The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 18
Bo, January 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2001 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* Forming a Group for Spiritual Growth (Part I)
* The Righteous among the Nations
* The Ohr Hachaim and the Blood Libel (Part I)
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)
The Talmud states that "the word ‘heed' (haskeit) means that one should form groups (kitah) for Torah learning, because Torah is only acquired in a group" (Brachot 63b). Besides learning Torah, when our holy tzaddikim wished to enhance their service of God, separation [from this-worldly matters] and their sanctity, they would form a group.
Being in a group was such a fundamental and existential part of their service of God that people who belonged to a group were generally referred to as chaveirim (members). The title chaver became so ingrained that even a member's wife and daughter would be referred to as "the wife of a chaver," and "the daughter of a chaver" (Brachot 30).
Similarly, the godly masters of the holy Zohar, who consecrated themselves to an even more elevated service, are at times referred to in the holy Zohar as "the holy group" (chavrayah hak'doshah). And likewise, the great, holy leaders of Hasidism did the same. Besides the fact that Hasidism and Hasidim all comprised one large group, within it there coalesced and came together a group of the greatest and most holy, elevated personalities, who–because of their greatness and enhanced holiness–were closer to their rebbe than others, and sought and gained delight from the source of his water, the living waters, more than other Hasidim did. And because they widened this channel, the entire congregation drank in more than it would have otherwise been capable of receiving. Most of the members of that holy group afterwards grew yet greater, and they themselves became the rebbes, tzaddikim and leaders of Hasidism (as is known).
And now, since we wish to understand and walk in the footsteps of our holy tzaddikim, we must also recreate the group. It is true that the Igrot Hakodesh at the end of Noam Elimelech state that as long as a person serves God, if he also travels to a rebbe and clings to him, he is called a Hasid via the merit of his rebbe–even if he himself has not arrived at the level of being a Hasid. This is illustrated in the verse, "They believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant." Because they believed in Moshe and connected themselves to him, they were considered to have risen towards [a level of faith] that they themselves could not have attained. It was not only Hasidim on an elevated level who traveled to our holy masters in the past. Those smaller than they, the laymen and workers, did so as well. But why, you young Hasidim, should you feel satisfied to be one of the laymen and not one of those who are elevated?
And why should you be satisfied to be one of those who do not know what to reply when asked, "What is Hasidism? What is the difference between a Hasid and a pious non-Hasid? Or: what is the difference between a Hasid immersed in Torah and a non-Hasid immersed in Torah?" Or if you do reply, you give the standard response that Hasidism consists of serving God with warmth–ignoring the fact that our holy masters of Kabbalah, including the holy Ari and his students, who were godly seraphim, certainly did not lack divine fire in their holy service. And if you will say that the Kabbalists' warmth had cooled and the Baal Shem Tov rekindled it, then you are saying that he revealed nothing new (heaven forbid). All he did was "return the crown to its original place." But if that is the case, why do we have these new terms–"Hasidim," and "Hasidism"–and not the terms "Kabbalist" and "Kabbalah," as before? Also, if the Hasidim merely wished to return to the service of the Kabbalists and no more (let us not even say such a thing), why did the mitnagdim oppose them?
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
"Any [gentile] who accepts the seven Noahide commandments and is careful in their performance is one of the righteous of the nations (chasidei umot ha'olam), and he has a portion in the world-to-come. That is if he accepts them and performs them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and proclaimed through Moshe Rabeinu that Noahides had previously been commanded in these. But if they perform them because it makes sense [to them], such a person is ... not one of the ‘righteous of the nations' nor one of their wise men" (Hilchot Melachim 8:11).
[This statement of the Rambam requires emendation.] The correct reading is: "he is not [merely] one of ‘the righteous of the gentiles,' but one of their wise men."
I tend to think that the Rambam means to say that having a portion in the world-to-come is an inferior level (although it too is very great). Since even wicked and ignorant Jews attain it, it is–compared to [truly] spiritual levels–low. The Rambam says that intellectual awareness brings a person much closer to [understanding] the righteousness of God's Providence.
