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Jun 18, 2014

the Goral Hagra that couldn't be used

The Goral HaGra is something in our tradition and lore that is intriguing and mysterious. The Goral Hagra, as its name indicates, is attributed to the Vilna Gaon but actually dates back at least a couple hundred before the time of the Vilna Gaon. Basically, the Goral Hagra is a system by which the person performing it seeks God's advice through the written word of the Torah. he uses a specific print of chumash and flips pages in a certain order and then looks for the message on the final page of the turning.

From chazak.org we have a couple of stories of hos the Goral Hagra has been employed in the past:
In the introduction to his sefer of drashos, Rav Shaul recounts the situation that led to this extraordinary activity.  In the year 5373, there was a terrible drought.  Famine struck the land lasting into the month of Iyar. The Jews joined together, barefoot in fasting and prayer and there was great awakening to repentance.  Rav Shaul rebuked the people about sins between man and his fellow.  People began to go over their sins one by one and admit their guilt.  However, there were a few tax collectors who were known to regularly take advantage of impoverished Jews.  Rav Shaul saw that they were not confessing their misdeeds. Rav Shaul rebuked these tax collectors specifically, but they showed no remorse.  One of them responded roughly to Rav Shaul, but Rav Shaul retorted that it was right of him to rebuke them because since they were among the great men of the community, the responsibility for the community was more on their shoulders.  One insulted tax collector promised to take revenge on the rabbi for embarrassing him. 
As a result of the fasting and repentance, rain began to fall, but Rav Shaul’s conscience bothered him.  Did he go too far in what he said to the recalcitrant men?  Would G-d protect him against the man’s threats like He protected the righteous Prophets of old?  Perhaps he should give up rebuking people or would it be wrong to give up his noble mission?  He decided to solve his doubts by using a type of goral similar to what later became known as the Goral HaGra.  His first result was in Yechezkel (3:18), a verse in which the prophet Yechezkel is warned that his role is to rebuke the people and that someone who does not fulfill this role is himself held culpable.  
Rav Shaul was happy with the result, but then prayed again to G-d and received a result from Mishlei (11:30-31-12:1) indicating that one who teaches others will get credit for their deeds and that one who shirks rebuke will be punished.  After this result, Rav Shaul again worried and prayed to G-d “You know that I want to rebuke the people, but what can I do when it is a dangerous time to do so and I am afraid they may harm me…”  He again used the goral and found the result in Dvarim (28:7) which clearly states “G-d will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be struck down before you.” 
A second episode of Rav Shaul Serero’s use of this goral is also recorded.  Like the one above, it is cited in the work Sifrei Fez V’chachameha.   In Nisan 5378, he heard a rumor that his brother had passed away.  He was greatly distressed about the rumor, though unwilling to accept it as true.  He writes that on the morning of Shabbos HaGadol, he used the goral system and received the result from Dvarim 23:17, “he will dwell with you, amongst you.”  This indicated to him that his brother was indeed still among the living.  This gave the rav more strength to go ahead with his usual Shabbos HaGadol drasha.  Rav Shaul wrote that over a month later, on the 25th of Iyar  of that year, he received a letter from his brother written on the very day on which he had first heard the rumor that he had died.  If he had died that day after writing the letter, the rumor could not have spread so quickly to Fez as to arrive on the same day.  His brother was alive!  The rumor was false!  The goral’s prediction was correct.
As well, Rav Aryeh Levin famously employed the goral hagra in order to identify the mutilated remains of the 12 Jewish fighters of the group of Lamed Hey - the convoy of 35 Haganah men who were ambushed and killed when attempting to resupply the kibbutzim of Gush Etzion in 1948.

I remember as kids when we heard of the goral hagra we would spend lots of time flipping through chumashim according to the formula we had heard and would try to make sense of our results. Obviously it was just a game for kids, as we had neither the right chumash necessary for the goral nor any idea how to actually perform it or understand it - let alone the level of kedusha or ruach hakodesh necessary.

According to Kikar, someone went, shortly after the abduction of the 3 boys, to Rav Chaim Kanievsky and asked him to perform the Goral Hagra to discover the whereabouts of the boys. This would save many lives, both by getting the boys back quickly and also those of the soldiers who would be sent out in dangerous missions to search for and rescue them.

Rav Kaniesvky reportedly responded that to perform the Goral Hagra one must have ruach hakodesh, and he should go to Rav Shteinman to do it.

This person went to Rav Shteinman and presented his idea and Rav Kanievsky's direction - and responded rhetorically, as if amused by the suggestion, "I have ruach hakodesh???"

Rav Shteinman then said that clearly not just anybody can do the goral hagra - if it were possible, there would be no more agunot left, as we would use the goral  hagra to help get them released. Rav Shteinman concluded by saying that we have to daven for the boys safe return.


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  1. I'm guessing that they don't expect it to work and are trying to let their enthusiastic followers down easy. Who knows, maybe they're trying it in private.

    Their response is telling, though. R' Aryeh never claimed Ruach HaKodesh, and he did it. This is a reflection of the irony that R' Slifkin has mentioned: At the same time they claim infallibility and supreme leadership, charedi gedolim seem frightened of making any actual bold moves or decisions, claiming they're not great enough. It's sad.

    1. r aryeh levin was instructed to do this, by the (!unanimious!) rabbonim of yerushalyim.

      the problem was that there would be families that wouldn't have bodies to bury, and therefore, the person doing this would have to be acceptable to everybody. only the tzaddik of yerushalayim fit this criteria, so he was instructed to do this.

      by the way, the methodology requires using a specific printing / edition of the chumash (the Amsterdam printing of the 1600s.)

      after the six day war, the arabs told the jews about the rest of the bodies, and they were brought to proper burial.

      source: "ish tzadik hayah". this book should be required reading for all jewish high school age students (even charedim can read this with no objection.)

  2. Another example of the awesome power of #JewMagic



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