Rabbi Chayim ben Attar, the famed Torah scholar and mystic, was born in 5456 (1696). He’s better known as Ohr Ha-Chayim (“The Light of Life”) – by the name of his famous commentary on the Torah.
Born in Morocco, he also lived and taught in Algiers, Italy, Acco and Jerusalem, where he settled a year before his passing.
Many stories are told of his holiness and greatness, and of the attempts by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov to reach the Holy Land and meet with him in the belief that together they could bring the Moshiach and the final redemption.
It’s told that when he passed away, the Baal Shem Tov was washing his hands for the third Shabbat meal in Mezhibuzh. Having said “Hamotzi” (blessing on bread) he stated: “The Western candle was extinguished”.
After the Shabbat his students asked him what he meant. The Baal Shem Tov explained that Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, the holy Ohr Ha-Chaim, passed away. They asked him how he knew. The Baal Shem Tove answered:
– There’s a certain kavana (a mystical intention) when making the beracha (blessing) for washing the hands that is only revealed from the heavens to one person in the generation. For years I’ve been trying to acquire this intention, but I could not – it was “owned” by Ohr Ha-Chaim. This time, when I washed my hands for the third meal this intention was revealed to me so I knew that the holy Ohr Ha-Chaim passed away…