The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 24
Ki Tisa, March 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
* When the Soul Shines
* What Is Hasidism? (Continued)
* The Simple Rebbe
* What Is an Elder?
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
When the soul shines, even the cloud-shrouded heavens pour forth sweet light.
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)
The structure of worship before the era of Hasidism consisted of suppressing the body and its feelings, and silencing its traits–even by [going so far as] mortifying oneself in order to crush them, so that they would not be active whatsoever, since they are all evil. Only after having accomplished this would a person draw light down onto himself: the light of his soul (now that it had been freed of his body) or a light even higher than his soul.
[He would accomplish] all of this with understanding, wisdom, thought and particular modes of concentration (kavanot) and mystical meditation called unifications (yechudim). This is because wisdom is the essence of holiness within a person, and the kavanot in particular have the power to draw light from above.
If one does no more than perform the commandments, one rectifies the [lowest spiritual] universe (asiyah) and the superficial aspect of [all] the [other] universes. But when one also applies the understanding of wisdom and kavanot, [one rectifies] the [higher] universes (atzilut, briyah and yetzirah), and the inner nature of [those] universes is also rectified (cf. Pri Eitz Chaim, beginning of Shaar Hatefillah).
We learn in Mikdash Melech that "he who performs a mitzvah acquires the portion of [its reward] in accordance with his understanding" (Vayakheil 210b). That is to say, the portion that a person earns by performing a commandments depends upon the level of his understanding. If he has intent (kavanah), he can draw down light from above, in accordance with the level of that intent.
Also: inspiration and passion are good only if they come from above–i.e., only if the exist in a great and holy man who has overcome his body and its feelings, so that his inspiration derives exclusively from his holy soul, or even from an influence beyond it. The reason is that the body, its desires and its arousals are not good, and must be silenced, stilled and destroyed, so that they will not damage us nor interfere with our supernal worship, which exists in our minds' understanding and intention.
But, because it also illuminates the vessels, Hasidism is different. The essence of the light of Hasidism is to reveal that at the core, lowliness is also a holy light. Therefore, a person's service is not geared to suppress and silence the body, so as to merely keep it from damaging and interfering, but his service must also reveal [his body's] holiness, and raise its desires and proclivities to an elevated worship. [This is because] the foundation of even evil traits is a holy light.
"If a person has relations with his sister, it is sinful" (Vayikra). The great Maggid teaches that the word for "sinful," chesed, is more commonly translated as "lovingkindness." Chesed is the name of one of the sefirot, or conduits, of divine energy. The foundation of even such an evil love that would arouse a person to sin with his sister (may the Compassionate One protect us) is the sefirah of supernal chesed, which came down to his level and grew corrupted within him.
It is not enough that a person merely suppress his traits.
Is a Jew a wild animal for whom it suffices that he does not gore, bite or damage? Is it possible that his soul will unite with God while at the same time his body and traits are a viper's venom, a swamp, a heap of noxious garbage that only exists in order to be removed and cast away?
[A Jew's] lowliness is also holy, and he must serve and cling to his Father, his King, his Holy One with his body and traits. If an evil love is aroused within a person, he should think, "This love comes from the sefirah of chesed, from the heights. How can I pollute it with such an evil love?" This itself will arouse him to love God. And the inspiration to love God that comes from such a [level], an inferior love that has now been transformed to the love of God and the Torah, is great.
But this is not all. A person might only imagine that he has been inspired to the traits of love and fear of God (and so forth), whereas in truth this is merely a delusion. Yet this too is good. The introduction to Sha'arei Hayichud V'Ha'Emunah of R. Aharon cites the great Maggid in linking this idea to the verse, "Like whom will you imagine Me to be, so that should be equal to that?" [Even if you merely imagine Me, there is a genuine recognition within that.] Even though [this person's inspiration] is merely a delusion, he too, [like the angels,] can recite, "Holy."
This is because in the core of his holiness, a Jew truly awakens to God. Only the superficial physicality in which he is immersed (due to his actions and thoughts that are not directed toward God) have obstruct him.
Now he has overcome them and wishes that even they will be inspired. [If] his inspiration is delusory, it is only [in regard to his actions and thoughts]. But regarding the Jewish essence within him at this moment, he is experiencing a true awakening.
Even when a Jew is involved with his physical needs, business and work, if he performs them in the way of Torah, that is considered service of God in the ways of Hasidism.
by Avraham Stern
The late R. Dovid Shvager–the consummate Hasid of Husyatin–told me about the following episode, which he had in turn been told about by an elderly Jew, who had in his youth heard it from his father-in-law, in whose house it took place.
One Friday morning, the rebbe R. Velvele Zbariszsher went to Trembavle, which is near Tarnopol. There, he stood in the middle of the marketplace. A relative of his saw him and invited him for the Sabbath. [This relative was the father-in-law of the old man who told R. Shvager this story.]
[In the house, the host placed a footstool before the rebbe.] But as soon as the rebbe's feet touched the footstool, he quickly drew them back in fright, as though they had been burnt. His host opened the footstool (which was a kind of small chest), and found that it contained a holy book, Kav Hayashar. He took it out and put the footstool back down, and this time the rebbe placed his feet on it calmly.
Soon afterwards, a great number of people came to see the rebbe. R. Velvele wondered aloud why people flock to him here more than they do in any other town. His host replied, "Because when the rebbe drew his feet back from the footstool in which a holy volume lay, the rebbe showed that he has divine inspiration. No one had told the rebbe about it."
R. Velvel was called "the tam"–the simple man. Desirous of minimizing the import of this wondrous event, he said simply, "I heard the following from R. Zusha (the rebbe, R. Zusha). We learn in the story of the sacrifice of Yitzchak that ‘Avraham sent forth his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.' It should have sufficed merely to say that ‘Avraham took the knife to slaughter his son.'
"The reason [for the words ‘sent forth'] is that when God commanded Avraham regarding circumcision, He added the letter ‘hey' to his name (he had previously been called Avram). Rashi explains that God did this so that his name should have the numerical value of 248, corresponding to the number of limbs in a person's body. The meaning of this is that as a result of the holiness of the mitzvah of circumcision, all of Avraham's 248 limbs would only do the will of the Creator. At the sacrifice of Yitzchak, God was merely testing Avraham. As Rashi explains, God only told him to ‘bring' Yitzchak, not to ‘slaughter' him. And so Avraham's hand did not want to move to the knife, since this was not God's will. But since Avraham's [intellectual] understanding of God's intent was that he should slaughter his son, he forced his hand to take the knife.
"Now you have to understand that what happened here does not involve divine inspiration at all. It is perfectly simple. My feet of themselves did not want to rest on a footstool in which a holy volume lay."
The people replied with a smile, "He is called tam, and he is indeed simple! Rebbe, you have now increased the miracle: your feet themselves have divine inspiration."
May their merit guard us and all Israel, amen.
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
What is an elder? This is a person who has lengthened and broadened his days with an increase of holiness at every moment.
How can you get to this level? Through awe. Awe brings an increase of holiness every day. And that lengthens and broadens your days. "The fear of Hashem increases days." (Mishlei 10).
"The awe of Hashem is a person's treasure chest" (Isaiah 33). "A treasure chest is narrow above and broadens below" (Berachot 61). At first, our days are short. But as a result of awe, they grow broader, and their holiness increases.
When we experience awe of God, we reach length of days, we are elders (emulating the level of "the rectifications of the Ancient One"). And then we attain abundance.
Likutei Moharan 60:3
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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