The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume V, Issue 7
Lech Lecha 5761 October 2000
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2000 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* With All Your Heart
* The Hidden Tzaddik
* Avraham the Traveler
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Rav Kook's love for the land of Israel and his yearning to make aliyah burned in his heart with a great flame. During his term as rabbi of Boisk, he wrote in his journal:
As long as a person does not clearly understand the worth of the human soul, the worth of the Jewish people, the worth of the Holy Land, the longing that every Jew should have for the rebuilding of the Temple, and the greatness of Israel and their elevation in the world, it is almost impossible for him to have a sense of what it means to serve God.
Our Sages said that the verse, "serve Him with all your heart" refers to "service in the heart, which is prayer." If so, prayer is service. And service is fitting only when, due to our awe of God, the subject matter of prayer is close to our heart...
If a person does not know the worth of the Jewish people, how will he pray with a complete heart for their redemption? When we say the words, "Blessed are You, God, Who redeems Israel," we refer not only to our own sufferings regarding the yoke of our exile. The wording of the blessing testifies that it refers to the aspect of the worth of the people of Israel and their sanctity.
And if a person doesn't realize the worth of the Holy Land, its uniqueness and holiness, how will he pray for the building of Jerusalem? Prayer is something that comes precisely from the depths of the heart--when we feel that we are lacking something.
Malachim Kivnei Adam (by Simchah Raz), quoting Musar Avichah, pp. 19-20
by Avraam Stern
Rabbi Leib of Shpole (who in the Hasidic world is called "the Shpole zeide"-- "the grandfather of Shpole") was the student of a hidden tzaddik, a nistar, who was on the surface a simple cantor and choir master: the cantor of Zaslav. Amongst the choir singers were other nistarim, two of whom were later revealed: Rabbi Leib of Shpole and Rabbi Mordechai, the first Neschizsher rabbi. (We will have more to tell of the latter elsewhere.) When Rabbi Leib was still young, he had the merit of knowing the Baal Shem Tov. Since his later rebbe, the cantor of Zaslav, was a nistar, Rabbi Leib decided that he would also remain a nistar. For a while he acted as village shochet (slaughterer) or a simple village melamed (teacher). He suffered poverty and underwent great tests. (All htis has already been adequately recorded in prefvioulsy published stories. I myself am only relating stories received by oral tradition from reliable sources, which have never been published before.) However, the heavenly court realized that he would be very helpful to the Jews if he were to be revealed and act as a leader and rebbe. (Later, this indeed turned out to be the case. He refined he coarse town of Shpole, bringing this enitre Jewish commnity to perfect repentance, and he helped them materially and spiritually. That is why he had himself called "the Shpole zeide.")
It was revealed to Rabbi Leib that the heavvenly court had decided that he must be revealed. He hired someone whom he knew as his aide, and with him he traveled to the nearby shtetl.
When he came to the inn, he announced himself to be a rebbe. However, no one from the shtetl came to him, not even to greet him. As a true tzaddik, Rabbi Leib passed this test. However, his aide, a poor, simple Jew, demanded payment, and the innkeeper also had to be paid. Meanwhile, they learned that a famous Hasidic tzaddik had arrived, and that the entire shtetl, from old to young and from great to small, was running to greet him, and literally flooding him with requests and donations (kvitlech and pidyonos). Rabbi Leib's aide pressed him so strongly that Rabbi Leib was persuaded to go out into the street and himself see the people running and hurrying to the other tzaddik. Rabbi Leib saw a young man running. He asked him, "Where are you running to?" "To the rebbe!" the young man replied.
With humility, Rabbi Leib said to the young man, "Here in this inn a rebbe is staying, with whose help you can get whatever you desire--whether in spiritual or in physical matters." But the young man tore himself free and cried out, "Leave me alone, I am running to my own rebbe." With this, Rabbi Leib at last grew upset. He went back in to his aide and told him to give him his Shabbos clothes so that he himself could go and greet the newly-arrived tzaddik.
The other rebbe was was Rabbi Motele Tshernobeler (the son of Rabbi Nachum, who was the author of the Meor Eynaim, a student of the Baal Shem Tov and, later, a member of the holy company of Rabbi Dov Ber). Rabbi Motele himself was part of the younger group around Rabbi Dov Ber. He used to take a great deal of money from his followers and with it support all the hidden tzaddikim, whom he knew of by tradition from his rebbes, and also through divine inspiration.
