The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Re'eh 5758 / August 98

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


* Positive Mindfulness
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* Rabbi Nachman's Journey to the Holy Land
-by Hillel Zeitlin
* The Drunkard
-A Yiddish Tale

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

When we elevate matters with our clarity of intent, our awareness continuously expands in the abundance of a superior reality. At that point, our desire--a desire of eternal love, of great love--for the light of the infinite is scented from the eden of life. Then we shall gaze and be illumined.

But if our mindfulness is dislodged and grows impoverished, the face of heaven darkens. Beauty turns to mourning and to barrenness. Then that clarifying process that comes from heaven, which demands the right to play its role, depresses the special mission of humanity. It dulls the light of mindfulness and the complete contents of a full life. This clarifying process, reaching to the root of all being, is a necessity: deeply implanted and flowing without cease. Now, the wellsprings of the flow of life dry up because our hands are feeble in dealing with the supernal Torah.

But everything returns to its light and to its shining life when we engage in supernal repentance filled with knowledge and positive mindfulness, illumined with the light of Torah contained within the wisdom of the Jewish people, which is the inheritance of our patriarchs and which is filled with an eternal glory.

The text of the blessing, "He planted eternal life within us," refers to the oral Torah: in all its levels and in the totality of its beauty.
Oros Hatorah 3:2

by Hillel Zeitlin

Rabbi Nachman's journey to the land of Israel took place in an era when rebbes were traveling to the Holy Land. The first such journey had been taken by Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk, a student and companion of the Maggid of Mezeritch, and a founder of the approach that later developed into Chabad (Lubavitch) Hasidism.

In regard to Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk, all the other students of the Maggid--even the oldest and greatest--viewed him not as their equal but as an outstanding man, second only to the Maggid. Rabbi Mendel was outstanding even in comparison with the original, great rebbes--not only for his brilliance and piety, but also (and most of all) for his extraordinary depth in Hasidic thought, for his deep philosophical comprehension of the foundations of Kabbalah.

One of Rabbi Mendel's companions and students was the genius, tzaddik and remarkable thinker, the founder of Chabad Hasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. He was a companion, for they had both been students of the Maggid of Mezeritch (and after the maggid passed away, they had both for a while been students of his son, Rabbi Avraham the Angel); and he was a student as well after that, traveling to him for a long period.

Rabbi Mendele's approach in Hasidism was carried on by his foremost students, who in a sense were also his companions: Rabbi Boruch of Kosov, Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk and the fore-mentioned Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Rabbi Boruch of Kosov so to speak gave a rationalist cast to the Kabbalah. He explained Hasidism in a way that could be intellectually accepted, speaking of upper worlds, divine names and sefiros as aspects of divine intelligence.

Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk gave a heart to Rabbi Mendele's Hasidism, bringing to it such a measure of clinging to God that out of great emotion his Hasidim used to dance in the street.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman created from his rebbe's approach a grand, mystical-philosophical approach that united simple faith with sharp study and inquiry; fiery clinging to God with calm meditation; broad synthesis with detailed analysis; deep intuition with systematic logic; depths of Kabbalah with the clarity of Maimonidean philosophy; the pathos of prophecy, the lyricism, of Aggadah, the breadth of homiletics, the piety of moral reproof. All this Rabbi Shneur Zalman united in one royal edifice, which he called Chabad (Chochmah, Binah, Daas).

When Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk travelled to the land of Israel, his students wrote him, "With whom have you left us?" He replied by post, "Remaining with you is the beloved of my soul, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. You may rely on him, as you have on me, in all matters of heaven and earth." From that time on, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was the only rebbe in Reisen (White Russia).

Rabbi Shneur Zalman acted as rebbe with the greatest love not only for his Hasidism but for all Jews; with outstanding humility before every individual but with outstanding strength and might when that was needed. He introduced his own emendations in prayer, forcefully organized his Hasidic minyanim, regulated the actions of his Hasidim and, binding himself with them spiritually, helped them in all their troubles, whether spiritual or physical.

As part of his introduction of order in all areas, he wanted to rearrange and organize the collection of funds for the poor of the land of Israel. He was very displeased with the prior arrangement, which was unsupervised and the disbursement of which was unsystematic.

It is now hard to know the innovations he proposed. One thing we do know. At this time, his companion and close friend, Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, was living in the land of Israel. He was considered the stand-in for Rabbi Mendele of Vitebsk, and he considered himself rabbi of the Hasidic community in the Holy Land. He was now very displeased with Rabbi Shneur Zalman's intervention into these financial matters. A number of rebbes took Rabbi Shneur Zalman's side and others took Rabbi Avraham's side. It appears that Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk was opposed as well by the rebbes of Galicia, who were not happy with his approach in general.

Now to return to the journey of Rabbi Nachman to the land of Israel. The two men who were returning to Europe from the land of Israel and who met with Rabbi Nachman and his servant in Istanbul were apparently enthusiastic Hasidim of Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk. They saw a young rebbe travelling to the land of Israel, and when they spoke with his servant, he appeared to be deceptive. They suspected that the young rebbe is travelling in order to wage controversy against Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk. At first, apparently, they thought that he had been sent by Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Later on, when the servant told them that his rebbe is travelling with the permission of the Austrian military, they began to suspect that he was an emissary of the rebbes of Galicia, sent to battle Rabbi Avraham.

from Reb Nachman Braslaver

The Drunkard
a Yiddish tale

There was once a time of great trouble for the Jews, God have mercy. Everyone ran to the holy tzaddik Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh (grandson of the Baal Shem Tov), to beg God to help the Jews.

