The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 45

Av 5759 July 99

Translations and original material copyright (c) 1998 by Yaacov
Dovid Shulman (unless otherwise noted)


* The Peacock Groomed Its Feathers
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

* Spiritual Confidence
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Story of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
-by Hillel Zeitlin

* Natural Ethics
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Juxtaposition of Heaven and Earth
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
*The Living Kernel
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

The peacock groomed its feathers for a lifetime
Before it flew.
It was only one of a thousand birds
Flying imperfectly.
In the placid surface of the lake
All its errors were reflected
And its beauty too.

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

An upright person must believe in his life.

We must believe that our own lives and that our feelings that proceed in a straight path from the foundation of our spirit are good and straight, and that they lead upon a straight path.

The Torah must be a lamp to our feet, by means of which we may see the place where error is likely--for at times our spirit will go astray, upon a wasteland that is no path.

But our constant stance must be a spiritual confidence. A Jew is obligated to believe that a divine soul, whose essence is entirely one letter of the Torah, dwells within him. And a letter of the Torah is a complete world, constantly increasing, without measure.

Even the spiritual ramifications of a grain of sand have no measure or limitation. And all the years of our lives will not suffice to explain all the wealth of laws founded in wisdom and interwoven with knowledge and awesome might that are within us.

And how much more must the entire nation believe clearly and fervently in its life, in its predilections, and proceed in them confidently. Then it will know how to use the light of the living Torah.

Orot Hatorah 11:2

by Hillel Zeitlin

Soon after Rabbi Nachman returned from the land of Israel, the Tirhavitzer Maggid spent a Shabbos with him in Medvedivke. That week, Rabbi Nachman delivered a discourse based on the verse, "This is the generation and its leaders" (Tehillim 24:6 as translated homiletically). That discourse was not recorded by his students. They only note that he said, "For example, you are the generation and I am the leader."

When a young man speaks in such a way to an old rebbe--a man who, as the Breslov tradition tells, was maggid of hundreds of towns--he must elicit enmity. In this case, the Tirhavitzer Maggid accepted these words with love, for he considered himself a Hasid of Rabbi Nachman. But when such phrases were made regarding other rebbes--who considered themselves unique in their generation--Rabbi Nachman must have appeared to them like Joseph telling his brothers his dream about the sun and eleven stars bowing down to him.

Another time, as Rabbi Nachman was sitting with the Tirhavitzer Maggid, he took hold of his beard affectionately and told him, "A new being like me was never in the world before."

Another time he said, "The world must pray hard on my behalf, because it needs me very much. It could not exist without me."

Once he told his Hasidim, "The world cannot exist without me. As far as you are concerned, this is obvious. You yourselves know how much you need me. But even all the tzaddikim need me very much, because they all need improvement."

And he said, "If I were to reveal who and what I am, the entire world would run after me. But I do not wish to do so."

And he said, "I am a very fine, wondrous tree with wondrous branches, even thought I am literally lying on the ground."

He said, "I am a river that cleans all stains."

"I once thought," he said another time, "that it is my evil inclination that is persuading me that no one can be a leader like me.

But today I know clearly that I am in fact the only leader of the generation and that there is no other leader like me."

Another statement: "all the favors that the messiah will do for the Jews I can do as well. The only difference between us is that when he decrees something, it will come about, whereas I"--and he fell silent. According to another version, he is supposed to have said, "And I cannot bring anything to completion."

Once he said of himself, "I am the Grandfather of grandfathers." And he once wrote, "I am the Elder of holiness."

The first of the Seven Beggars in Rabbi Nachman's story is a man who, although blind, sees better than all those who have sight. A great eagle informs him that he is younger than anyone else, for he has not yet begun to live in this world; yet at the same time, he is the oldest of all.

According to Rabbi Nosson Sternhartz, Rabbi Nachman's outstanding student, this section refers to Rabbi Nachman himself.

Rabbi Nachman referred very caustically to the "false leaders," among whom he counted some of the oldest and most distinguished rebbes of his time.

In fact, Rabbi Nachman believed that all the troubles and persecution that the Jews suffered came about because of these "false leaders."

Hasidim tell that Rabbi Nachman said that the acronym of "rebbe" is "rosh beis yisroel": the head of the house of Israel. That refers to a true rebbe. But in regard to a false rebbe, the acronym is "ra b'einei Hashem": evil in the eyes of God. Indeed, Rabbi Nachman said of those whom he took to be false rebbes that they are "the evil ones, who are like the darkness" (as stated in Likutei Moharan).

A few of the above epigrams belong to the later period in Rabbi Nachman's career and not to this time that were are presently concerned with: the fist two or three years after his return from the land of Israel. However, a number of these statements were made immediately following his return from the land of Israel.

Rabbi Nachman's students tell that even before he went to the land of Israel he once told Rabbi Aharon, a rebbe [?] in Breslov, "You know that I like you very much. And so I am giving you a blessing that in the world to come you will at least have the merit of understanding my secular conversation."

If Rabbi Nachman could speak about himself in sch a way even before his journey to the land of Israel, it is easy to imagine the things he said about himself after he went there, when he was engaged in climbing from one heavenly level to another, from one illumination to another.

from Reb Nachman Braslaver

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

"Ethical behavior must precede the Torah." Such a period of time is necessary, in [all] generations. An ingrained ethics in all the depth of its majesty and its mighty strength must be established in our spirit and become a receptacle for the great influences that come from the power of the Torah.

Just as awe is the level of the root [force] that precedes wisdom, so are natural ethics the level of the root [force] that precedes awe and all its ramifications.

This principle holds for the individual, and entirety of the [Jewish] people and all humanity.

If there is a need, upon occasion, to bring to bear the influence of Torah without first connecting to the root of natural ethics in its purity, that is the path of a temporary decree. But life must bring matters about so that the process will return to its mighty order: the preding of natural ethics in all its fullness, in order to build upon its base the first stage of the Torah and supernal awe. Orot Hatorah 12:2

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

If not for the juxtaposition of heaven and earth,
We might fly through the air.
Women might marry men of hideous visage,
Sons might move their fathers' beds.
As it is,
Strands of wool, cables that hang from heaven,
May grasp the smooth flax of this world--
For sometimes there are no juxtapositions.

Waves of light are particles;
Particles of light read men's minds,
An angel sits on a beam of light and straddles timelessness.
In the juxtaposition of the leaves against the sky,
The paradox of the world is enmeshed.
In the juxtaposition of feet upon solid ground,
An irreducible mystery exists.

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The deep holy spirit of Judaism strives to unite the life of activity and the life of transcendence. This spirit is the soulful power that generates Jewish law and its minutiae. It provides a living kernel for Talmudic logic, expanding its borders in the this-worldly environs of Jewish law and Talmudic reasoning.

Oros Hatorah 8:3

This issue of Wings of Morning is dedicated by James Mochee in honor of his mother, aleha hashalom.

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