The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 43

Tammuz 5759 June 99

Translations and original material copyright (c) 1998 by Yaacov
Dovid Shulman (unless otherwise noted)


* Torah Scholars Whose Learning is Their Occupation
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Rebbetzin of Volozhin
-by Rabbi Meir Berlin

* Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
-by Hillel Zeitlin

* Out of the Night
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Torah scholars whose learning is their occupation must see to it that their path lies correctly before them and that their goal is clear, so that their spirit may be strong and their mind quiet, calm and settled. How great is the exalted principle, "You are not required to finish, yet neither are you absolved of the work." Therefore, there is not such a great need to visualize self-encouragement in your Torah-learning service that involves embracing the totality of its knowledge.

This can calm your heart, so that you may learn every topic with a confident and quiet spirit, undisturbed by other things or by worrying in general about attaining total knowledge, which is impossible. Instead, you find your own personal service acceptable.

Nevertheless, you must pave a path for yourself upon which you can still see the complete circumference [of the Torah].

In ideology, you must gain clarity about your purpose and the purpose of your desire in your Torah-learning service of God. Also, in practical learning, you must yearn to encompass and incorporate the complete sum of the entire practical teachings that are in the Torah's practical aspect--as far as you can.

People customarily say that the Torah has no end. In regard to its practical aspect, that is true only within certain parameters--for really, it is possible, when a person goes on a straight path, to attain a total and clear embrace of the entire practical aspect of the Torah.

Those who are great need no explanation for this. But those of middle rank need help, after they arrive at the measure of competent understanding of the depth of halachah, in knowing the form of halachah in a straight and proper way, [which they gain] by serving Torah scholars in correct measure, until they know how to study any Talmudic discussion properly, and how to question and answer in accordance with the path of Torah in the give and take of halachah. Then their main effort must be, first and foremost, to encompass all the halachos of the Rif in their simple meaning, with competent breadth of knowledge. The attainment of this is made much easier by a calm steadfastness.

This service is very sweet in itself, as well as a pleasurable vision that is close to the goal of total encompassing , knowing the complete sum of all the halachos--according to how very close [their study is] to their source in the Talmud in general. Only through the gathering of all the details will the great beauty of the glorious building of the entire practical Torah stand before your eyes.

When you proceed in this fashion every day, continuously, you will add study-times dedicated to an overall mastery of the written Torah, and you will spend set aside times every day for acquiring the wisdom of the aggadah, midrash, ethical works, philosophy and Kabbalah, in proper proportion, and a breadth of time for independent thought, in order to broaden good sensibilities, as well as your set time for learning Talmud quickly every day, and as well as occasional times for clarifying the depth of halachah broadly and engaging in sharp analysis of various topics, in order to broaden your mind and study in-depth, which is crucial for all those who seek the Torah.

When you acquire an encompassing expertise in the halachos of the Rif, there will be born within you the desire to know the halachos clearly.

You will learn a great deal of Talmud (Babylonian and Jerusalem), Toseftas and all the words of the Sages, out of an inner recognition of the need for breadth and clarity. The essence of your service must always be in broad learning of the foundations of the halachos and the essentials of the words of Torah, until the perfection of knowledge in all the areas and details will make your awareness whole in all other matters that a person needs. And at that point, people will be inspired by your advice and counsel.

When you proceed in this way, you will also be able to set fixed times for acquiring the wisdom and knowledge that are useful to a person in this world, which broaden the circumference of your knowledge and give you the courage to face the necessities of life. Then you will be pleasing to others and you will find grace in the eyes of God and man.

Oros Hatorah 9:3

by Rabbi Meir Berlin (son of the Netziv)

The degree to which the yeshiva as a whole and the yeshiva students individually understood my mother's dedication became clear when one time she grew terribly ill. The situation was critical. The greatest doctors from the region were summoned. In addition, a famous specialist came from Minsk.

