The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume V, Issue 6
Noach 5761 October 2000
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2000 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
* The Redemption of the World
* The Old Man and the Tree (Conclusion)
* Thoughts on the Parshah--of a Previous Week
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
I though it would be helpful to quote these inspiring words of Rav Kook from the new year of 5680 (1919) in these days when, as the Palestinians destroy precious Jewish lives, the government of Israel still supports them financially, acts as an apologist for them, and even (I am told) continues to send them arms.
My precious brothers who dwell in Jerusalem (our holy and beautiful city, may it soon be rebuilt), those who dwell in Jaffa (the holy city), in the holy settlements and other holy cities, may they be rebuilt:
Elevating feelings of holiness that fill my spirit with strength coming from the glory of our holy land (to which God has allowed me to return after the days of my wandering in exile) together with the love-filled meeting I had with all of you--who represented a variety of circles--now that I have returned to holiness, have broadened my soul. And so I place before you my thanks. And [I extend my] blessing that our hope and the desire of our souls be fulfilled: that we will see the ever-growing success of the work that begins the blossoming of the salvation of our people on this holy soil (with the help of God). [May we see this success come as a consequence] of the blessing of peace that rests upon the community of Israel dwelling in Zion, and as a consequence of the unity of all our various strengths, each with its own character, all directed to that goal elevated in holiness: the complete lifting of the horn of Israel upon its holy soil.
When I truly realize that the richness of the holy glory that permeates our people's movement for building [the land] and our rebirth upon the Holy Land gives us our strength and beauty--both within and without--then I am filled with hope that all our abilities, in all their various aspects, will unite into one bond so that they will all help make clear and illumine the holy radiance of the soulful life that characterizes the atmosphere of our land, [an atmosphere] that stands ready to be ever more revealed as a result of our united work--spiritual and physical, work of the holy and work of the secular, together.
And I am filled with prayer that the Rock of Israel and our Redeemer will graciously give us power and strength, grace and lovingkindness, so that we may work with all the beloved builders of the nation of God in building up the entire nation upon the holy land, and that He will allow me to serve them all with a true love and a holy leadership until we see, quickly, all of us together, the joy of our nation and the glory of our inheritance with the redemption of the world.
May it be the will of our Father in heaven, Who dwells in Zion and Who chooses Jerusalem, that this year (which is coming upon us and upon all Israel for good) will be a year of recuperation and healing for all our maladies--physical and spiritual, individual and public, private and communal. May it be a year of peace and tranquility, love, honor and grace; a year of fruitful labor that will re-establish the ruins of our holy land and the building of the house of Israel upon its holy soil; a year of unity of all our actions and the directions of our spirit to work with one intent for God and His nation and the building of His beloved land; a year when we will gather at our holy and beautiful Temple; a year of complete redemption and salvation, and the lifting up of the horn of the house of Israel for fame and renown to all the ends of the earth.
Your faithful brother and servant, who signs with the hope for salvation, uplifting and strength and the beauty of Zion and Jerusalem, quickly, in our days, amen.
by Avraham Stern
The husband also wept bitterly. He told the old man his own story. The old man advised him not to go back to the house, but to run away through a back gate in the park and return to his life amongst Jews.
The husband was carrying a large sum of money. And so he travelled back to his Jewish wife. He told her that he had made his way to a distant land, where he had sinned grievously. But now he wanted to repent, and he commanded her not to interfere. On the weekdays, he would sit in the beis medrash, praying and learning, and sleeping on a bare bench with a stone for a pillow. On Friday, he would go to the mikvah, change his clothes and go home for Shabbos.
Meanwhile, his Russian wife did not take the situation lying down. She secretly came to his home town and met him on Friday afternoon as he was returning from the mikvah. And secretly, she summoned him before the town rabbi for a Torah adjudication. She told the rabbi everything, and said that she would continue to remain silent. She even promised that she was willing to convert to Judaism together with her two children, and she said that she would give the Jewish wife whatever she would demand as the price of agreeing to a divorce. Then, the Russian woman said, she wanted to travel to another Jewish shtetl and live with her man openly.
The rabbi summoned the Jewish wife and explained to her that she had no choice but to accept the divorce, for the alternative was that the story would become public knowledge, and she and her fine Jewish children would be shamed. [Translator's note: no comment.] The Russian woman gave her a great deal of money with which she would be able to marry off her children very comfortably. And so the first wife agreed to the divorce.
The Russian woman and her children converted to Judaism, and the man married her according to the law of Moshe and Israel. They moved to a small Jewish shtetl where no one knew them, and they lived a Jewish life.
When the Russian woman's father and mother learned of this, they liquidated the factory in Moscow, themselves converted to Judaism, and came to that same shtetl, where they lived with their children and grandchildren.
Finishing this narrative, the Baal Shem Tov told his companions, "The old man was reincarnated into the bole of this tree. When the tree shakes, the old man feels as much pain as if he is being tossed in a heavenly slingshot. When a leaf is torn off--not to mention a twig--he feels the pain of death. Nu! What do you say, holy companions? Certainly, after this old man brought a Jew to true repentance and was the cause of five people converting to Judaism, he should have a rectification. Drink lechaim, and wish him a rectification of the soul in body and spirit."
from Chasidishe Maasiyos
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
Please forgive me as I offer some ideas on the parshah of another week.
I. God declared sentence on man and woman. They were reduced to mortality and condemned to toil and suffering. God finished by telling Adam, "You are dust, and to dust will you return."
It would have been natural for Adam to turn to his wife and see her as the cause of his suffering, the cause of this cataclysm. He could have hated her and called her the mother of death, the mother of suffering. And indeed, our sages do say that woman brought death into the world, as a result of which women to this day do penance by lighting candles on Friday night, and so forth.
Yet the verse that immediately follows is: "And the man called the name of his wife Chavah, for she was the mother of all life."
Adam did not hate Chavah, he did not blame her for his suffering, he did not see in her the mother of death. He accepted God's decree and the new state of reality. He saw that in this reality there would be an advantage that had not before existed: that there would be a chain of human development and offspring. That was the goodness that he saw that had been brought into the world by his wife.
One can say that this swift re-orientation, this swift acceptance of the new reality that God had imposed, without rancor, is teshuvah, penitence: immediately accepting the consequences of one's actions without resentment, and continuing to act in a positive manner.
(PS This would seem to contradict the Sages' comment that Adam only repented after seeing that Kayin's--Cain's--repentance had been accepted by God. Apropos of that, one could argue that Kayin did not repent before God but only expressed anguish because of the punishment he had to suffer, without actually taking responsibility for the crime that he had committed.)
II. We learn that "the man knew Chavah his wife, and she became pregnant and she bore Kayin, and she said, ‘I have acquired a human being with Hashem." The human being she acquired, the commentators agree, was Kayin. But one could question this, since the word for "human being" is ish" which more generally means a grown man.
One could relate this statement of Chava to the statements made by Leah when she bore her children, giving them names that expressed her hope that Yaacov, her husband, would come to love her. (For instance, "Leah grew pregnant and she bore a son, and she called his name Reuven (see-a-son), for she said, ‘for Hashem has seen my suffering, for now my husband will love me.'") Perhaps Chavah was afraid that Adam did not love her, since she was the cause of their suffering. Thus, she said, "I have acquired a man"--I am re-acquiring the love of my man, my husband-- "with Hashem"--with the help of Hashem, who has helped me bear a child. (This explanation contradicts the Sages' statement that Kayin was conceived and born before the eating of the fruit took place.)
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