The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume III, Issue 23
Mishpotim 5759 / February 99
Translations and original material copyright (c) 1998 by Yaacov
Dovid Shulman (unless otherwise noted)
* The Baal Shem Tov's Journey
-by Hillel Zeitlin
* Distant Relatives
-from a Yiddish Story Book
* The Return to Nature
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* The Chapter of Song--Introduction
* The Beach is Filled with Sand
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
THE BAAL SHEM TOV'S JOURNEY
by Hillel Zeitlin
When the Baal Shem Tov was ready to leave Istanbul, he summoned Rabbi Nachman Horodenker. "Go home to the land of Israel. As for me, I am returning to Europe. Heaven is not allowing me to proceed to the land of Israel. As for your child, Simchah, give him to me. I will bring him up. You are old, and this child must be watched very carefully. And I have a request to make of you. I know that my daughter, Hodel, will give birth to a daughter. I want you to agree to a match between your child and the girl whom Hodel will bear."
Rabbi Nachman Horodenker replied, "You are my rebbe and teacher. And so you are very important to me. But my family pedigree will not allow me to make such a match with you." "Why is that?"
"I am a descendant of Betzalel, son of Uri and grandson of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah."
"And I," the Baal Shem Tov replied, "am a descendant of the kingdom of the house of David."
"Nu, if that is so, we can become relatives by marriage." And Rabbi Nachman's face shone.
In this way, the match was arranged. Rabbi Nachman Horodenker returned to the land of Israel, and the Baal Shem Tov travelled home with Hodel and Simchah, the child of Rabbi Nachman Horodenker.
Hodel had a daughter named Feiga. When Feiga grew older, she was given in marriage to Simchah, who had grown up in the Baal Shem Tov's house to become a very pious and learned person.
The match was successful. But they had no children. Meanwhile, the Baal Shem Tov passed away. A while later, he came in a dream to his daughter, Hodel. Hodel complained to him, "You do wonders for everyone, but you do not help Feiga, who is childless."
"Do not cry," the Baal Shem Tov consoled her. "Feiga will give birth to a son whom I want you to name after me: Israel. After that, Feiga will have another son, who will illuminate the world."
Some time later, Feiga gave birth to a boy. At his circumcision, the mohel proclaimed, "And his name will be called in Israel...." Hodel, his grandmother, exclaimed, "Israel!" When Feiga heard this, she felt faint, for in Mezhibuzh (where the Baal Shem Tov and his family had lived), everyone knew that children who were named Israel after him all died.
But nothing could be done. Hodel had said "Israel," and so it must be.
On the third day following the circumcision, the infant died. (This legend about Rabbi Israel is recorded as well by A. Rechman in Luach Achiezer, Volume II, New York, 5681. Taking into account the version brought here, it receives an entirely different meaning.)
Feiga came to her mother Hodel, weeping and wailing: "What did you do to me? Because of you, my child died."
Hodel took her dead grandchild, placed him on the Baal Shem Tov's grave, and said, "I do not want to hear [any excuses]. You promised my daughter Feiga a healthy son. And here he is, dead."
A day passed, then two and three, and the matter was already growing fainter. Then suddenly, the gravedigger came running into town: "It is already a few nights since I have heard someone crying out so bitterly that I am terrified."
The townspeople went to the cemetery and searched amidst the graves, until they found a crying child on the Baal Shem Tov's tomb. This was the child Israel.
The child was brought back to his mother. He grew up to be an extraordinary tzaddik. He spoke with no one, and had no feel for the things of this world. Day and night he lived in holy separation, as though he had no connection with this world. Therefore, he was called Reb Israel Meis (the Dead One). His tombstone in Mezhibuzh was engraved with the words, "Here lies Rabbi Israel Meis, who died in his lifetime"
After giving birth to Rabbi Israel Meis, Feiga bore Rabbi Nachman, the living tzaddik, who revealed all counsels and paths that lead to the coming of the moshiach.
This aggadah gives us the key to everything, including Rabbi Nachman's unusual actions at the time of his journey to the land of Israel.
We see from this story, which is much more than a mere narrative, that Rabbi Nachman was considered to be the person who must bring the Baal Shem Tov's bid for redemption to its conclusion. In the light of this story, we can understand Rabbi Nachman's journey to the land of Israel.
And this will be the theme of the following chapter. [That chapter was already translated here as the introduction to Rabbi Nachman's journey.]
from Reb Nachman Braslaver
from a Yiddish Story Book
A well-known rebbe once came to very wealthy man and asked him to help someone who was very badly-off, and who was also a relative of this wealthy man.
The wealthy man found himself in a bind. On the one hand, he could not deny the rebbe. But on the other hand, he did not want to open his pocket.
He had an idea. He answered the rebbe, "This person you mentioned is a distant relative, and I do not help distant relatives."
"Do you pray every day?" the rebbe asked.
