The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VII, Issue 25
Shabbat Ki Tisa 5763, February 2003
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Is this great distress that I am not permitted to pronounce God's Name as it is written an empty thing? Is it not a holy fire, burning and blazing in my soul, which indicates the depth of the hidden longings within it for the light of the true God, the God of Israel, Who makes the precious light of the truth of His manifestation shine only with the holy Name as it is written?
All the holy Names are general–[they express] a concept of divinity that anyone with intelligence in his mind and feeling in his heart can express and yearn: to desire Him and to be connected to His being.
But "who is like Your nation Israel, a unique nation upon the earth"–connected to the truth of divinity, which is revealed only in a miraculous, wondrous fashion, in a way of total truth [coming] from the supernal holy spirit of the "clear lens"? "This is My name forever," is actually written, "This is My name: to be concealed."
It is impossible for us to pronounce it within this darkened world as long as the light of Israel has not manifested itself in its holy location, in the House of its life: in the eternal Temple.
A thirst for truth flares up, and the longing for that essential expression impressed [into this world] is great. "I have been silenced, quiet. I have been silent out of good, and my pain is stirred up."
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
A Jew fulfills the mitzvah of putting on a prayer shawl by wrapping himself in it.
How do we define this wrapping? There are two views. The first is that a person must cover the majority of his body as well as his head, to the extent that his mouth is covered. This is described as being the way that the people of Ishmael wrap themselves. The second view is that it is only necessary to wrap one's body.
The generally accepted ruling is that it suffices to wrap one's body, and it is on this that we recite the blessing. However, it is a worthy custom to also cover our heads with the prayer shawl.
When we wrap ourselves in a prayer shawl, we are in a sense wrapping ourselves in God's light. One would think that wrapping one's head, the seat of one's mind, is a desideratum–in fact, maybe it would suffice to wrap one's head and not the majority of one's body, since the body follows the mind.
Also: why is wrapping the head defined by covering one's mouth? Maybe it would have been more apropos to insist on covering one's eyes, so that one sees only divine light.
Also: why is Ishmael cited as an authority on wrapping oneself in a prayer shawl?
And also: if Ishmael is cited, why is he associated with what would seem to be the holier of the two methods of wrapping oneself in a prayer shawl?
By wrapping himself in a prayer shawl, a person principally is wrapping his body. He is transforming his physicality to a vehicle of holiness, a vehicle for the expression of God's will. However, in essence we wish to keep our minds free and independent. We are not asked to give up our intelligence, creativity, and ability to think. We are not asked to make ourselves a total nothingness before God with no character of our own and no path of developing our own unique potential. We are not asked to acquiesce to mediocrity, cultural backwardness and narrow vision.
Nevertheless (and perhaps paradoxically), after we have established our independent self and can continue to develop it, we give that over to God. Thus we cover our head, our mind, with the prayer shawl. In particular, we define that by covering the mouth. We are indicating that even as we express ourselves we also are silent and are allowing Godliness to express itself. (But our eyes remain uncovered. We do not surrender our appreciative and critical faculties.) And this is related to Ishmael, whose trait is utter subjugation to what they believe is the will of God. (Ishmael can be translated as "he listens to God.")
The obligation is to sanctify our physicality. Otherwise it is appropriate to first develop our own minds and then bring that to Godliness. If a person makes his mind a vehicle for holiness before he has developed it, he deadens his intelligence and perceptions, and his service of God consists to a significant degree of conformity. But if he makes his mind a vehicle for holiness after developing his mind, he does so with freshness, vitality and the full exercise of his abilities.
by Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz
These aforementioned three men–R. Yudel, R. Shmuel Eizek and Rebbe Reb Aharon–understood from the story that Rabbi Nachman had told (about the holy Baal Shem Tov's follower who didn't confess and as a result suffered the consequences) that Rabbi Nachman meant that they too should confess their misdeeds to him. In the past, when they had come to Rabbi Nachman on several occasions and he hadn't told them to do such a thing, they had imagined that they did not need to confess because of their importance and spiritual level.
But this Shavuot, R. Nachman taught that when a person comes to a tzaddik and tells him everything that is in his heart, he is absorbed into the Infinite, since the tzaddik is on the level of Nothingness. Even if a person came to the tzaddik, saw him and gave him a donation, if he did not confess his misdeeds before the tzaddik, he still does not know what road he is traveling on. There are two roads before a person: one is a straight path, and the other....
R. Nachman also discussed the humility of the tzaddik, who corresponds to the level of Moshe, which derives from the number three hundred, which itself derives from the three heads in the letter shin in Moshe's name. This refer to three areas in which a tzaddik eliminates his ego: his wisdom, his might and his wealth.
R. Aharon was called wealthy because he had a generous dowry and his father Rebbe R. Moshe was wealthy as well. Of these three men, R. Yudel was particularly wise, and R. Shmuel Eizek was particularly strong (that is why R. Nachman told him that he should speak to the parts of his body to humble them before God).
When they heard this teaching of R. Nachman, they lost all sense of self-importance–one in regard to his wisdom, the other in regard to his wealth and the third in regard to his might. At the end of the holiday, they came to R. Nachman one after the other, and each one confessed, crying out with a broken heart.
They understood that when R. Nachman had spoken of how "they had filled from one eye," that he was referring to his watchful eye upon them. In consequence, these three pious men brought people who were far removed from holiness to R. Nachman.
A person who is well-acquainted with this teaching of R. Nachman can understand the greatness of R. Nachman's awareness. Each detail reveals an teaching that is elevated and hidden to the highest degree. May God grant that we may taste at least one part of a million that is hidden in that teaching.
by Rabbi Chaim Vital
And Eliyahu (of blessed memory) returned to appear there as before, and he took hold of my right hand, and he said to me, "Come with me to the place that I was originally sent to bring you to." So he brought me to a great, endless pavilion, and within it were great rivers flowing strongly to water that garden. And on the banks of the river, on both sides, were trees with beautiful fruits, luscious and fresh, without number. And most of them were apple trees, smelling like myrrh and aloe. And the trunks of the trees were very high, and the ends of the branches coming out of the trunks bent down close to the earth, forming a sort of canopy.
And in that garden there were endless birds, which looked like white geese, walking the length and breadth of the garden, and learning mishnah from Tractate on the Sabbath. Fro as mentioned earlier, at the beginning of the dream, this was the Sabbath eve. And as they walked they would recite one mishnah or one chapter and stretch out their necks and eat apples from the tree itself, and afterwards, they would drink water from the rivers. And they did this continuously. And I was led to understand that these were the souls of righteous people who had mastered the mishnah, but I did not know why they had the form of geese and birds, and not the form of human beings.
And he brought me further into the garden, until I saw within the garden a great and high elevated structure, as though it was on top of a high mountain, but underneath there was no other building. And it was higher than the ground of the garden by a measure of a human height, and its entrance was on the western side, and a ladder of three stone rungs from the ground to the entrance of the elevated structure. And Eliyahu (of blessed memory) disappeared from my eyes.
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