Now, with divine inspiration, he sensed what was taking place in the inn where Rabbi Leib was staying. He immediately had his gabbai hand him his overcoat and he placed the money from the table and with the kvitlech in a large kerchief, put it in his pocket and immediately went to Rabbi Leib. Of course, everyone else accompanied Rabbi Motele. When, through the window, Rabbi Leib saw the great crowd approaching his inn, he sent his aide out to find out what was going on. Rabbi Motele told the aide to bring Rabbi Leib to a separate room, so that he could give Rabbi Leib a kvitl. Rabbi Motele entered the inn, wrote a kvitl in the outer room and entered the room where Rabbi Leib was sitting. There, he handed him the kvitl with a pidyon, a payment, of eight gold rand (a large amount in those days). And he told Rabbi Leib, "You should have realized that a simple young man like the one you met in the street cannot have the merit of the great mitzvah of supporting you, and, more than that, of giving you your first kvitl. This belongs to me and to people like me.
And from then on, Rabbi Leib was revealed.
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
From the very beginning of his entry to the Holy Land, Avraham is constantly traveling. "Avram passed through the land...he moved from there...Avram traveled onward...he went on his travels." At last, once Lot leaves him, Avraham settles down: "Avram dwelt in the land of Canaan." But then God commands him to travel again: "Arise, go through the land, to its length and to its breadth, for to you will I give it."
After this last command, the Chumash relates the episode in which Lot is captured. We are then told that "the refugee came and told Avram the Ivri, who was neighboring in the Plains of Mamrei the Amorite, the brother of Eshkol and the brother of Aneir, who were the alliance-partners of Avraham." Why is Avraham given the designation of "Avram the Ivri," the Hebrew? The first phrase used to describe Avraham's travels throughout the land is "Avram passed through the land"--Vay'avor Avram ba'aretz. The word for "passed through," vaya'avor, has the same root as ha'ivri.
By telling us now that Avraham has alliance partners (who will accompany him in his military mission), the Chumash is telling us that Avraham is not merely an unknown, if wealthy, individual. He is a prominent leader who is engaged in the idiosyncratic enterprise of traveling throughout the land, north to south and east to west. And so he is known to the other prominent men of the land as Avraham, the traveler: "Avram ha'ivri."
One can say that this indicates that the work of a Jew--an ivri--is to be traveling at all times, to travel through areas of holiness, and by so doing, acquire them (just as Avraham's children were to acquire the land that he traveled through).
As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, "It is not good to be old--neither an old Hasid, nor an old tzaddik. Being old is not good. We must renew ourselves every day; we must begin at every moment" (Sichot Haran #51). Rabbi Nosson, amanuensis of Rabbi Nachman, added that Rabbi Nachman "had many beginnings. Every day he began anew to serve God." And Rabbi Nosson counsels that "we should not allow ourselves to fall because we sinned or fell from some level of devotion of serving God. We must strengthen ourselves and begin anew, as though we were beginning for the first time" (Sichot Haran #48).
Rabbi Nosson taught that "even though Rabbi Nachman said, â€˜My fire will burn until the messiah will come,' every Breslover must arouse himself every day. There are various explanations of the word â€˜burn,' t'luen. Even if only a few small sparks are left from the fire, that too is considered burning" (Avaneha Barzel, p. 70).
There is, however, a tension between the goal we desire and our limitations.
At times, a person yearns for a level of holiness that he is not ready for. As a result, he leads a life that is perilously imbalanced: acts of piety rub shoulders with coarseness, in his service of God he tramples on others, and his efforts at gaining humility actually feed his ego. On the other hand, a person may wish to lead a balanced, even life: one that is decent, one in which he nurtures his gifts gently and gradually, in which he balances Torah-learning, prayer, family life and comfort. But the modesty of his efforts to nurture his sparks of spirituality may actually extinguish them. (And although he may not recognize that his coal is no longer a burning ember, his children do.)
Therefore, how can we keep our passions alive without their leading us beyond the boundaries of our abilities and into a world that we could only experience as buffeting chaos?
Perhaps even Avraham (on some level) faced this challenge. After he rescued Lot and, in so doing, routed the four kings who had subjugated the region for thirteen years, one would think that he was supremely confident. Yet at this point God comes to him in a vision and tells him, "Do not fear, Avram."
We may discover that our passions are deadened because we fear to go to the next step in our lives for which we are actually ready. Then we remain stagnant, and find that God's presence has left us--because God is waiting ahead for us.
Thus, there is a tension between traveling-- "in all my travels, I am only traveling to the land of Israel" (Chayei Moharan, p. 68 #6)-- and settling. And so God had told Avraham, "Arise," and then "go"--hit'halech--a reflexive form of leich-- "go within yourself." The traveling shuld be for the purpose of expanidng our persona' growth--lech lechah, lit. go to yourself, "go for your own benefit" (Rashi): to settle in the Holy Land.
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