The Wings of Morning - A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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B'ha'alotchah 5758 / June 13, 1998


* Your Lips Should Not Cease
-by Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz
* The Servant and the Maidservant
-by Avraham Yitzchak of Zinkavitz
* Love is Worth Waiting For (poem)
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
* A Delicate Longing
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

by Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz

A man brought his young nephew to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and praised him as being talented in Torah.

Rabbi Nachman began to encourage the boy to always learn. He told him, "Your lips should not cease--the Torah should nourish you, the Torah should strengthen you"--and he continued in this way, until he ended by raising his voice and saying, "The Torah makes one wealthy!" Di lipn zoln dir nit tzushtein--di Torah vet dich kviken, di Torah vet dich shtarkn, di Torah macht reich!

Siach Sarfei Kodesh 1:438

by Avraham Yitzchak of Zinkavitz

Many years ago in Poland, there were landlords who ruled villages and towns as though they were kings. Whatever they wished to do, they did--for evil or for good. They could punish and even kill, and no one could protest.

In one such village, there was a Jew who lived with his family in an inn, which he managed for the landlord. But he was unable to pay the rent. The landlord waited a few years until the Jew's debt grew enormous. When the sum finally reached the amount of four hundred rubles, of which the Jew had paid nothing, the landlord put him in jail together with his wife and children. They remained there a while, with barely enough bread and water.

But then the cruel landlord thought: What would this accomplish? Would keeping the Jew in jail make him pay what he owed?

And so, after some thought, the landlord instructed his assistant to take the poor Jew, together with his wife and children, and bind them in chains. He was to bring his prisoners to the nearby city and lead them to every street corner. There he was to beat a drum so that people would gather, and then he was to read them a letter that the landlord had written and set his seal to.

The letter proclaimed that if the Jews would not redeem the prisoners for a sum no less than three hundred rubles, the lot of them--the man, his wife and his children--would die.

The landlord's assistant had to carry out this command. He brought the prisoners bound in chains to the nearby city. He stood them in all the streets of the city, beat on a drum and read the cruel landlord's letter before the crowds. And the prisoners cried and pleaded before their fellow Jews to have mercy on them and to redeem them, for they were in danger of being put to death by the cruel landlord, without mercy.

Whoever heard this felt great compassion--but no one, not even the wealthy, could give the amount demanded of them. Nevertheless, whoever heard the news would give a groan and go on his way. And in the bitterness of their spirit, the prisoners cried and wailed, for they were certain to be killed. Yet no one helped them.

There was a young man, very simple, who had worked as a servant for a long time, and who had slowly saved his earnings until he had amassed one hundred and fifty rubles. When this servant heard of the trouble that the prisoners were suffering and learned that they would not live past that very day, he felt very great compassion for them. He decided to give away everything he owned for the sake of the mitzvah of ransoming prisoners. But he knew that his money alone would not suffice, because the ransom money was three hundred rubles. Then he recalled a poor orphan girl, a maidservant who worked for another household, who had also saved her money until she had amassed one hundred and fifty rubles.

The servant went to her and told her, "I have decided to give everything I have, one hundred and fifty rubles, to perform the mitzvah of ransoming prisoners. If you would like, give your amount as well to perform this commandment. We are poor and simple folk. What mitzvos can we do? But now that God has brought us this mitzvah, listen to me. Let us perform this precious mitzvah together, because we have no other that we could perform for the rest of our lives."

The fine young woman was persuaded. She went and got her money, and he got his money. And he gave the entire amount-- three hundred rubles, and no less--to the landlord's assistant.

Immediately, the assistant freed the prisoners, and they rejoiced and gave praise to God.

The young servant told the young woman, "We must praise and thank God, may His name be blessed, for having given us the opportunity to perform such a precious mitzvah. However, since I persuaded you to give away all you had, I am responsible to seek security for you, just as I must seek it for myself. And I have an idea: I have an uncle in the city not far from here. Let us both go to him. He will look for some way that we can support ourselves."

And so it was. The two of them set out by foot, with their few possessions on their shoulders, to his uncle's house. That evening, they arrived at an inn, where they decided to spend the night.

Meanwhile, in the upper worlds a great commotion had been made and a holy, awesome unity created by the great mitzvah which these simple, poor people had performed in the simplicity of their hearts. And--as may be imagined--God's great Name was greatly sanctified.

Therefore, it was told to the Baal Shem Tov from heaven to travel immediately to the inn where the young man and woman were staying and to bring them clothing, and to marry them to each other in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel. And the Baal Shem Tov did as he had been commanded from heaven: he took clothing for the bride and groom and that evening came to their inn.

The innkeeper came out to greet the Baal Shem Tov, trembling before him. "Rabeinu, spend the night at my inn."

The holy Baal Shem Tov agreed and entered the inn, and a special room was prepared for him.

The Baal Shem Tov summoned the innkeeper and told him to prepare a wedding meal that night, for a bride and groom would be celebrating their wedding. The innkeeper immediately began to do as the holy Baal Shem Tov had told him: preparing a meal for a quorum, as is required by Jewish law. As for where the bride and groom were, he did not ask the Baal Shem Tov, but instead busied himself preparing the feast.

The young man and woman were used to serving masters. And so when they saw the innkeeper busy, they volunteered to help, so that they would earn their stay and not eat "the bread of shame." As the innkeeper prepared wedding meal, the young man helped him, and the maidservant went into the kitchen and helped bake and cook.

