The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 28
Shvi'i shel Pesach, April 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
*GOD'S FIRST THOUGHT
*THE BAAL SHEM TOV IN ISTANBUL
*THE HOLINESS OF ISRAEL
*THE LOVE OF ALL BEINGS
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
"Israel was God's first thought [when He created the universe]" (as the Sages state).
[God's] first intent was that Israel would exist, a holy people in every generation.
Thus, God (so to speak) constricted His bright light [to create Israel]. This is like a father who constricts his mind in order to speak about small matters with his young child. Then all sorts of traits–youthful activities–are produced within the father, who loves the activity of youth so that [his] son may have pleasure, and also so that he should be pleasing to [his son].
Past and present are equal before God. And so He took pleasure in the acts of holy [Israel even before Creation. That is why He] constricted Himself [to create the world and Israel].
This constriction is called "wisdom," a wisdom of "Nothingness" [in terms of our comprehension]. "Wisdom, from where will you find it?" (Iyov 28:12). "From where," mei'ayin, can be translated as "from Nothingness."
[God] constricted Himself for the sake of Israel. [His] love brought this constriction about. As the verse states, "These are the generations of Yitzchak... Avraham fathered Yitzchak" (Breishit 25:19). [The creation of the world came from constriction (represented by Yitzchak). Love (represented by Avraham) fathered that constriction.]
source: I misplaced it! (some phrases of the translation were from memory)
by Avraham Stern
[In Stambul,] the Baal Shem Tov did not reveal his identity, and so he suffered great poverty.
Shortly before Passover, his daughter Adel went to the sea shore, where she washed the laundry of her father, R. Hirsch and herself for Passover. She recalled the great spiritual delight that she had felt at the Passover seders in Mezshibezsh, when her father's table had been attended by the greatest tzaddikim of the generation, men who possessed divine inspiration. And here they were alone and isolated. They had no matzah shmurah, no kosher wine, nor any of the other necessities of Passover. Against her will, tears streamed from her eyes.
At that moment, God's Providence sent a fine Jew of Stambul, a wealthy and very hospitable man, her way. He had come to the port to buy fish for Passover for himself and his guests, and there he noticed Adel's hot, quiet tears. He asked her why she was crying. She told him that her father and R. Hirsch are two great, eminent rabbis from Poland, yet here they had nothing. The wealthy man immediately gave her a large sum of money, as well as a visitor's pass, and he also invited the three of them to his house. He said that they could move to his house that very day. He would give each of them a separate room and new clothes for the holiday, as well as matzah shmurah and kosher wine. And they could stay with him not only over the holiday but for as long as they stayed in Stambul.
The Baal Shem Tov accepted the invitation. On the eve of Passover, after biur chametz, the burning of the leaven, the Baal Shem Tov immersed himself in a kosher mikveh in honor of the purity of the holiday. He requested that their host allow him to pray minchah (the afternoon service) in his room by himself, while the host went to the synagogue with his family and guests, because, he said, he wanted to lie down and rest before the seder. When the host would return from synagogue, he should wake the Baal Shem Tov. Then he would recite the evening prayers and join everyone else at the seder.
When the host returned from the synagogue and entered the Baal Shem Tov's room to wake him, he grew very frightened, for he saw his guest lying with his eyes glazed over, groaning with deep cries torn from his heart, and his lips trembling. The host quickly called in the Baal Shem Tov's daughter, Adel, and his student, R. Hirsch. They had to tell him the truth: that his guest is the Baal Shem Tov, and that this is no simple sleep but an ascent of the soul. (The Baal Shem Tov's soul was now in heaven, in the upper worlds.) Their host bent down to the Baal Shem Tov's lips and heard him repeating over and over again, "To He Who performs great wonders alone, His mercy is forever" (Tehillim).
The host delayed the seder and waited for the Baal Shem Tov. When the Baal Shem Tov awakened, he recited the evening prayers and began to lead the seder. Before Hallel, the Baal Shem Tov interrupted the reading of the Haggadah and told everyone at the table what had just now taken place in the sultan's palace. The chief vizier had denounced the Jews. This had so powerfully affected the sultan that he had taken off his royal signet ring and given it to the vizier. The vizier, a terrible anti-Semite, used it to immediately write and seal a decree expelling the Jews from all of the sultan's lands.
From heaven, the Baal Shem Tov had been informed of this cruel decree at minchah time. He prayed, and afterwards his soul ascended to heaven and cried out in the upper worlds until the decree was lifted.
However, in this world events must follow a natural course. The sultan felt deep regret about the cruel decrees against the Jews that–he was certain–the great vizier had promulgated in his name. So he secretly took counsel with his mother, the wife of the previous sultan (his father). She advised him to create an uproar in the court and claim that his signet ring had been stolen, and suspicion would naturally fall upon the chief vizier. The ring would of course be found in his possession, and he would immediately be hanged. The sultan would then be able to tear up all the decrees that the chief vizier had sealed with the allegedly stolen ring. And no one would ever know that the sultan himself had previously agreed to this and only later changed his mind (for knowledge of this would have impinged upon the sultan's honor). The sultan did so immediately, and–thank God–God had already sent His help, and the decree had just now been torn up.
After telling this, the Baal Shem Tov recited Hallel and finished the Haggadah with great joy.
After the chief vizier was hanged and his decree of expulsion was torn up, the sultan's royal mother summoned Stambul's monthly parnas, or Jewish representative to the government, and told him about the miracles that God had performed for the Jews, entirely without their knowledge and effort. The parnas thanked her and blessed her son, the sultan. She told him to go home and finish the seder.
At that time, if a Jew was taken from his seder to the government--in particular, if the community leader was taken to the sultan's court--the Jews would grow terrified, for this might presage a blood libel. So it can be understood that the parnas's family immediately informed the rabbi and all the community leaders about the sudden, midnight summons of the parnas to the sultan's court. Later, when the parnas came home unmolested and concluded the seder with great joy, it was too late to inform the rabbi and the community leaders.
Due to his great terror and then his new, unexpected joy, the parnas slept late. The rabbi and community leaders impatiently awaited him at the synagogue. When he at last arrived, he asked the rabbi to begin the morning services immediately, in order not to delay the prayers any further, and said that before Hallel he would tell them of God's miracles.
But the man who was hosting the Baal Shem Tov asked that he be allowed to tell the story.
The parnas asked him in surprise, "How do you know the story about my secret visit to the sultan's court?"
The host replied, "I learned about it from my holy guest, in the merit of whose prayers all of this took place." From then on, the Baal Shem Tov was revealed in Stambul.
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
A person who is aware of the holiness of Israel, who knows the spiritual level that they come from and the spirituality and fineness of a Jew, knows that Israel is totally distant from sin. Sin has absolutely nothing to do with them.
The essence of compassion is to pity Israel, the holy nation, and bring them forth from the heavy burden of sins.
Likutei Moharan II 7:3
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
The love of all beings precedes everything else. Afterwards comes the love of all human beings; after that, the love of Israel. [The love of Israel] includes everything, for Israel is destined to rectify all beings. All these types of love are love expressed in action: to love these beings, to do good for them and to lift them up.
Higher than everything else is the love of God, a fully developed love. This love in itself does not draw anything else after itself, except that the heart is filled with it, which is the highest happiness.
Men's study group: Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim ("Spiritual Training"), step-by-step guidebook on how to develop an awareness of our souls and of God, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe), Sunday night. For information, call (410) 358-8771.
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