🕯 Eli Kohen Gadol and his sons, Chofni & Pinchas – 10th of Iyar

April 22, 2021

On this date in 2870 (or 2871), Bnei Yisroel’s army was defeated by the Plishtim. 30,000 soldiers were slaughtered. The Aron Kodesh was taken into captivity, and Chofni and Pinchas, the two sons of Eli Kohen Gadol, were killed. Eli Hakohen dies of shock at the age of 98 upon hearing the news, and the Mishkan was subsequently destroyed.
By now you know that I like to choose music that helps inspire and uplift the listener. So while the events mentioned above are not exactly encouraging, I thought we would turn our attention instead to a powerful message that originated at Mishkan Shiloh. (Sorry in advance for the length of this post, but I wanted to share the composer’s inspiration behind this well-known tune, as well as the intention of the one who first uttered its words. I hope that you’ll forgive me.)

While standing in the presence of the holy Mishkan, Chanah HaNeviah expressed one of the most emotional statements ever recorded. Year after year, a barren Chanah would cry from her sorrow, and would even be ridiculed for her inability to bear children. Finally, after 19 years of pain, she felt she could no longer accept her childless fate. Chanah lifted herself up and tapped into the most potent vehicle for change that exists in the world – Tefillah. At that moment, she davened the most heartfelt prayer she had ever prayed – clear and to the point, from the depths of her broken heart. Chazal explain her words at length and in doing so reveal some of the deepest secrets of tefillah – secrets that we implement in every one of our tefillos to this day.

After all the grief and heartbreak she endured, one would think that she longed for nothing more than to have a child whom she could hold and lovingly raise and watch grow. Instead, Chanah davened for a son only so that her people would live on; A child who would carry Klal Yisroel’s legacy forward, toward the eventual establishment of Malchus Bais Dovid. Each tear that she shed, each word that she uttered on behalf of this child would be his eternal inheritance. Chanah finished her prayer and knew that her tefillos would be answered.

However, what she didn’t know was that Eli, the Kohen Gadol, witnessed her silent supplication and was puzzled. What was she doing? Why was she standing in place, almost imperceptibly speaking to someone? He had never seen anyone doing that. Eli thought she must be drunk and approached her to reproach her for her incorrect behavior. Chanah clarified her actions and Eli Hakohen gave her the bracha that was now rightfully hers.

Chanah did indeed have a baby boy and once he was weaned, she took her now 3 year old son Shmuel to Shiloh to hand him off, just as she had promised. When the time came to bring her korban todah, there wasn’t a Kohen available to shecht the animal. Young Shmuel proved from the words of the pasuk in Vayikra (1:5) that any qualified person could slaughter the offering, and that the Kohen would only be needed for the remainder of the service. They brought Shmuel in front of Eli, and Eli confirmed that he was right. However, because he had taught a halachah in front of his teacher, which is ossur, he was liable to the death penalty! Eli told Chanah not to worry, assuring her that he would daven for her to have another, even better child. Chanah knew she needed a son in order to fulfil her tafkid, right? One could argue that Eli’s deal was a good one – a better son!? A bigger lamdin, a bigger talmid chacham, a bigger tzaddik!?

But Chanah protested, saying “El Hanaar Hazeh Hispallalti” – this is the child that came about through my tefillah! This is the son that I received through my tears, through my petition – El Hanaar Hazeh Hispallalti – I davened for THIS child! THIS child is needed in order for Klal Yisroel to fulfill its destiny. So I cannot be offered “better” because something that comes about through the power of tefillah is already the best. Each child carries with them the tears that were shed, the hardships withstood, and the sacrifices made by their ancestors and is, therefore, irreplaceable.
With this powerful plea, Shmuel’s life was indeed spared. He was groomed to lead and rebuild his wounded nation and achieved his life’s purpose by anointing the Mashiach of Hashem, Dovid Hamelech.

El Hanaar Hazeh was composed in 2013 by renowned L.A. philanthropist and ba’al chessed extraordinaire Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz in honor of the bar mitzvah of his nephew, Mayer. It was performed by the talented Shira Choir, and featured star soloists Moishe Mendlowitz, Levy Falkowitz and Motty Steinmetz. The song was then officially introduced to the world on Rechnitz’s 2014 debut album entitled, Shir (an acronym for Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz). The song carries an ominous tone – an almost somber air – giving the listener pause and a gentle tug at the heartstrings. The fact that this melancholy melody was on this otherwise upbeat album leads you to wonder if there might have been a story behind it that had inspired its creation…

About a year before “Shir” was released, Shlomo Yehuda’s sister-in-law was very sick, and had a poor prognosis. Being that she didn’t know if she would be around to see her eldest son Mayer become a Bar Mitzvah, she asked him to try on his new suit for her. Mayer obliged. She made sure to mention that since he had worn his new suit once before his actual bar mitzvah, the halachos of new clothes during aveilus would not apply to him – just in case she wouldn’t make it. A mother, dying and in pain, cared only that her dear son would celebrate his bar mitzvah in a new suit. A mother, who while everyone around her was praying for her recovery, was seeing to the future well-being of her beloved children.

The Ribono Shel Olam took Avigayil Maima Rochel Rechnitz’s holy neshoma back just a few weeks before the bar mitzvah. Being that the Rechnitz family finds it easier to express themselves through music, Shlomo Yehuda wanted to write a song l’iluy nishmasah. He sat down at the piano, put his fingers on the keys, and let the instrument do the talking. The result was the song you are about to hear. It was performed at the bar mitzvah where, as you could imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispallalti. With these words, Chanah taught us the lesson that every Jewish mother knows: A mother’s prayer lasts forever.

Lyrics (Shmuel 1, 1:27 & Yossi Green):
אֶל הַנַעַר הַזֶה הִתְפַּלָלְתִּי וַיִתֵּן הַשֵׁם לִי אֶת שְׁאֵלָתִי אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵעִמוֹ
וְאֶמְשׁוֹךְ לְהִתְפַּלֵל לְעוֹלְמֵי עַד אֲנִי הַאִמַא אִתְּכֶם לְעוֹלְמֵי עַד

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