השיעור בסה"ק אור החיים
ר' אברהם חיים
ב"ר שלום ז"ל
"The gates of heaven opened up and I saw G-dly visions, the Creator of the four corners of the earth, and I gazed and meditated upon that which I had permission to, and began to explain at the beginning of Hashem's holy words." (Ohr HaChaim, Bereishis)
Praises for the Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh
The Soul of the Ohr HaChaim
The Yismach Yisrael of Alexander used to travel to Rav Yaakov of Radzimin and ask that he should be blessed with bonim. Once, when the Yismach Yisrael left, the Radziminer told the Chassidim, "What does the son of the Gritza Rav want from me? What should I do if he has the neshoma of the Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh and cannot have bonim!" (Eser Zechuyos, #13)
Drawing Close All Yidden
The Yismach Yisrael of Alexander used to follow the same path as the Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh by drawing every type of Jew close, even simple and strange types. This was the way of the Ohr HaChaim. The holy Neshchizer told that when the Ba'al Shem Tov's brother-in-law, Rav Gershon of Kitov, asked the Ohr HaChaim why he allowed a certain talmid into his Yeshiva, for Rav Gershon could tell that he was improper, the Ohr HaChaim answered him, "This is our way – we draw close even those who are distant." (Tiferes Yisrael, p. 51 #166)
The Holy Lights of the Ohr HaChaim – Yisro
A Supernatural People
"And you shall be for Me a segula from all the peoples" (19:5).
One way that the Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh defines a segula is something with supernatural powers that defy nature. As an example, some medicinal herbs have properties that seem to be against nature, for in medicine an herb that has a cold nature should work against sicknesses that have a hot nature, but herbal lore finds that such cold herbs heal cold sicknesses and this is not a natural phenomenon. Similarly, Bnei Yisrael are said by Hashem to be an Am Segula – a supernatural people, whose properties defy the natural order, a people who operate by a different set of rules and standards and who do not conform to what is observed as nature and its set of laws.
The Ohr HaChaim gives an example: Chazal teach in Shabbos 63 that if a Jew was prepared and ready to perform a mitzva and through no fault of his or her own was prevented from fulfilling that mitzva, he still gets reward, for it is counted as if he has done that mitzva, whereas this is not true regarding a transgression. This rule, however, does not hold for the other nations of the world; in fact, the opposite is the case. Logically speaking, if this rule were natural, it should play out that if thoughts can cause a reaction, it should apply to the desire or will to transgress as well, not just to do good and perform mitzvos. And why, for the other nations, should this work in an opposite manner [that if they wished to do good it does not count and if they wish to sin, it counts as a transgression, even if they did not act on it]?
Another example the Ohr HaChaim gives of Bnei Yisrael's supernatural power is the law (Sanhedrin 59a) that a non-Jew who engages in Torah study or who keeps Shabbos is liable for capital punishment. If the act itself were a positive one, shouldn't anyone who engages in Torah study and Shabbos observance be rewarded? If it is a negative act by its very nature, how can it be a mitzva for us? This is why the pasuk says, "You shall be an Am Segula from all the peoples": the power and segula of the Torah and its mitzvos depend on you; your observance is what defines them as positive, not any natural, inherent set of rules or conditions.