The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume III, Issue 36
Iyar 5759 May 99
Translations and original material copyright (c) 1998 by Yaacov
Dovid Shulman (unless otherwise noted)
* The Plain of Halachah and Aggadah
* The Vision of God
* The Yeshiva of Volozhin
* When You Give Your Beloved a Bouquet
THE PLAIN OF HALACHAH AND AGGADAH
When we begin to take steps upon the plain of halachah and aggadah, a multitude beyond number of unions and harmonies beyond number is drawn out. The universes of heaven and earth, humanity of the flesh and humanity of ideas, with all the wealth hidden in each of them, are then unified. They bring each other to the wished-for action that leads toward complete growth and perfection.
This connection is nothing less than the revelation of the unity that had been hidden within them from the very beginning.
Whoever has not tasted the flavor of halachah has not tasted the flavor of Torah. And whoever has not tasted the flavor of aggadah has not tasted the flavor of fear of sin.
Torah and fear of sin must always accompany one another. The service of Torah learning must be methodically revealed, in an active form, upon this unifying basis--one whose results are very great.
In truth, aggadah always contains a halachic essence. Similarly, halachah contains an inner agaddic content. In the main, the content of aggadah is found in the qualitative form of halachah. And the content of halachah is found in the quantitative form of aggadah. Even without any particular search or awareness, when we learn halachah, we are touched by its hidden content of aggadah; and, when we learn aggadah, we are touched by the pulse of halachah that is folded into the content of the aggadah.
However, not everyone has a properly keen awareness of these two streams--each of which is constantly filled with the content of the other. An alienation between these worlds, which are in essence so joined and twinned together, leads to an unhealthy separation in the nature of deep study and its broadening. It constricts these two areas--halachic and the aggadic--to a narrow arena.
We must clearly bring forth the meeting of these two forces in a rectified form, when each will make the other's content exceedingly fragrant.
Each will profoundly aid the other to bring forth its details and to shine a more brilliant light upon its own general appearance and upon the depth of its own internal logic and what that embraces. The scent of aggadah must make halachah fragrant, in a measure that is well-reasoned and fitting. And aggadah must be given its worth within a framework, with set laws and a clear, defined logic--like the form of a strengthened halachah. With this, the power and freshness of both will be multiplied.
The need that brought the masters of pilpul in previous generations to at times attempt to integrate aggadah and halachah welled forth from this demand for a unification of these forces, which so much act in unison.
We are already called upon to gather together talents and knowledge in order to clarify our learning and all the paths of our lives. In particular, the essence of halachic learning must be broad, composed of the various approaches of the early and later authorities who have grown to be so many over the generations--we very much need that depth and breadth. And we must approach with complete breadth the unity of the contents of halachah and aggadah--which includes the categories of logic and history, ethics and faith, feeling and civility.
And resting upon all of them is a pure phenomenon, one soaked with
the dew of the life of the totality of the light of Torah, ready to rest like
a beautiful ornament upon all those who learn Torah for its own sake, giving
them a special sensitivity and satisfaction of the heart-inspiring joy of
THE VISION OF GOD
When the wise man brings Torah, he brings the power of God's Providence to bear upon us. And each one of us, according to how close we are to the Torah, attract God's Providence.
How does sight work? [Here Rabbi Nachman uses as his metaphor a model of sight that goes back to Plato.]
Our sight strikes the object we see [like a beam. This beam] then bounces back to the eye, and we see the object. Then our eyes see what they had looked at, for the [beam of] sight brings it to the eyes.
But when the object is distant, before the power of sight can reach it, it scatters in the air and grows hazy, and does not strike the object. The [beam of sight] does not return to the eyes and so the eyes do not see. This is because sight is in essence a function of [the beam] striking [the object].
"Return, please, gaze from heaven and see" (Tehillim 80:15). This means: may God's gaze, with which he looks upon us from heaven, return [to Him] after it strikes [us]. May that [beam of] sight return to His eyes. Then: "and see": the seeing comes as a result of the gaze returning. "And the chayos raced and returned."
"And the chayos"--this is the Torah, which is life [chaim, related to chayos]. "Raced"--this is the gaze from above to below. "And returned"--this is the return of the [beam] to the eyes after it strikes the object and its being seen by the eyes.
The eyes are like a polished mirror, in which everything in front of us appears.
When we are close to the Torah, we are close to [God's] sight. Thus,
the power of sight returns to His eyes. We appear and are seen in His eyes.
But since non-Jews [lit., idol-worshippers] are far from the Torah, they are
far from His Providence. His Providence does not strike them. And so His
Providence upon them is only a half-sight, a "racing." But His Providence
upon us is complete.
THE YESHIVA OF VOLOZHIN
Because the Yeshiva of Volozhin was much greater than all the other yeshivas of its time, it differed from them in many ways--even major ways. In Volozhin, even the students were referred to differently. The "yeshiva bochur"--the "yeshiva youth"--did not exist. Students were called "yeshiva man" or, by the general populace, "yeshiva leit"--yeshiva folk. If the term "yeshiva bochur" denoted someone impoverished and pitiable, "yeshiva man" was a description of independence and pride. The poorest student who came to Volozhin, beaten down and oppressed by his situation in his impoverished home or his mean life somewhere in a small-town beis medrash lifted his head up and felt worthwhile as soon as he came to Volozhin.
As soon as a new student came to town, a wagon driver would drive him a distance f a few Russian miles to an inn. This inn served as the hotel of Volozhin for even the greatest and wealthiest merchants who had come for business or some other reason. There weren't separate lodgings for yeshiva students. Also, there no separate rates. The newly-arrived student immediately felt that no favors are being done for him, and he is not obliged to anyone. He is his own man, treated like any other guest--except that the proprietor (Velvel Zeligs, who was known for his jokes and wit) and his family treated this guest with a noticeable respect for the Torah.
The newly-arrived student usually did not remain long at the inn. He sought a steady place to live. That meant taking a room with one, two, or sometimes even three roommates: all in one room. It all depended on how much money one had and how much one was prepared to pay. There was also the difference between a "kamer" and a "shtiebl." A "kamer" was a room in someone's house, and one would often be distracted. A "shtiebl" was a separate little house next to the house, where the student would be completely undisturbed. Wealthy unmarried students as well as married students lived in "shtieblach."
The married students (called "yungeleit" or, in the singular, a "yungerman") came to the yeshiva for a few years to prepare themselves to become rabbis. They lived under better conditions than the usual unmarried students. A married student was usually better off, receiving support from his dowry even as his wife remained with her parents. Besides that, the yeshiva usually supported the married student more than it did the unmarried student. Even on a superficial level, married students were treated with greater respect. The roshei yeshiva and mashgiach would usually address an unmarried student with the familiar "du" and a married student with the more formal "ihr."
The mashgiach of that time, Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Diskin, a great scholar particularly famed for his breadth of knowledge (and, incidentally, something of a maskil who was well-read and interested in worldly matters) had a sense of humor. When he met a student whose marital status was not clear, he would ask him, "Are you--du--unmarried, or are you--ihr--married?" There were a number of students who were old enough to be married, but who were still single. For the most part, they were amongst the best and most outstanding students, and they were in no hurry to marry. It once happened that such a student didn't want to tell his age. When the mashgiach asked him how old he is, he replied, "Twenty-two." The mashgiach saw that he wasn't telling the entire truth, and he immediately replied, "Oh, at your age I was already twenty-seven."
WHEN YOU GIVE A BOUQUET TO YOUR BELOVED
Count your blessings. There are forty-nine.
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