Therefore, having a portion in the world-to-come is a level attained by the righteous of the nations who have not attained an intellectual awareness, but who have rather accepted the faith simply, with heart-felt emotion, and have acted well, as a result of having accepted the concept that the commandments were given by God. But if a person has come to understand the seven Noahide commandments as a result of his own thinking, he is truly wise of heart and filled with understanding. Such a person is considered one of their wise men, for the trait of wisdom is very great. And it is superfluous to say that he has a portion in the world-to-come. [Indeed,] he stands on a holy level that needs to be spoken of with a fuller expression than "having a portion in the world-to-come."
However, even were we to accept the Rambam's words simply [without emendation], we will find nothing in them strange if we say that the quality of the world-to-come that the Rambam is speaking of is a particular state that the divine and special nature of our holy Torah gives to those who keep the Torah. But there are other states that can be transmitted by anything good–only, it is not called the "world-to-come." That special [state called the "world-to-come"] derives from the power of the Torah, and is appropriate for anyone who accepts it and the sanctity of its faith. But this does not in any way deny other qualities that can be imagined regarding every philosophy, each in its own way.
by Avraham Stern
I must admit that in my childhood I read (in Yiddish) the story that am about to tell. But since it is possible that during this terrible Second World War that text was lost, I am going to retell it here.
There is another reason too. As I recall, at that time there were many people, including believing Jews, who doubted this story, for there was no one who could vouch for its truthfulness. But (in addition to my having read it), it was told to me by the great Rabbi Simchah Goldberg, may he rest in peace, av beis din of Shevreshin, in return for a favor that I had done him. He told me, "I am going to give you a fine present, which I myself received as a gift from the great gaon and tzaddik, R. Tzadok Hacohen of Lublin, in return for a favor that I did him. And R. Tzadok Hacohen said to me, ‘I heard this story in my youth from an elder, a ninety year-old Jew, who himself heard it from the Chida--R. Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai. And the Chida told this old man that the holy Ohr Hachaim himself told it to him." (In his Shem Hagedolim, the Chida writes that he was a student in the holy Ohr Hachaim's his yeshiva for exoteric teachings for a period of fifteen years.)
This means that this story has passed directly from one person to the next, and I am the sixth to tell it. And for this reason as well, I have deemed it necessary to write it down.
The sultan of the country in which the Ohr Hachaim lived was a highly-educated man and an expert astrologer as well. He once issued a directive that all the birth records be scrutinized, with the aim of discovering which of his subjects had been born at the same time as he.
Learning that R. Chaim ben Attar had been born under the same star as he, the sultan came to the Ohr Hachaim's impoverished home in disguise and asked for the Ohr Hachaim. His family immediately had him summoned from the beis medrash. As soon as he came in, the Ohr Hachaim recited the blessing, "Blessed is He Who divided of His glory to flesh and blood," for he sensed through divine inspiration that the man standing before him was the sultan.
Seeing that the Ohr Hachaim is a holy man before whom one cannot keep anything concealed, the sultan asked him, "We were both born in the same hour and under the same star. Yet I am the fortunate sultan and you, on the other hand, are so poor. How could that be?"
The Ohr Hachaim replied, "What you say is true. But I am rich in the wisdom of the Torah, thank God. One indication of this you have already seen. Now if you send someone to bring us two small mirrors, I will show you something extraordinary."
When the mirrors were brought, the Ohr Hachaim told the sultan to look into one of them, and asked him, "What does the sultan see?"
"I see an image of the entire world," the sultan replied.
The Ohr Hachaim said to him, "Look at the part of Asia next to this country. Now look at the capital city. Now look at your royal palace. And now look at your bedroom."
To his astonishment, the sultan saw the queen lying in bed, as one of his chief ministers stood next to her. He heard the minister speak to the queen in an indecent fashion, urging her to sin with him. Furiously, the sultan related this to the Ohr Hachaim.
Class for Men: Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim ("Spiritual Training"), step-by-step guidebook on how to develop an awareness of our souls and of God, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe), Sunday night. For information, call (410) 358-8771.
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