The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues



Volume V, Issue 20

Beshalach 5761 Febuary 2001

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2000 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (


* The Good Treasure
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Liberation (Part III)
-by Avraham Stern

* The Free Meal
-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

* His Red Mind Ran
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Everything that is said about the greatness of man as well as everything that is said about his insignificance is true. If he is worthy, he takes precedence over Creation. If he is unworthy, a flea is more important than he.

Thus, we must always use these opposite points of view for the good. When it comes to divine, supernal teachings, when it comes to pouring forth our spirit for the sake of glorious and elevated ideals, we must draw power from the perspective of our greatness: of how man is the central point of the most primal creations, of how all acts of creation are included within him. When man rises, everything rises; when he falls, everything falls. But when it comes to concerted action and societal endeavors (communal or private) within the secular sphere, then "Go to the ant, lazy one; look at her paths and grow wise." We must then make use of the perspective that "a flea is more important than you."

Arpelei Tohar, p. 100

by Avraham Stern

Rabbi Shneur Zalman immediately went to Erse. There he learned that R. Notele was an extraordinarily wealthy man who supported an entire yeshiva out of his own funds. And in addition, since he was a great Torah scholar, he served as the head of the yeshiva. As for his business, it was run by several hand-picked men who only met with Rabbi Notele regarding particularly difficult matters.

R. Notele also had a man in charge of distributing charity. This man had the discretion of disbursing up to one ruble per case. (In those days, a ruble was a considerable sum.) If he wished to give someone more than a ruble, he had to ask R. Notele's permission.

The rav came to this man, who was awed by the rav's holy features. Besides, the rav was dressed in wealthy garments--in keeping with the practice of R. Mendele Vitebsker, who was the first tzaddik to dress in a wealthy manner. The charity distributor realized that such a charity recipient wasn't asking for just one ruble. In his consternation, he opened the door to R. Notele's room for the rav. When the rav came in, he found R. Notele so deep in study that he wasn't even aware that someone had come in. And so the rav stood in the room, next to the closed door.

When R. Notele emerged from his profound thoughts and saw this unfamiliar man in his room (who had not, contrary to custom, been announced), he grew frightened, and he asked the rav, "Who are you?"

The rav replied, "Shneur Zalman of Liadi."

R. Notele told him, "They say that you know the entire Gemara."

The rav answered, "I know half of the Gemara."

"Which half?" asked R. Notele.

The rav replied, "Whichever half you want."

(Note: With this answer, he showed his humility. The mishnah teaches, "If you have learned a great deal, do not claim this for yourself as a wonderful accomplishment." Also, the Talmudic sages called themselves mere "students of the wise," because the only truly wise one is God Himself.) "If that is so," Rabbi Notele sad, "tell me how many times the phrase Ta Shma (Come and hear) is found in the Talmud."

The rav gave him a number.

"No," said Rabbi Notele.

The rav was not dissuaded. He said, "If you want to count a Ta Shma that does not come to answer a question or to resolve a doubt, then there is another one."

At this, Rabbi Notele went to the door [where the rav was standing], greeted the rav with a friendly "Shalom Aleichem," took his hand, and brought him to his desk. There he invited the rav to sit, and he asked him to resolve two contradictory midrashim that he had been learning.

Midrash Rabbah, in Ki Sisa, states that "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: Just as I required ten righteous men in order to save the city of Sodom, you must show me ten righteous men of Israel, and then I will not destroy the Jews." The midrash concludes that Moshe showed God seven righteous men who were alive, and he added the merit of the three holy patriarchs: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov. And then God immediately forgave the Jews.

But we learn in Midrash Rabbah, in Eikev (Chapter 3), that, in regard to this same episode, "Moshe said to [God]...I will find eighty righteous men among [the Jews]. Here are seventy-seven [live Jews])...and let the dead--[the three Patriarchs]--stand [with them]." The midrash continues with a quote from King Solomon: "I praise the dead...more than the living." In Ki Sisa, we are told that Moshe had to supply ten righteous men, yet in Eikev, we are told that he had to supply eighty. And besides that, why are the dead praised more than the living?