Rabbi Boruch told a few people, "Go to such-and-such a village, a few miles from here, and find someone whose name is So-and-so and whose father's name is So-and-so." And he admonished them, "Be extremely careful to find that very man." He described him very carefully so that they would be able to find him. Then he told them to speak with him until he explicitly said, "May God remove this trouble from you."

The messengers left Rabbi Boruch, thinking that the man to whom Rabbi Boruch was sending them must surely be a great and famous tzaddik. When they arrived, they asked, "Where does the tzaddik So-and-so live?" But no one knew whom they meant. Instead, people told them, "There is no tzaddik by that name here."

The messengers were very surprised. They knew that their holy Rabbi Boruch would not tell an untruth, heaven forbid. What he said must be true. But still, they didn't know what to do. So then they simply asked if there were anyone in town with that name. Finally, someone told them, "I know that man. He is a total drunkard. What do you need him for? He lies about drunk constantly. He doesn't pray, he doesn't do a thing--all he does is drink. He doesn't even have any idea of what is happening around him."

The messengers went to the drunkard's house. They spoke with his wife and told her that the holy Rabbi Boruch had sent for him. She replied, "My dear Jews, why are you making fun of me? You can see that my husband is a drunkard. He is lying there, drunk. Why would the holy rabbi contact him?" She told them that her husband had once been a very wealthy person. But then he took to drink and grew very poor. And now he gets drunk and goes to sleep, and when he wakes up he gets drunk again until he lies down again. "And that is what he has been doing for the last few months. So if you want to speak to him, you must wait for the moment that he wakes up. The moment he does so, before he starts to drink again, you should talk to him. If you miss that moment, he'll get drunk again."

The messengers were astonished. They asked what kind of person he had been before he became a drunkard. But they heard nothing good that would help them understand why he was capable of bringing about heavenly redemption. Still, out of their great faith in Rabbi Boruch, they went to the drunkard and waited for him to wake up, so that they could get him to say the words that Rabbi Boruch had mentioned. As soon as the drunkard woke up, he grabbed a bottle of vodka. The messengers took hold of his hand and told him that the tzaddik, Rabbi Boruch, had sent them to him with the message that he would say that the bitter decree should be lifted from the Jews.

The drunkard replied, "First, I will have a little bit to drink." The messengers told him, "We will not let you have anything to drink until you decree that a redemption must be sent from heaven."

The drunkard told them, "May God in His great mercy remove this evil from you, and leave me alone."

And so the messengers immediately returned to Mezhibozh. They had taken note of the exact time the drunkard had said those words. And when they returned, they realized that at that moment, the evil had been rescinded. The messengers were astonished, and they did not understand.

They came to the holy Rabbi Boruch and told him, "Rebbe, this matter is very wondrous to us. That man is a coarse drunkard. We asked about him as he is today and as he used to be, and no one had anything good to say. He can barely pray, he never prays to the end. But we saw how he made a decree and it was carried out. What is this all about?"

The holy Rabbi Boruch told them, "I will tell you the power of a mitzvah." And he told them the following story:

This man was once a great businessman. He had a large store with merchandise, and he was an uncommonly distinguished man. Once he had dealings with a great baroness, a widow. He pleased her because he was very handsome, and she told him, "I want you to be my husband. What good is your wife to you? I am a great baroness. You will have all my towns and villages, and you will receive the respect of important government officials. They will treat you as a baron, and you will be even greater than they, because of your intelligence."

The man promised the baroness that he would marry her. But first, he said, she should make a great ball to which she should invite many barons and dukes, so that they would know him as a great baron. The baroness agreed to do this, and so they prepared the day of the ball.

In brief, the drunkard got ready to marry the baroness, for he very much wanted that empty honor, heaven help us.

On the day of the ball, he came to the baroness's estate, and he and all the officials celebrated an entire day and night, until the new day began. In the morning, he wandered through the estate, looking over everything like the new master, until he heard sighs and groans. He went to a room where he found some people, and asked them what the problem was. They told him that they were Jews who had been imprisoned as debtors. They had been imprisoned a long time, and now they were to be killed, for no reason.

The man had great pity on these prisoners. He hurried to the baroness and told her that on this day of their great joy he does not want to hear any groans, so she should free the prisoners and forgive their debts. The baroness told him, "You can do whatever you want, because from now on, everything belongs to you." So he provided each prisoner with a wagon and horse, and sent them home with adequate provisions for the way.

Once this man had performed the great mitzvah of ransoming prisoners from death, the mitzvah began to burn in his heart. He began to think: "What am I about to do here? To live with a non- Jewish woman and subject myself to gehinnom? Heaven forbid! I will not commit such a great sin." And he took a horse and carriage and escaped from there without having sinned.

So when this man performed these two great mitzvos of ransoming prisoners from death and repenting whole-heartedly, it was decreed in the heavenly court that whatever he decrees should be obeyed in heaven.

This led to a great commotion in the heavenly court. The attribute of severity spoke against him because of his bad conduct in genera. And so it was decided that he should become a drunkard so that he will not know what is needed in the world and interfere with the decrees of the heavenly court.

The holy Rabbi Boruch concluded, "It is indeed very dangerous to go to this man and ask him to nullify the decrees of heaven, God forbid. But this was a matter that could have affected all Jews, and therefore I had to send you to him."

From this story, we can learn how great the power of even one mitzvah is, and help us attain everything good. May God help us in His great mercy to carry out mitzvos and good deeds. from Maaseh Tzaddikim (unpaginated)

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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