The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume V, Issue 13

Shabbat Chanukah 5761 December 2000

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


* Hannukah and the Light of Understanding
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (based on teachings of Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov)

* Universalism and Nationalism (Part II)
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Law and Song
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (based on teachings of Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov)

The holiday of Hanukah is eight days long. Each night we light candles.

These candles draw down the light of understanding. This is the light that existed in the Garden of Eden before Adam's sin, a light by which one could see "from one end of the world to the other." This light will again illumine the world in the Messianic era, when the world will be a new creation. Even in the midst of nature and reality, we can draw down lights of transcendence. Although we do not experience the light, we can have faith in its existence. That faith is attained from exposing ourselves to the presence and teachings of great spiritual masters, who still are illumined by the light of understanding (cf. Likutei Halachot, Yoreh Deah, Kibud Rabo V'Talmidei Chachamim 3:16).

These spiritual masters are "elders," for they have transcended the boundaries of this world and attained "length of days and years." Each of their moments is a "length of days."

It is up to us to light that flame within our environment so that the light of transcendence flickers in our everyday lives (cf. ibid., Choshen Mishpat, Shomer S'char 2:3).

The miracle of Hanukah took place when the Maccabees entered the destroyed Beit Hamikdash and found one cruse of oil that had remained pure.

Our life might be contaminated with uncleanness, small-mindedness, entrapment within the world of details: credit cards, career, computers and modems, cable television and VCRs, warranties and accounts. Nevertheless, there is still one cruse of oil left undefiled. That cruse of clear consciousness exists within all moments. By the act of lighting the oil, we can awaken from our sleep and know that there is a higher reality that we can attain. We light the candle and tell the story of freedom and liberation in history, in our lives and in the fabric of reality (cf. ibid., Even Ha'ezer, Kiddushin 2:2).

The light of understanding is the light of truth, love and compassion. It is possible to draw this transcendent spirit into our daily life so that the mundane necessities acquire a halo of the invisible spiritual reality within which we dwell.

If a soldier forgets that he is undergoing training, he will believe that all that exists is his present situation. But he can recall his life among his comrades. He draws down to where he is the reality of the place from which he came.

Every day, we can draw down to ourselves the light of the world of truth and compassion. In every part of our lives, life, there is a point that can be attached to the illumination of understanding (cf. ibid., Orach Chaim, Hashmatot L'Hanukah).

from The Sefirot

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

[In regard to the reasoning of the school of Shammai, the Talmud proffers another reason.] And this is the most truthful and deepest insight regarding "the reason of the school of Shammai: [decreasing the candles] corresponds to the cattle [sacrifices] of the festival [of Succot--which decreased in number daily]." [These cattle, which symbolize the nations of the world,] indicate the influence of Israel upon all the nations. [The nations] are constantly decreasing. This indicates that the more the light of Israel appears in the world, the more the power of national separation diminishes, until the only differences [that will remain] are those that are most natural and which bring goodness to the world due to [the nations'] remaining separate. But the profusion of differences whose source is the urge of the heart of man toward wilfulness, evil and excessive love of self will pass and be nullified. It is the connection to the ultimate vision that is the activity that comes forth from Israel for the sake of the all. The rule of national love will pass this by, for [national love] is inferior to the value [of universalism]. [On the other hand, the Talmud proffers a second rationale for the teaching of the school of Hillel:] "the reason of the school of Hillel is that we rise in holiness and do not descend." There is a need and truth in loving the [Jewish] nation, until [that love] is fit it be placed as a holy tool for the sake of the Torah in Israel. The reason for this is that the unique quality of the Jews is central. Its existence is the highest goal, even more than the exaltedness of the general goal of illuminating the entire human species. It rises and is magnified in the treasury of the all--constantly, in every generation. It is this [love] that is fit to be placed as the ultimate goal of the will of God in His world: "Israel, in whom I will glory" (Isaiah 49:3). Therefore, the nationalistic purpose, which is a branch [of that unique quality], is fit to be connected to matters of holiness when [that purpose] guards its role and the ways in which it is acquired: which are Torah, mitzvot and pure faith sealed in the seal of [that national purpose].

[It must] be made known that the question of whether or not Israel is a "nation" is a result merely of the aspect of a superficial understanding of the root of [these] matters. Not many will gain the wisdom to arrive at the foundation of that which necessitates the approaches [of the schools of Shammai and Hillel]. But those who are wise of heart will gaze at the essential things.

Therefore, [the Talmud continues by teaching about "the elders,"] who are the wise men. "The elders who were in Zidon: one acted in accordance with the school of Shammai, and another acted in accordance with the school of Hillel.

"One explained his deeds [in lighting the Hanukkah candles by saying that they] correspond to the cattle of the festival [of Succot]." That is to say, the ultimate tendency of the desire of God comes from the quantitative measure, which comes by means of Israel and its Torah.

"And one explained that we rise in holiness and do not descend." That is to say, the most elevated desire is the qualitative unique [Jewish] quality.

Regarding this [disagreement,] it is said that "both opinions are the words of the living God" (Eiruvin 13b). And it is fitting to know that the foundation of "he continues to increase" is well in line with the knowledge point of view that the thought of Israel precedes everything and is the essence, from the aspect of the importance of the existence of this holy nation. And even though there are aspects in "increases" to point out in it the value of the influence that Israel influences the world entirely, that entirely form the aspect themselves of the nations the light decreases continuously, and their nationalism that is not established for an exalted and eternal purpose, continuously melts away until the divisions of lights will be eliminated, in this measure itself they grow especially close and liable to receive the light of Israel. It is [thus] found that in regard to Israel, it "increases," for those who receive their influence increase. And when we distinguish the precious worth of this nation, all of whose destiny and purpose, desire and desire is to benefit the entire totality as is the desire of God, we are astonished at the glorious worth of this precious unique quality. Therefore, the highest essence, does not remain by the purpose of a multitude of receivers of the light, even from this aspect of the destiny of its influence, but by the influencer itself, by the aspect of its unique quality to be a light to the world eternal light. Therefore, it should be pointed out in this mitzvah, the worth impressed within Israel that "increases," and automatically the mater is parallel to the second image in "increases" from the aspect of the essential unique quality, even without the essence of the foundation of the influence. And these things are twin fitting to be a national foundation in Israel built upon the depth of the truth, even though that its paths have transcended a great deal over the thought of simple nationalism that enters the heart according to the accustomed word from a great multitude, and which is taken with the accompaniment of images accustomed from foreign nations, nevertheless, since the inner foundation intends to the purpose that the impression remains in the might of its height only in Israel, behold, nationalism in its form it intends to the foundation of that level, like the matter of the Temple below which is in line with the upper Temple. "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven" (Bereishit 28:17).

Ein Ayah

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

The law and song together flamed,
They swallowed the lights of darkness.
From the inexpressible black
Their light emerged, it was named

Counsel, joy, it collected words,
Till light was wrapped in the black straps
Of law, until song stitched the stars--
These two friends, these twin-swooping birds.

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