Without a pause, the rav responded, "The answer can be found in a Talmudic passage."

Rabbi Notele asked the rav to give him five minutes. He mentally paged through the entire Talmud, and then said, "No"--meaning that he had not come across such a passage.

The rav said, "It is a plain mishnah."

Again, Rabbi Notele asked for a few minutes. He mentally went through the entire mishnah, and then he again responded, "No." And he asked the rav, "In which Order of the mishnah?"

The rav answered, "In the Order of Nezikin."

Rabbi Notele wanted to find the relevant mishnah on his own, but he couldn't. And so he asked the rav to tell him.

The rav said, "There is a dispute in Horayos 4:2 between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah. Rabbi Meir says that all Jews together form one community, and Rabbi Yehudah says that every tribe is considered a community.

"The midrash in Parshas Ki Sisa agrees with Rabbi Meir's opinion. For the entire of Israel it is enough to find ten righteous men. Moshe Rabbeinu found seven live men and three who had passed away--totaling ten. The Jews who were alive protected the entire community to the same extent as those who were no longer alive.

"However the midrash in Eikev agrees with R. Yehudah that ‘each tribe is called a community.' The Jews are divided into twelve tribes. However, the tribe of Levi did not sin at this time. This leaves eleven tribes that were in danger of being destroyed.

So in such a case, Moshe needed to find ten men for each of the eleven tribes. But Moshe Rabeinu could only find seventy- seven such Jews--which would provide seven Jews to each tribe. And so he added the three patriarchs separately to each tribe. Now, each tribe was protected by the merit of ten people. Each living righteous Jew counted as one, but the patriarchs were counted eleven times: once for each tribe. And that is why King Solomon praises those who have passed on more than those who are living. This answer pleased R. Notele very much. He asked the rav: "How is it that--as they say--when you students of the Baal Shem Tov speak of potatoes, you are engaging in yichud meditations.?

The rav answered, "How is it that when you are in the middle of the Shmoneh Esrei, you are thinking about potatoes? It seems to me that it is better to speak of potatoes while being engaged in yichudim." R. Notele replied to the rav with great humility, "From now on, I am one of your followers."

Chasidishe Maasiyos

by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov told the following story:

There were once two wealthy people who lived in the same house: a miser and a generous man.

One day, a poor and hungry person came to the miser and asked him for food. The miser told him, "I have wood that needs to be chopped into small pieces. If you do that, I will feed you."

Having no choice, the poor man did this back-breaking work. When he finished, the miser told him to go to the apartment of the other wealthy man, where he would be given food.

The poor person innocently went to the apartment of the generous man, thinking that the miser was paying for his food. As soon as he entered the apartment, the generous man received him courteously and gave him to eat. In the middle of the meal, the generous man heard the poor man sigh, "I worked so hard today."

The generous man asked him what he had done. The poor man told how he had worked for the miser, who had sent him over to the generous man to get food. Hearing this, the generous man replied, "Reb Yid, you worked for free, and you are eating for free."

Another time, Rabbi Nachman said, "God gives a person his sustenance. We only have to work due to our misdeeds."

Siach Sarfei Kodesh, pp. 89-90

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

His red mind ran
with the taste of schoolyards
with the astonishing wind
with the swaying thought
of the sky.

Was there a green song
whose acid-tart burr
flowed print silk
upon the river of his breaking dreams,
sweet dragonflies blistered
under the honey of sun

This was the tilting tune
whose bright eyes blinked
beneath the clouds,
whose bright-yellow words
filled the rough fiber
of his stuttering heart.

To subscribe by e-mail (free) or to sponsor an issue ($18.00), please contact:
Yaacov Dovid Shulman 410.358.8771;

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Jerusalem, Israel