"Of course," replied the wealthy man.
"How do you begin the Shmone Esrei?"
"What do you mean? 'Our God and the God of our fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzchak and the God of Yaakov....'"
"Is that so?" the rebbe exclaimed. "How close are you to Avraham Avinu? He is a distant relative, yet you mention his name. But when you are approached for help, you say that you do not help distant relatives."
THE RETURN TO NATURE
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
There are three levels upon which the individual and collective perfection of Israel must be based. These are the return to nature, to the ethics of humanity and to the foundation of the nation. Supernal holiness rests only upon these three.
The highest divine service is that which is connected directly to nature. This supernal holiness was polluted by the human defilement that destroyed the service of nature, making it a monster of idolatry instead of a firm foundation for supernal idealism.
The lofty luminosity of Adam incorporates a supernal quality that rises higher than the clear lens of prophecy that was attained by our teacher, Moses. "To work and guard" the garden of Eden is the radiance of supernal life: to eat of the tree of life and know nothing at all of any evil, because it is completely impossible that there should exist in the physical and spiritual world-- which is so perfect, which is the work of the hands of the Creator of everything--anything evil. Everything in its season and its time is solely good. "God made man straight."
Engaging in "the chapter of song" is the foundation of the return to nature. This is a low return that is high, that rises beyond all national jealousy, solely lifting man to become an elevated brother to his other brothers: the creations of the Almighty, who all know their Maker and take pleasure in the glory of His activity. Everything rises to the heights of holiness.
In this, we acquire a guarantee that we will not be lowered and descend constantly downward, that we will not be transformed into a tool of death, destroying ourselves and others. The name of God must exist, and the light of His Torah that is given to earth, so as to accompany humanity through all its phases, so that we will not fall into that deep pit that already caused us to stumble in ancient days.
"And also you, in the blood of your covenant, I sent your prisoners forth from a pit that contained no water" (Zecharia 9:11).
Oros Hakodesh II, pp. 493-94
THE CHAPTER OF SONG
"'Teach us from the beasts of the land and give us wisdom from the birds of the heavens' (Job 35:11). Rabbi Yochanan said: If the Torah had not been given, we would learn modesty from the cat, the prohibition against theft from the ant, sexual morality from the dove and good manners from the rooster" (Eiruvin 100b).
[The following quotes appear in the Introduction to The Chapter of Song in Otzar Hatefilos. However, a search in the Bar Ilan CD database failed to find them.]
Rabbi said: Whoever engages in The Chapter of Song in this world will be able to learn and teach, guard, do and keep. His learning will remain in his hand and he will be saved from the evil inclination, from evil occurrences, from suffering in the grave, from the judgement of Gehinnom and from the birthpangs accompanying the messiah. He will have length of days. He will come to the days of the messiah and to the life of the world-to-come.
We learned in a braisa: Rabbi Eliezer said, Whoever recites this song in this world will recite it in the world-to-come. "Az yashir Moshe"--"then Moshe sang." But this is literally "Then Moshe will sing." He will sing in the future days.
We learned in a braisa: Rabbi Eliezer the Great said, If someone engages in the Chapter of Song every day, I testify that he will come to the world-to-come. He will be saved from evil occurrences, from the evil inclination, from strict judgement, from Satan and from all types of destruction and harmful forces. Determine with all your heart and with all your spirit to know My ways and to guard the doors of My palace and My Torah and to keep My commandments and My decrees. Keep My Torah in your heart, and may your awe of Me remain before your eyes. Guard your mouth and tongue from all wrong and guilt, and I will be with you everywhere you go. I will teach you intelligence and understanding from everything. And know that whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created, He did so only for His glory. As the verse states, "Everyone called by My name and whom I did create for My honor: I formed him, indeed, I made him" (Isaiah 43:7).
Our sages tell that when King David finished the Book of Psalms, he grew proud. He said to the Holy One, blessed be He, "Is there any creature in Your world that recites more songs and praises than I?"
At that moment, a frog appeared and said, "David, do not be proud. I recite more songs and praises than you. Not only that, but I recite three thousand aphorisms for every song. As the verse states, 'He spoke three thousand aphorisms and his song was a thousand and five' (Kings I 5:12). Not only that, I engage in a great mitzvah. At the seashore, there is an animal that lives only from the water. When it is hungry, it eats me.
"In this way, I fulfill the verse, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him bread; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. Then you pour coals upon his head, and Hashem will repay you' (Proverbs 25:22). The sages say, Do not read yishalem lach, 'will repay you,' but yashlimenu lach, 'will reconcile him to you'" (from Succos 52a).
to be continued...
THE BEACH IS FILLED WITH SAND
The beach is filled with sand.
It is the sand.
If it has nothing else,
It is empty and full.
A blessing is filled with blessing.
Wisdom is filled with wisdom.
A hand is filled with a hand:
A hand that gives itself.
And here is everything.
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