The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume V, Issue 17

Shemot 5761 January 2001

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright 2000 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (


* Greatness and Bookishness
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* A Thousand Nights
-by Avraham Stern

* The Kvittel (Part II)
-by Menashe Unger

* Four Lenses
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Those who are truly great find within themselves an opposition to bookishness, for everything lives within them and pours forth from their spirit, and they must always be delving into their inner spirit. For them, the aspect of scholarship is merely an aid and of secondary importance.

The essential thing in their approach to perfection is their own Torah (Kiddushin 32b). "In his Torah, he will learn day and night": [in his own Torah, which comes from within him].

Sometimes, a person does not know his worth. He turns his back on his own Torah and wants to be a scholar--out of convention or out of some scholastic interpretation [of a teaching], such as "Inquire, and receive reward."

It is then that the oppression of the descent begins to darken the world of such great, but weak, individuals.

Arpelei Tohar, p. 61

by Avraham Stern

After the great maggid, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch, passed away, Rabbi Shlomo took a position as maggid in Sekul (near Lemberg). In that town, there lived a brilliant rabbi who was opposed to the Hasidic movement. This rabbi supported his son-in-law, a young genius (this support was known as kest), who lived in his house. This son-in-law was so pious that he had attained a measure of divine insight. And thus he realized that the maggid Rabbi Shlomo was a hidden tzaddik.

The son-in-law used to learn with his father-in-law two times a day with his father-in-law: once in the early evening, and the other before the morning prayers. He now persuaded his young wife that at bed time she should let him down through their bedroom window into the street. And then he would secretly go to learn the wisdom of the kabbalah from the maggid, until the time that his father-in-law would be knocking at his door to summon him to their early morning learning.

The son-in-law conducted himself in this fashion for several years, until a thousand nights passed during which he did not sleep at all. And then he attained an open divine inspiration.

In his old age, the Sekuler maggid became famous when he published the great maggid's works, Ohr Torah and Maggid Devarav L'Yaacov, as well as his own, Divras Shlomo. After he passed away, the son-in-law, Rabbi Shalom, accepted a rabbinical post in Belz (which was near Sekul), and there he openly became a Hasid--a student of the rebbe of Lublin, Rabbi Yaacov Yitzchak Ish Horowitz (the Seer).

After the rebbe of Lublin passed away, Rabbi Shalom traveled to Rabbi Uri (who was known as the Seraph, the Angel) in Strelisk.

Rabbi Shalom, now the Belzer rabbi, had a habit of making unusual movements and outcries. As he sat at Rabbi Uri's tisch (ceremonial, public meal), he made such a movement and cried out, "Oy, Tatte!"-- "Oh, Father in heaven!"

The Strelisker gave a roar, as was his custom, and yelled out in Aramaic, "And maybe He is not your father?"

Rabbi Shalom understood that Rabbi Uri still had lessons to teach him before he could complete his service of God. And so he remained in Strelisk for an entire year.

Afterwards, he returned home to Belz perfect in all things, and he was revealed as a leader of Israel, rectifying souls and helping people wondrously. And from him descends the famous Belz family.

Chasidishe Maasiyos, 18

by Menashe Unger

In some rebbe's courts, there was a custom that the old kvittlech were put in the rebbe's ohel, or mausoleum.

The Hasidim who came from the Ropshitzer line had the custom of writing their names in a "Book of Life" before Rosh Hashanah. Each Hasid wrote his name, his mother's name, and the names of his wife and children. The rebbe held this "Book of Life" and looked into it before the blowing of the shofar and before Kol Nidrei.

Ta'amei Haminhagim (I, p. 82, paragraph 694) cites this custom, and calls it a "klalus tzetl," a general tzettel. And it gives the following explanation (cited from Mifalos Sapirim, in the name of Zohar Breishis). When Elisha the prophet asked Shunamis if she wished to speak to the king (that is, the King of the universe), she replied, "In the midst of my people do I dwell." That is to say, she wished to be united with all Jews. This alludes to the idea that on the Day of Judgement a person's name must be written into an all-inclusive tzettl.

Divrei Dovid tells that one time a great many people came to the Tshortkov rebbe. A great crowd of men holding kvittlech stood before the rebbe. One of those close to the rebbe advised him to sit longer so that he would be able to read through all the kvittlech. The Tshortkover rebbe answered him, "Now I will take the advice of the old Apter rebbe, the Oheiv Yisrael. One time, the Apter rebbe had many kvittlech before Rosh Hashanah. He took all of them and put them in his two pockets. He put his two hands on the pockets and said, I bless all the people mentioned in these kvittlech in my pockets with children, long life, and good income for a good year." I remember that before the First World War, when the old Belzer rebbe was in Vienna, Jews gave him many kvittlech. The gabbai, Rabbi Aharon Yehoshua, gathered all the kvitlech in a sack and said that the rebbe would bless them all together.

There was also a custom that when a rebbe was ill, telegrams were sent to other rebbes, mentioning him with his mother's name. And afterwards a kvittel was sent out. My father, of blessed memory, who was himself a Hasidic rebbe in Zshabne, and who was married into the family of the Sanzer rabbi, Rabbi Aryeh Leibush Halbershtam (my brother, R. Yisraelke, of blessed memory, who passed away before the Second World War, was a son-in-law of Rabbi Halbershtam), would every year secretly send a kvittel to the old Tshortkover rebbe with the Zshabner prapenatar, R. Zalman Salpeter, who was a Tshortkover Hasid. (He did this secretly, for at one time Sanz had a sharp disagreement with Sadigure and the other Rizhiner offspring.)

R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, p. 369-371

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

"Do not be dismissive of any man, for each man has his hour" (Pirkei Avot 4:3).

The Tiferes Yisroel explains this to mean that since God made man in His image, we should not dismiss anyone, no matter how insignificant he may seem. Even if the person is wicked, even if he persecutes religious Jews, we should still not be dismissive of him. There are two reasons for this. The first is that he may repent and do good for the Jews. But even if he does not repent, since God is keeping him alive, he must be contributing in some way to the completion of God's plan.

These constitute two approaches to the attitude one should have towards evil people.

There is a third approach, which is articulated by Rav Kook. Rav Kook not only tolerated such people or took them seriously, as in the models of the Tiferes Yisroel, but he often found the good in them, considering that they were expressing high ideals according to their best understanding, even if the result was destructive. (In a similar vein, the Ishbitzer discovered the positive intent in the sinfl actions of Biblical figures such as Korach and Zimri.)

There is a fourth perspective as well. From our human vantage-point, we must take a moral stand, defending what we believe to be right and opposing what we believe to be wrong and destructive. "May wrong-doers be eliminated from the land" (Tehillim).

All four perspectives are true, and it is possible to maintain all of them simultaneously. A midrash tells that when the Jews crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptians were drowned, the angels wished to sing, but God silenced them, telling them, "How can you sing when My creatures have been drowned?" Yet at the same time, the Jews were ecstatically singing "Az Yashir." Why didn't God tell them to be silent as well? We have been created as human beings who must take an active role in fighting evil. We rejoice when that evil is eradicated--even as we may realize, from another perspective, that that too is a loss.

Beyond these four attitudes, Rabbi Nachman teaches that judging evil people positively has a utilitarian effect: it can lead them to improve themselves. "Judge everyone favorably," he teaches. "Search for even a little bit of goodness. In that little bit of goodness, that person isn't bad. When you do this, you can raise him from guilt to merit. You can bring him to repentance. Even if someone is bad, how is it possible that he doesn't have at least a little bit of good? How could it be that he never did something good?" (Likkutei Moharan 282).

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