The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 8

Lech Lecha 5759 / October 98

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

* The Ark of Words

-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

* Rabbi Nachman's Journey to the Holy Land (continued)

-by Hillel Zeitlin

* A Divine Right

-by Simcha Raz

* Preliminary Steps

-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman


by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

When we stand up to pray, alien thoughts and negative energies surround us. We remain in darkness, and we cannot pray. At that point, "You have covered Yourself with a cloud, not allowing prayer to pass through" (Eichah 3:44).

"All encircling, the wicked walk" (Tehillim 12:9). Wicked, negative energies surround us. Why? The verse continues: "for elevated things are cast down"--prayer is one of these elevated things (cf. Berachos 6b).

But you must know that there are many openings in the darkness through which we may emerge. "When a person comes to besmirch himself, openings are made for him" (Yoma 38b). The simple meaning of this statement is that such a person is given the opportunity to dirty himself. But it can be read: such a person is given many openings through which he may emerge.

There are many openings in the darkness from which we may emerge.

It is true that we are blind, and we do not know how to find the opening. But we can find the opening through truth.

The Holy One, blessed be He, is the central light of the universe. "Hashem is my light and salvation" (Tehillim 27:1).

When we are involved in falsehood, we send Him away. "Do not use the name of Hashem your G-d in vain" (Shemos 20:6). When we are involved in vain emptiness, we remove the Holy One, blessed be He: "he who speaks falsehood will not stand before My eyes" (Tehillim 101:7).

Through truth, on the other hand, the Holy One, blessed be He, dwells with us. "Hashem is close to all who call Him--to all who call Him in truth" (Tehillim 145:8).

When the Holy One, blessed be He, is with us, He illumines our way. We can emerge from the darkness that has kept our prayer blocked. "Hashem is my light."

G-d commanded Noah to "make a tzohar for the ark" (Bereishis 6:16).

Rashi comments: "Some say tzohar is a window; and others say it is a luminescent stone."

What is the difference between a window and a luminescent stone? A window has no light of its own--it is a passageway for light. If there is no light, the window does not shine. But even when there is no outside light, a luminescent stone shines of its own accord.

Similarly, there are people whose speech is a window, which does not in itself have the ability to illumine them. "Some say tzohar is a window." The "saying," the speech, of some people is merely a window. But "some say it is a luminescent stone." There are others whose speech is a luminescent stone.

It all depends on the amount of truth present.

The Holy One, blessed be He, is the essence of light. The Holy One, blessed be He, is the essence of truth. At the core, when we yearn for G-d, we yearn for truth.

G-d instructed Noach, "To [the width of] a cubit, finish [the ark] above." The word for "finish" is also used to indicate yearning (as in the verse, "David yearned" [Shmuel II 13:39]).

The word cubit, amah, can be analyzed as follows. The first letter, alef, stands for eish: fire. The second letter, mem, stands for mayim: water. The third letter, heh, has the numerical value of five. This refers to the five parts of the mouth from which consonants are formed. These consonants correspond to the elements of fire and water. [The combination of fire and water also characterizes heaven, which is a place of truth.]

"To [the width of] a cubit, finish [the ark] above." This can now be read: See to it that you speak in truth (the "cubit"); then from heaven ("above"), the Holy One, blessed be He, will yearn ("finish") to dwell with you.

When G-d will dwell with us, He will illumine us.

"[The width of] a cubit, finish [the ark] above." In Hebrew, this phrase forms the acrostic for "emes"--truth.

Through truth, the Holy One, blessed be He, desires from above to dwell with us. "Hashem is close to all who call Him...."

G-d continued instructing Noach, "Place the opening of the ark on its side."

The word for ark--teivah--also means "word."

The word that emerges in truth will make an opening for you, wherever you are trapped.

"On its side." The word for side--"tzad"--is homonymous with the word for hunting, pursuing. Thus, "side" refers to the negative energy that pursues us.

A hunter pursues game, and so the word for "game" is also based on "tzad." We learn of Yitzchak that "his game was in his mouth" (Bereishis 25:28). At first, we cannot speak, we cannot pray the words in our mouth, because we are being pursued by negative energy, because we are surrounded by darkness.

Then we leave that darkness and pray well.

G-d continued instructing Noach: "You shall make [the ark] with a bottom level, a second level and a third level."

When we leave the darkness and pray well, we rectify three levels: (1) this lowly world, (2) the world of spheres [the heavens] and (3) the world of intellect [the angelic realm].

The following words were written by Rabbi Nachman's circle:

But it is possible to pray only when we learn Torah. "An ignoramus cannot be pious" (Pirkei Avos II). "If a person removes his ear from hearing Torah, his prayer as well is contemptible" (Mishlei 28:10). from Likutei Moharan 9


by Hillel Zeitlin

In Tiberias, Rabbi Nachman once demonstrated the power of his spiritual influence.

