members and saw that none of the souls listed had the mazal (spiritual conduit of Divine effluence that does not depend on external factors) for earning a livelihood. I was therefore compelled to bless you with another child who would be born with the gates of livelihood open. From now on, sell… apples!" And indeed, from that time, his luck improved, and his livelihood was abundant and plentiful.

In the Talmud, it is stated that, "Children, life, and livelihood do not depend on merit but rather on mazal."[1] However, the mazal referred to here does not refer to some random chance or the influence of the stars at the moment of one’s birth. The root of a person's soul, the subconscious place from which Divine blessing destined for him flows, determines his ability to live, earn a livelihood, and have children.

Mazal, therefore, is not external to a person but an intrinsic part of him. Indeed, just as a tzaddik can discern the nature of the root of the soul and even bring a soul into the world with better mazal, he can also discern within the conscious layers of the soul, the parts that affect life conditions: Life (i.e., health and longevity) is associated with the sefirah of wisdom, as it is said in Ecclesiastes, "Wisdom enlivens its possessor."

Livelihood is rooted in the sefirah of understanding. We learn this from the Table of Showbread—the Tabernacle’s symbol of livelihood—that was placed on the north side of the sanctuary. The Tabernacle was always constructed (as was the Temple in Jerusalem) with the opening of the Sanctuary facing the east, the Holy of Holies in the west, and thus the north wall of the Sanctuary was to the left of the Holy of Holies (when standing at the Holy of Holies and looking towards the east). The left side is akin to the left axis of the sefirot, which begins with the sefirah of understanding.

Children are associated with the sefirah of knowledge, the power of connection and creation. The Torah writes, "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and gave birth.”[2]

In this story, it is apparent that the connection that Rabbi Itamar revealed between children and livelihood is the connection between understanding and knowledge, a connection that is already mentioned in the Mishnah: "If there is no knowledge (children), there is no understanding (livelihood)." Indeed, in the Talmud, livelihood is specifically linked to life: "He Who grants life, grants sustenance."[3] In essence, however, when an additional child comes into the world, his livelihood and his life are intertwined.

Livelihood is particularly associated with a son. The word "male" (זָכָר) in Hebrew can be interpreted as shorthand for “this is a great feast” (זֶה כָּר). Not every son, however, is a son that is associated with the sefirah of knowledge. There are sons whose spiritual root stems from a feminine soul and there are those whose association with the sefirah of knowledge is powerful enough to provide for an entire family.

[1]. Mo’ed Katan 28a. The order though is quoted following the Zohar in many locations.

[2]. Genesis 4:1.

[3]. Based on (Ta’anit 8b) “when God provides plenty, He gives it for the living” (דְּכִי יָהֵיב רַחֲמָנָא שׂוּבְעָא לְחַיֵּי הוּא דְּיָהֵיב).

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