Many family members also came, and they all had one concern, one request and one prayer: that the rebbetzin should grow well. Then the yeshiva students came to my father with the request that he allow them to recite Tehillim for her. My father did not allow it. He said that learning was more important, and that one could not abrogate communal Torah learning for any reason whatsoever. But when the students' agents [fartreter] stood firm in their belief that at this time they must pray for her, they received permission to do so: but only for a quarter of an hour. And as soon as the fifteen minutes were up, my father himself gave a sign to resume learning. It appears that this recital of Tehillim and these prayers roused all worlds--not only this world. She grew better and, despite the [apzagachz] prognoses of the doctors that "she could not continue to live," she again grew alive and active.

And the joy of the people when they heard of her recovery was very great.

The respect [farerung] and great attention that my mother received from all those who were connected with the yeshiva, as well as from those who had a spiritual relationship with Volozhin, made themselves apparent not only there but also wherever she lived after the yeshiva was closed, until her last hour in Jerusalem--and then, even afterwards. In the land of Israel too, her intelligence, piety and goodness streamed forth, and her love and joy in every aspect of the rebuilding of the land of Israel was as great as her dedication to the Torah. She understood Torah as did the greatest people, as well as the land of Israel in general, which is [bei der tzeit] the foundation of the Torah.

from Fun Volozhin biz Yerushalayim

by Hillel Zeitlin

In this way [as mentioned in the last installment], Rabbi Hirsch dared to act as an equal to Rabbi Boruch--a man who interpreted the verse, "may I be counted [PKD] amongst the righteous [tzaddikim]" as "may I be the commanding officer [PaKiD] of the spiritual leaders [tzaddikim]."

Rabbi Hirsch thus no doubt imagined that when the young Rabbi Nachman would come to him, he would be very impressed by Rabbi Hirsch's visions and dream ascents. When Rabbi Nachman did come to Rabbi Hirsch on his return from Neshkhiz and spent a Shabbos with him, Rabbi Hirsch constantly spoke of visions: he saw something this way, he saw something else another way, he saw angels and seraphim. And at eery meal, he told stories about the heavenly "Chariot." Rabbi Nachman listened to all this and remained silent. When Shabbos was over, after Havdalah, Rabbi Hirsch entered Rabbi Nachman's room and again began pressing him about his visions. "If you want, I will give you clear proof that my visions are genuine." And he began a long Torah discourse on the subject. But Rabbi Nachman answered him curtly with the Talmudic statement (Megillah 24b), "Many have desired to see the Chariot, but have never succeeded in doing so."

It was this sort of sharpness that gained Rabbi Nachman many opponents amongst the great rebbes of his time, an opposition that continued to grow. And as it did, Rabbi Nachman's defense grew as well, until it crossed the line into attack. And when Rabbi Nachman's attacks grew--particularly when there were (as there are in every generation, unfortunately), those who foment contention, who love slander and who repeat gossip, and these men would convey Rabbi Nachman's sharp words to his opponents (and theirs to him) in an exaggerated, twisted, transformed and embroidered form, tzugericht [?] with outright lies--the opposition that Rabbi Nachman had borne from a few great rebbes turned to hatred.

This hatred, which embittered Rabbi Nachman's life, will be discussed in following chapters. Here we will only quote a few statements that Rabbi Nachman made regarding his own greatness, which could very easily be interpreted as denigration of other rebbes, and so as a provocation.

from Reb Nachman Braslaver

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Out of the night,
Out of the call of the celebratory beasts,
Out of the fire that is glowing darkly at the peak of the mountain,
From the suffering that clamps your heart in tongs,
From the worm that pierces dead flesh,
From a constricted throat from which no word emerges,
Emerges the sound of the shofar.
From this is time created,
From this the pre-dawn man gains intellect,
Which is song.
Clustering about you are the protective fathers,
They watch you bring forth a feathered newness.
The limbs of your body are shouting Torah,
A line of light illuminates the dawn of the mountains
Of your circumference.
"This is the day for which we have hoped."
We pierce the Sabbath with the needle called now, called joy.

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