It happened as follows:

At that time, there was an informer in the land of Israel. He used to notify the Turkish pasha every time Jewish charity funds were brought into the land. The pasha would then confiscate the money for himself. The poor would die of hunger, and the informer would be rewarded by the pasha.

Once, his activities led to the imprisonment of Tiberias's leading Jews. After the prisoners were tortured in a dungeon for nine weeks, the Sefardim of Tiberias went to the pasha and presented him with a large sum of money in order that he free the prisoners.

After they were freed, the informer was caught and strangled. But his executors had done their work poorly. He pretended to fall dead, but when they left, he got up, as healthy as before. He immediately went and told the pasha everything that had happened.

The pasha appointed him governor of Tiberias and gave him the right to do with the Jews of Tiberias as he wished. The informer entered Tiberias with a great parade of Turkish soldiers. As he entered the city with this pomp, the adult men left. Only the women and children remained. From every house, outcries and wailing were heard. Who knows what the informer plans to do?

Rabbi Nachman also wished to flee, but had to turn back because he was ill and weak.

The informer came to Rabbi Nachman meekly, presenting himself as a pious, earnest Jew seeking a path in serving G-d. Rabbi Nachman went along with the fiction and told him, "Since you are, thank G-d, a government official, you should be humble, minister to the Jews and pray for their suffering."

"What else should I do?" asked the informer.

"Recite Tehillim with great feeling."

And the informer obeyed.

Gradually, the informer was influenced. He began coming often to Rabbi Nachman, to discuss Hasidism with him. Rabbi Nachman worked on breaking his self-confident spirit and attempting to persuade him to cast aside his evil deeds. Once, during a conversation with the informer, Rabbi Nachman told him, "I will only be sure that you have broken your pride when you will recite Tehillim in the presence of children, with great weeping."

This time as well, the informer obeyed. He recited Tehillim and cried so strongly that tears ran down his face. At length, from all this emotional tumult, he grew ill.

After the informer had begun to make his way to Rabbi Nachman (like the pig that stretches out its split hooves to claim that it is kosher), Rabbi Nachman indicated that an announcement should be made that all those who fled should return. Later on, when the informer engaged in acts of repentance in Rabbi Nachman's presence, the townspeople understandably grew calm, and they were even more composed once he had cried in everyone's presence.

But then (Rabbi Nachman's students add) the informer placed guards at the town gates to observe if any emissaries brought money into the holy land.

During Rabbi Nachman's stay in Tiberias, money did arrive without the informer's knowledge. Rabbi Nachman's companion went to Haifa, took the money from the emissaries and gave it to his rebbe. Rabbi Nachman then gave the money to the townspeople, who in turn disbursed it.

When the informer grew better and discovered that he had not received his informer's fee, he deeply regretted his repentance, and he threatened the Tiberias community that he would bring it to account when he would arise from his sickbed.

But the seeds of repentance that Rabbi Nachman had planted in his heart had a quiet effect. He lost his previous strength, and never again rose from his sickbed.

Rabbi Nachman considered it his reward that through him Tiberias was saved from this evil influence, and that he had succeeding in touching such a dark soul.

from Reb Nachman Braslaver


by Simcha Raz

In 1929, the Arabs, supported by the British authorities in the land of Israel, were attempting to deny Jews the right to pray before the Western Wall.

When Rabbi Kook appeared before a commission set up to deal with the matter, he turned to the head of the commission and said in a trembling voice:

"What do you mean by saying that this commission will decide who has ownership over the Western Wall? Does this commission or the league of nations control the Wall? From whom have you received permission to decide who owns it? The entire world is the possession of the Holy One, blessed be He, the Creator of the world. And the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the nation of Israel possession of the entire land of Israel, including the Western Wall. No power in the world, no League of Nations and not this commission can suspend this divine right."

The commission head commented that almost two thousand years had passed since the Jews had possessed the land of Israel, including the Western Wall. To this, Rav Kook replied quietly and calmly:

"In Jewish law, there is a concept of an owner's giving up his right to his property--including his land. But when a person's land was stolen from him, and he protested and continues to protest, his rights never expire."

Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 179


by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Raise your head.
Turn an ear to the wind of the world.
The wind is larger than the songs that you have heard before.
The spiritual master has not come to give you a comfortable place to curl up.
The creaking of a cradle rocking in the branches
Is not the song of the prophets.
It starts with an electric buzz in the head,
It starts with an inability to sleep,
With a flea that won't leave your left ear,
With a jittering need to thrust apart the columns of buildings.
Try as you might, you cannot worship idols.
Walk down the street while you dance.
Speak in a pleasant tone of view while you are singing.
Wheel through the supermarket while you stand upon a mountain.
These are preliminary exercises. _________________________________________
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