The Wings of Morning - A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Parshas Mishpatim


1) Sayings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
2) On the Parshah: What is Fear of G-d?--by Rabbi Israel of Rizhin
3) The Fear of G-d--by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
4) Earning a Living As Opposed to Learning Torah--A Midrashic Teaching
5) Earning a Living as a Means of Serving G-d--by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
6) The Skeptic Who Became a Hasid--from a Hasidic Story Book
7) Was It? (poem)--by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Sayings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

I. On Shabbos eve, there is a great thirst for G-d throughout the world.

II. The misnagdim (non-Hasidim) say that the main thing is learning Torah. The Hasidim say that the main thing is prayer. And I say: davenen un lernen un davenen: praying and learning and praying.
Siach Sarfei Kodesh II, 87, 80

On the Parshah: What is Fear of G-d?
by Rabbi Israel of Rizhin
"And these are the judgements that you shall place before them."

The verse states, "G-d has acted so that they should fear before Him."

The creation of all the universes had the following purpose: that the people of Israel would fear G-d. That fear is essentially an awe of G-d's greatness, since He is the ultimate master, the source of all worlds, the motive force of all universes. It is not essentially a fear of punishment and suffering. ...

The holy books state that the entire intent of creation was kindness: so that G-d could be kind to others. If there had been no world, to whom could He reveal His great kindness and goodness?

As the verse states, "I have said that the world is built on kindness."

Now it is true that we learn that "in the beginning, G-d (Elokim) created." The name Elokim indicates strict justice--not kindness. The reason for this is as follows. G-d is infinite, yet the worlds must be finite. Thus, at first, He needed strictness--which is a form of constriction. Nevertheless, the root of that strictness is total kindness. Without that strictness, the world could not have been created.

To return to our parshah: "And these are the judgements that you shall place before them." On "before them," Rashi comments:

"Before the Jews, but not before idolaters." Although a Jewish court engages in judgement (which is strict), it clings to the Torah, which is the source of compassion. (The Torah is the will of the Creator, and His will is the source of kindness and compassion.) Therefore, a Jewish court transforms strictness into compassion.

However, this is not the case in an idolatrous court. Idolaters are completely separate from holiness. Therefore, they are a source of judgement that lacks truth. That judgement does not proceed from the Holy One, blessed be He. At such a time, troubles rise against the people of Israel, heaven forbid.

Each one of us must cling to our source, with true awe. In this way, every judgement is ameliorated at its source. It is transformed into kindness and compassion. This is because in its root, each judgement is total kindness. ...

In this way, we raise judgements to their primal source.

"And these are the judgements that you will place before them."

When we suffer, heaven forbid, we must ameliorate these sufferings at their source. We should think: Who created this suffering? It was G-d Himself. And evil will not come from Him- -heaven forbid. Since that is the case, this suffering must certainly be a gift from G-d.

In this way, we raise our suffering and ameliorate it at its source.
Irin Kadishin T'lita'a

The Fear of G-d
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

In every clash, whether physical or spiritual, we experience light and its vessel: the soul and body. In accordance with the clarity of our understanding and the purity of our will, so does light shine upon us from the vessel. Our soul shines from our body.

When our thoughts tumble over one another, there is one universal treasury: the fear of G-d, the fear of punishment and an ordinary trepidation.

This constitutes the floor of that tabernacle of faith that stretches out to rectify the world.

Then, in accordance with the clarity of our understanding and the holiness of our acts and our spirit, our soul is revealed.

Our soul had been steeped in the midst of that corporeal and crude fear.

Now our soul is revealed: our soul, which is the crown of all spiritual ideals, of the glory of honor and of the awe of G- d's greatness. It is the stronghold of love. It is the source of the streams of all idealistic yearnings, mighty in their desire, which rise higher and higher to the most elevated worlds.
Oros Hakodesh IV, p. 420

Earning a Living As Opposed to Learning Torah
A Midrashic Teaching

There are two types of people: those who devote themselves to toil in learning Torah, and those who devote themselves to toil in earning a living.

If a person wants to devote himself to earning a living, he is given that opportunity. Of him, the verse states, "Man is born to toil" (Job 5:7).

To what can this person be compared? To a waterskin filled with water. The water spills out, and in a little while the skin contains nothing.

But if a person wants to devote himself to be involved in the words of Torah, he is given that opportunity. Of him, the verse states, "With a toiling spirit did he already toil, [and thus he has food even now], when the [hunger of] his mouth demands of him" (Mishlei 16:26).

To what can this person be compared?

First, he is like a doorsill on which everyone steps. [He first learns peshat, the simple meaning, which people treat without appreciation.]

Next, he is like a ledge that everyone steps over. [He then learns remez, hints, which are not recognized by everyone].

Then he is like a tree in whose shade everyone sits. [He learns derush, homiletics, and many come to learn from him.]

And finally he is like a flame which illumines the way for everyone. [Finally, he learns sod, secrets of the Torah, which illumine the darkness] (cf. Tosafos ben Yechiel, quoted in the commentary, Shai Lamora).
Tanna D'vei Eliyahu, 13:2

Earning a Living as a Means of Serving G-d
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Our physical needs are very many--even the basic necessities: food, drink, clothing and housing. A person can spend all his days and years merely obtaining those basic necessities.

This is a great impediment to serving G-d.

