The Wings of Morning - A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Parshas Beshalach


When You Begin Speaking to G-d--by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
On the Parshah: From Extreme to Extreme--by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye
The Dream (story)--by Simcha Raz
Justice in Regard to Animals--by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
The Topic of "Shovevim"--by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
It Would Be Easy (poem)--by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

When You Begin Speaking to G-d
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
When you begin speaking to G-d, first thank Him for all the good He has done, and only then bring up your requests. If you begin by asking for what you need, Hashem says, "Do you have nothing to thank Me for? (Host mir gar nisht vos tzu danken?)"

Regarding smoking, Rabbi Nachman said, "Aren't there enough desires in the world that you need that one too? (S'iz karg tayvos, vos mir darf di tayva oych?)"

Sometimes, because a person didn't want to suffer a little, he ends up suffering a lot. (A mal, az men vil nisht layden a bisl, laydt men a sach.)

Moshiach will have a great deal of work to do to bring people to pray the shmone esrei without extraneous thoughts. (Moshiach vet noch hobn a groyse avodah aryan brengen in der velt a rayne shmone esrei.) Siach Sarfei Kodesh II: 2, 3, 13

On the Parshah: From Extreme to Extreme
by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye

"And it was, when Pharaoh sent the nation...."

This parshah raises many self-evident difficulties, particularly that well-known question: Why were these narratives written down--what is their relevance to every individual, for all time?

The Rambam writes, "The middle path is the correct path. However, if you have already turned to a bad extreme, you must go to the opposite extreme for a considerable period of time until you uproot your initial bad habits. Only then may you return to the middle path. This is a wise medicine for all those who are spiritually ill" (Hilchos Deyos I). This principle is certainly one that applies to every individual and for all time. And it can be seen to apply to this parshah.

"And it was, when Pharaoh sent the nation..."

"Pharaoh" refers to the evil inclination. (The name "Orpah," the Zohar teaches--Zohar Chadash, p. 64a--refers to the evil inclination, and the name "Pharaoh" consists of the same letters.)

"When Pharaoh sent the nation...." That takes place when your limbs emerge from the domain of the evil inclination. This was what happened during the exodus from Egypt, when the Jews emerged from the forty-nine gates of impurity to holiness.

Then: "G-d (Elokim) did not lead..."

That is, G-d did not lead the Jews through a natural process. The word "hateva," nature, is numerically equal to the word Elokim, G-d. The natural process is the middle path. And why did G-d not do so? "Lest the nation reconsider when they see war"--the war against evil inclination.

"And then they will return to Egypt." They will return to their flawed state. Therefore, "So G-d circled around." That is, He circled the Jews around the level known as Elokim, the natural process, the middle path.

Instead, "He led them on the path of the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf)." "Suf" can be read as "sof," meaning "end"--the ultimate, supernal end of all levels, which is the complete opposite of natural process. He did so until, after a considerable period of time, He would recognize in them their original level. And then He would return them to the middle path.

"And the children of Israel came up armed (chamushim) from Egypt." The word "armed," "chamushim," can be read as "chamishim," "fifty." The Jews went from one extreme to the other: from the fifty gates of impurity in Egypt to the fifty gates of holiness.

Toldos Yaakov Yosef (the first published Hasidic work) (this devar Torah is paraphrased at greater length in the contemporary Nesivos Shalom)

The Dream
by Simcha Raz

Yigdal Gal-Ezer (a brother-in-law of the author) was a government official who used to visit Rav Kook at his home. On one of his visits, as Rav Kook was submerged in the study of a Talmudic passage, there was a hesitant knock at the door. The door opened slightly, and a short Yemenite, his hair and beard grizzled white, stepped into the room. He closed the door behind him and remained standing in the doorway, his face to the ground, as though he were afraid to look at Rav Kook.

Rav Kook looked up and told the man in a pleasant tone, "Come closer, my son."

Slowly, the man stepped toward Rav Kook's desk, his face still to the ground.

"What is troubling you?" Rav Kook asked him.

"Honored rabbi," the man said hesitantly, "I have come to ask an important question."

"Please ask."

"For twenty-five years," the man said, "I have worked hard, morning to evening, uprooting weeds from orchards, planting saplings, digging up rocks, and excavating to build houses. But after all that, I still barely make enough money to support my family. I would like to ask: Would I be allowed to leave the Holy Land and move to America? Perhaps I will be more fortunate there, and I will be able to support my family more honorably."

For a few seconds, Rav Kook sat quietly, thinking. Then he stood up, pointed at his chair and told the man: "Sit!"

