The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume V, Issue 33

Emor 5761 April 2001

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright 2001 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (

* The Distant Isles
--By Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* A Mitigating Factor
--By Avraham Stern

* When You Speak
--Teachings of the School of the Baal Shem Tov and R. Dov Ber

* On the Folly of Diplomatic Words
--By Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

When [righteous people] are connected with the activities of a normal life, they draw a light of supernal life into these this-worldly matters, and sanctify them for the entire world--and, how much more, for themselves. Similarly, they raise the worth of all minor things to a state that is elevated, great and uplifted.

When these righteous people--people who are constantly in the presence of the bond of supernal life and upon whom the blissful light of God's holiness shines constantly--descend and engage in simple speech, this-worldly words, they know and recognize how the elevated stature of a completely holy life permeates everything hidden there. And from there, they unveil this light and bring it--with knowledge and mindfulness, and with the might of the life within souls--to a supernal place where holy life shines openly, revealed and not hidden, with an unmistakable, sparkling radiance.

When such people descend and look at the world with a superficial glance, when they turn to study this-worldly fields of knowledge-- as well as bizarre matters, such as sorcery and strange, unclean faiths--from everything they draw the rays of His light and the scattered sparks of the holy life. From it all, they make crowns of grace with which to fill the light of life entirely, with which to fill the glory of supernal holiness from all sides.

How great this service is. So much deep knowledge, elevated understanding, goodness of heart and love of truth for all creatures, and light of a holy fire that is a thirsty yearning for closeness to the true God (a natural tendency toward taking pleasure in God throughout the entire fulness of one's soul)--all these, and more, fill the heart of these princes of holiness, who know how to stand in the breach, to erect a fence and extend their awareness to the distances, to proclaim the praises of God to the ends of the earth, to the distant isles, and to sanctify the holy of holiness and beautify the beauty of the Life of worlds.

Arpelei Tohar

by Avraham Stern

Soon after R. Israel of Rizhin moved across the border from Russia to Austria, he settled temporarily in Skole.

On Friday, the rabbi of Skole--the well-known gaon and author of the responsa collection, Beis Shlomo--sent the town shamash to the synagogue to hammer loudly and thus signal the community to light Sabbath candles. When the shamash saw through a window that R. Israel was still sitting and accepting kvitlech and pidyonos, he reported this to the rabbi. When the latter heard this, he hurried--already dressed in his Sabbath clothes--to R. Israel in order to rebuke him.

R. Israel greeted him with great respect. He put an end to his praven (taking kvitlech and pidyonos), commanded that the Sabbath candles be lit, and then said, "Skoler rabbi! I have a question to ask you. Is monetary duress considered a mitigating factor? (Except for the three cardinal mitzvos--idolatry, sexual immorality and murder--if a Jew's life is in danger, he may violate Torah law in order to save himself. However, if he is threatened not with death but with great monetary loss, he may not violate Torah law.) My question is: if a person has already gone ahead and violated the Torah in order to avoid great monetary loss, should he be punished?"

The great gaon and misnaged (opponent of Hasidism), the author of Beis Shlomo, answered R. Israel with great humility, "Rebbe! I see that you are divinely inspired. I am in the midst of working on this question. This week a rabbi who is trying such a case asked me the same question. I have not yet sent him my answer. However, I am in the process of formulating a reply, and at this stage I think that these days, in our difficult and bitter exile, when Jews' incomes are so meager, monetary duress is indeed considered a major mitigating factor."

R. Israel said to him, "Skoler rabbi! If God helps you to finish working out this problem and your final conclusion is that according to the plain halachah, monetary duress is a mitigating factor, please excuse me if I ask you to come to me on Saturday night after Havdalah, and tell me exactly how you came to your conclusion, for I have a need to know."

[And so it was. The Skoler rabbi's continued analysis brought him to this conclusion, and so he visited R. Israel on motzei' Shabbos.] After the Skoler rabbi repeated his halachic decision-making process to R. Israel, R. Israel told him the following.

"The government once placed notices in the newspapers announcing bidding for an important military contract. Many padratshikes [businessmen?] got together and agreed among themselves that each would offer a bid lower than the other regarding the price. The last one who would offer the lowest bid would pay the remaining aptret money. [Note: Your humble translator is not absolutely sure of the translation; the general idea seems to be that the contractors were collaborating illegally.]

"One of these [padratshikes] was a religious Jew, a lay-about, whom the other padratshikes didn't take into their confidence. But he learned of their agreement, and so he tendered the lowest bid and got the contract. He was told that in a month's time, he would have to bring a certain sum as a kavtzye (that is, a deposit guaranteeing that he would fulfill all the conditions of the contract) and sign an agreement.

"But the other padratshikes bribed the government to change that day to a Saturday.

"The layabout pooled together his few possessions and in addition borrowed money, and traveled to the appointed site. To his dismay, he learned that the contract-signing had been rescheduled to take place on the Sabbath. He considered both sides of the matter. In the end, he could was not strong enough. He knew that if he did not show up, he would go bankrupt. So he went there on the Sabbath, deposited the kavtzye, and signed the necessary papers. "Now his case is coming up in the upper world. If you, Skoler rabbi, agree that monetary duress is an acceptable excuse, then I will join with you, and together we will save a Jewish soul from the punishment of Purgatory. I will see to it that he will gain his rectification." May their merit protect us and all Israel, amen.

Chasidishe Maasiyos, pp. 85-86

teachings of the school of the Baal Shem Tov and R. Dov Ber

First, you must use your free will well. Then you must speak and believe with complete faithfulness that the whole world is filled with His glory, and that His life force fills everything. So all love and fear and all other attributes are from Him--even bad things in the world. Therefore, it is not permitted to love, fear, etc., any but Him...

When you speak, do not think that you are speaking, but that the life force within you, which is the Creator, is speaking within you, and that He is lifting the speech to its source. Then you feel truly equal with others, for you consider, "This power of speech is as much in my fellow as it is in me--everything from God."

Tzavaas Harivash 127

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

This sleep, steep mountainside
Of grief:
Here we burrow into sweetness,
Lolling, slack-mouthed
We are dreaming, we cannot move,
The sky itself, the clouds, look on our stiff
Arms, our twisted feet. Within our dream,
We dream that we

Are moving, and that the
Head that sways above the city
Is a
Ghost, perhaps, a
Dream. We
Race to meetings, negotiate
With what? With our heartbeats and with our grief.
We bury ourselves in a blind grave, where
We might awake

To suddenly a dream
Of our fears, filled with sun-drenched streets.
Beneath our skin
We feel
That we are not awake, that past
These crowded cafes, a serpent head sways,
And that, swallowing this chattering street,
We sleep, frozen.

We close our eyes, we dive
The airless pool, this womb of our
We smile at lies.
But look
Upon this death, recount its many names.
Speak a word of truth, swallow light, reclaim
True words, choose life.

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