After three or four hours, the innkeeper came to the Baal Shem Tov and told him, "Rabeinu, the meal is ready."

The Baal Shem Tov asked him if any guests had come to the inn. The innkeeper replied, "No, no one, besides a young servant and maidservant."

The Baal Shem Tov told the innkeeper to send them to his room. When the couple entered the Baal Shem Tov's room, he gave each of them clothing and told them to put them on, for they would soon be getting married.

The bride and groom put on the clothing and waited an hour or two, until seven men arrived at the inn in beautiful coaches: remarkable-looking men, royal and striking.

And now, with the holy Baal Shem Tov, the groom and the innkeeper, there was a quorum. The innkeeper wondered: Who were all these people who had come to the inn? And who were the bride and groom, for whom the Baal Shem Tov had worked so hard? (As it happened, these seven guests were the seven "ushpizin": Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David.)

The Baal Shem Tov married the couple in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.

Then, after the chupah, everyone sat down at the meal and ate and drank, and their hearts were joyous.

The custom was that at the end of the meal, the guests would announce a "drashah geshank"--what gift they were giving. As this now took place, the innkeeper watched everything and remained silent. But in his heart, he was amazed.

One of the men proclaimed, "I give the bride and groom the gift of the barn and oxen that belong to the local landlord."

A second guest proclaimed, "I give the bride and groom a gift of the old landlady's jewelry, with its precious stones and pearls."

The Baal Shem Tov announced, "I give the bride and groom this inn as an outright gift."

Then they recited grace, and the seven men took their leave. The only ones left were the Baal Shem Tov and the couple.

And this was almost as strange to the innkeeper as the proclaiming of gifts had been--for the couple still had nothing.

But you, dear reader, may see the providence of the blessed Creator, the wonders He performs and His great mercy, higher than human ability to understand.

The local village landlord [not the same as the cruel landlord] had an only child, a son about ten years old. It can be well-understood that this boy was as beloved to him as his own soul, and even more than his soul.

Suddenly, two days before the marriage, the boy had disappeared. The landlord literally went mad, and sent many messengers to look for his son in the entire region. But although they sought, they did not find.

Now, the morning following the marriage, the bridegroom awoke. And after thinking matters over, he told the innkeeper, "I will ask one favor of you. I have a relative, an uncle who lives in the nearby city. Could you lend me your wagon, so that I could travel to him? I wish to ask him if he might have some work for me to support myself and my wife. And I will come back to you right away."

Since the innkeeper had seen how hard the Baal Shem Tov had worked for the groom, the groom found favor in his eyes, and he lent him his carriage.

The groom traveled by himself. As he was on his way, he approached to a bridge across a gulley. And as he was about to cross, he heard a voice crying and moaning. He was frightened, but he made himself go forward, traveling very slowly so that he could make out where the voice was coming from. He heard that the voice was under the bridge, and that it belonged to a young boy. He got off the wagon and bent down to peer under the bridge.

He saw something that looked like the head of a child protruding from the mud. He went down into the gulley and saw a boy, barely alive. Immediately, he began to pull him out of the mud, with great effort. This was the son of the landlord, who had now been missing for a third day.

The bridegroom had pity on the boy. He wiped him clean of the filth and wrapped him in his own garments, until the boy's spirit returned to him.

The boy told him, "I am the son of the village landlord. I know that my father must be searching for me everywhere. Bring me to my father's courtyard."

And the bridegroom did so. The boy showed him the way, and he brought the boy to the courtyard. When they arrived, there was a great celebration. The boy called out, "Father, father, if not for this Jew, I would not be alive. So give him a great present that he will never forget." And he said the same to his mother, the landlady.

And he kept urging them, until at last the landlord gave the bridegroom his inn as a present. The landlady gave him the barn with the oxen. And the elder landlady gave him her jewelry, with its precious stones and pearls.

And in this way, the blessings of the holy tzaddikim were fulfilled for this couple, who had performed the great mitzvah of ransoming prisoners with self-sacrifice.

And they lived in great wealth for the rest of their lives.

Sipurei Tzaddikim, #30

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Love is worth waiting for.
It is a rose that recreates
The face of creation.
It is the face of the sun that waits

For the dawn, a scythe turning,
A whisper of a rivulet,
The flitter of a wing, a form
That has not yet been set,

Whose meaning still is new.
Love is worth waiting for.
It is the whisper of creation
That lies behind a green and magic door.

A Delicate Longing
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The connection of the Torah with the Holy One, blessed be He, is the foundation of the holy service of the unique few.

We concern ourselves with Jewish law, with its analysis and details. We know--generally--that all the words of Torah are the paths of God, flowing from the source of supernal life.

But still, doesn't a divine longing live within our soul? Doesn't the pleasantness of God pulse within it? Closeness to God is more pleasing to our soul than all pleasures. This is a delicate longing that is felt as well in the heart of life: "My heart and my flesh sing for the living God."

How may we lift up the noble feeling that is hidden within all crevices and details of the Torah to that same level of supernal, inclusive feeling that pours into the soul from the supernal pleasure?

This results from a mighty uplifting of the spirit. It has to do with connecting the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He-- that is, connecting the particularistic lower Torah to the inclusive upper Torah.

Orot Hatorah, 3:1

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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