The man began trembling, and stammered: "Honored rabbi, no one else may sit upon your chair!"

But Rav Kook again commanded him: "Sit!" With small, hesitant steps, the man circled the desk and sat down on Rav Kook's chair, still trembling. And as soon as he sat down, his head drooped onto Rav Kook's desk and he fell asleep.

A short while later, he awoke, seeming very moved.

"What happened when you fell asleep?" Rav Kook asked him.

The Yemenite Jew replied: "I dreamed that I was leaving this world. When my soul rose up to heaven, an angel at the gates of heaven directed me to the heavenly court. At the front of the court were the scales of justice.

"Suddenly, horse-drawn carriages rode up, filled with all sorts of packages--small, medium-sized and large--and angels began to put them onto one side of the scale, which dipped down lower and lower, until it almost touched the floor.

"I asked the angel who was standing at my side, 'What are these packages?'

"The angel replied, 'These are the sins that you committed on earth. In the end, everything is taken into account.' I was shaken.

"Then, other horse-drawn carriages rode up, heavily laden with clumps of earth, stones, boulders and sand. And now the angels loaded all of these onto the other side of the scale, which began dipping down.

"'And what are those packages?' I asked the angel.

"He answered, 'Those are the stones, boulders and dirt that you removed from the Holy Land. They will defend you regarding the part that you have taken in building the land.'

"Trembling, I stood and gazed at the side of the scales where my merits were being placed. The scale went down little by little, until it was only a tiny bit higher than the scale of guilt."

When the man finished speaking, Rav Kook replied, "You see, my son, your question has received an answer from heaven." And Rav Kook said no more.
Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 321-22

Justice in Regard to Animals
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

There is an essential branch of the highest human progress that today, in the context of the current culture, exists only as a pleasant dream held by a few, particularly radical, idealists. But nevertheless, it is a natural, ethical desire, a part of the most human feeling for justice: that is, attention to the rights of animals, in the full meaning of the term.

There are certain cruel philosophies that have broken free of generally-accepted philosophy and its definition of human ethics. These new philosophies have devised various rationalizations by which we may smother within ourselves the sense of justice in regard to animals. But they have not succeeded and will not succeed--despite all their dexterity--to modify the sense of natural justice that the Creator of humanity has placed within us. We humans are like the spark that comes from a lump of coal; compared to us, animals are that lump of coal, dull and dim, buried under a mound of ash. Still and all, those philosophies cannot deny what is felt in every sensitive heart: that when we ignore the good and exalted feeling that results when we refrain from taking any life for our own needs and pleasures, humanity suffers a general ethical failing.

Our sages did not participate in that philosophical casuistry. We are taught that when Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi told a calf being led to slaughter which took refuge under his cloak, "Go, because you were created to that end," he suffered. And he was cured only when he later showed compassion for another animal (Bava Metzia 85a). Our sages did not act as do those philosophers who turn darkness into light in order to accommodate themselves to daily life. This is because it is impossible to imagine that the Master of all reality, Who has compassion upon His creatures, would devise an eternal law regarding His creation (which is very good) making it impossible for humankind to exist without violating its ethical sense regarding the spilling of blood--even the blood of animals.
Afikim Banegev, Section I

The Topic of "Shovevim"
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

A flaw in our sexual covenant--with actual destruction in the basis of morality and the most elevated wisdom, in the foundation of the life of the world, the life of future days-- causes us to experience inner darkness. We remain unable to truly recognize the worth of anything valuable or to make a true connection with anything ultimate and moral. These are all branches of that basic morality that leads to the life of the world of the greatest future.

With such a flaw, all images of morality remain weak within ourselves, and require great support. The slightest imposition prevents us from progressing to wholeness.

But, after strengthening ourselves in repentance inspired by the love of G-d, with profound study of Aggadah--as a result of which we recognize "He Who spoke and brought the world into being"--the power of the good basis shines on us.

Then we rise, from the first, via the essential point of faith, even though we do not clearly perceive an inner image. Afterwards, the inner light grows whole within us. Then the distancing itself becomes a bringing close. The customary light of justice has not already acted upon us to revive us. So we find within ourselves a mighty thirst to raise the images to a greater height. In this way, sins are transformed into merits (cf. Yoma 88a).
Midos Harayah, Bris #3

It Would Be Easy
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

It would be easy to say that I am right.
It would be easier to say that I am wrong.
I saw the sliver of moon in the ink-black sky.
I knew there was so much that I did not see.

A voice from thorns?
A path in the sea?
As long as the voice speaks,
Keep speaking.
As long as your heels
Do not sink into mud,
Keep walking.

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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