His name was Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar (1696-1743), but how fitting is the name by which everyone refers to him: the Or HaChaim (“the light of life”). How much light and life he added to this world.
Last week we commemorated 275 years since the passing of the Or HaChaim, one of the greatest Torah commentators, a native of Morocco who made aliyah with great effort and became a venerable rabbi amongst all the different Jewish ethnic groups.
Here is just one gem from his writings, in which he explains how every person in the Jewish nation has a role, how we need everyone in this story: “The Torah was given so that it would exist in all of Israel. Every person should do what he can, and each will provide merit to the other.”
He explains further that since there are 613 mitzvot and it is impossible for one person to perform all of them, the nation consists of different parts – kohanim, levi’im, men, women – and each should fulfill its mission.
Contrary to the perception that unity means uniformity, he calls upon every person to seek his own contribution to the nation and to recognize his fellows’ contribution. He also explains, in a fascinating fashion, the words “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself”:
“‘And you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ – because through the other fellow you complete your own perfection, and so, the other fellow is not ‘other’; he is yourself. It is as if he is a part of yourself.”