Yet on the other hand, this work is itself service of G-d.

In general, after we turn to G-d with our own initiative, G- d responds from above (Zohar). Our initiative in earning a living is--when properly managed--an initiative that triggers (so to speak) G-d's response.

When we engage in work and activity, the form of that activity is aroused in the upper worlds, where the archetype of creation exists. Our work in this world brings life-force and illumination to the form of that particular corresponding section in the archetype of creation above.

As a result of our activities and work, a Tabernacle (a mishkan) is made.

In regard to the Sabbath, there are thirty-nine prohibited main categories of work. "The phrase 'main' category implies that there are sub-categories" (Bava Batra 2). And so in general, all work fits into one of those thirty-nine categories.

All the work we engage in is in a sub-category of one of the the thirty-nine main categories of work. These thirty-nine main categories are learned from the activities that were necessary to make the Tabernacle. As the sages stated, "The main categories of work are, in the biblical phrase, 'forty minus one.' To what do they correspond? To the work involved in the Tabernacle" (Shabbat 49b).

The form of the Tabernacle corresponds to the the form of the archetype of creation. And the form of the Tabernacle corresponds as well to the form of the human body
(Tikunei Zohar, introduction).

Therefore, when we engage in work and activity in a suitable manner, we are making the Tabernacle.

In this way, we contribute life-force and illumiantion to the archetype of creation. We thus keep the world in existence.

And so going to work is a way of serving G-d.
Likutei Moharan II 4:3

[Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is one of the great early masters of Hasidism]

The Skeptic Who Became a Hasid
from a Hasidic Story Book

In the city of Shatz, Bokovena, lived a very wealthy man named Nosson Shimon. This man used to travel to Galatz, Rumania, to deal in business.

And he had no children (may it not be said of you).

Because Rabbi Meir'l of Premishlan was very well-known as a miracle worker, his wife travelled to Premishlan and asked him to pray for her so that she would have children.

The rebbe asked her, "Why didn't your husband come?"

She replied, "What can I do with him if he is one of those modern people who do not believe in rebbes?"

The rebbe told her, "Go quickly and tell your husband that Reb Meir'l is telling him to come to Premishlan. And as a sign, tell him that is staying at the Eiropeyske Hotel in Galatz, and that this week he engaged in an unworthy act."

The woman went home. And after her husband returned from Galatz and was in the house for a few days, she said to him, "What will be with us? We are already married for a good number of years, and we still do not have any chidlren. Please listen to me and to travel to Premishlan to Reb Meir'l. I have heard that many people have been helped by his prayers."

But as soon as he heard of a rebbe, her husband began to laugh loudly, and he made fun of her.

So she told him, "Let me tell you that I myself have already gone to Reb Meir'l in Premishlan. He told me that I should tell you to go to him. And as a sign, he told me that you did something unworthy in Galatz."

When her husband heard this, he grew very frightened. He knew that no one knew about what he had done.

But he began to think: How could he travel? He would be ashamed to have his friends know that he is travelling to a rebbe.

So he went out and hired a wagon driver. When his friends asked him where he was going, he said that he was going to Lemberg.

Instead, however, he went to Premishlan and went to see Rabbi Meir'l.

The rebbe greeted him and asked him where he came from.

He replied that he had come to see the rebbe.

The rebbe replied, "But you had said you are going to Lemberg. So go back home. Then hire a driver to take you to Premishlan. And whenever anyone asks you, say that you are going to the rebbe in Premishlan."

So the man had to do just that. He went home and hired a dirver, and told everyone that he was going to Premishlan to Rebbe Meir'l.

And then Rebbe Meir'l promised him that with G-d's help he would be helped that year. And his wife immediately became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter.

From that time onward, this man left his bad friends behind. He became a hasid, and he constantly travelled to Rebbe Meir'l in Premishlan.

Once when he came to the rebbe, the rebbe told him, "Nosson Shimon, you live near the border. I want you to know that a Jew will come to you and will call out loudly a few times. So be sure to do him a favor."

A few years later, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin fled Russia. He came to the border town where the wealthy Nosson Shimon lived. When Nosson Shimon learned of this, he immeidatley went to Rabbi Israel and told him not to be at all frightened. He himself, he promised, would take rebbe across the border.

He took the rebbe on his back and carried him across the frozen river. Once Nosson Shimon slipped, and the Rizhiner rebbe grew frightened. But Nosson Shimon told him, "Rebbe, do not be afraid. I will not let you fall even if something happens to me, heaven forbid."

And he carried him across the river.

When they came to the border, Nosson Shimon told Rabbi Israel to weait in the stable. Nosson Shimon himself went into the room where the border guards sat. They knew him well, because he always used to cross the border, and he would always give them gifts.

He sat down to play cards, and he purposely let them win, until they had won four hundred rubles from him. And then he asked them to let him cross the border with his good friend who was waiting for him, because they had forgotten their passports at home.

The border guards' chief himself went out and told the guards to let him through. And so Nosson Shimon went across the border with Rabbi Israel of Rizhin, without fear.

May the merit of the tzaddikim protect us.
Gevuras Yisrael (5684-1923), pp. 25-27

Was It?
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Was it a tree of knowledge?
I thought it might be
A tree of confusion.

My fingers are radiant.
The fruit is radiant.
Surely, joy
Is an answer.

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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