The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Sh'lach 5758 / June 20, 1998


* The Voice of the Living God
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* "I Shall Be Like Dew for Israel"
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
* You are Capable of Perception
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* The Beggar Who Was Very Old and Very Young
-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

A profound recognition of the divine purpose within the Torah, as well as within prophecy and holy inspiration in general, brings our thought to observe their unity. We realize that the Pentateuch encompasses the other writings of the Bible, and that the Pentateuch in its supernal holiness is enveloped within the voice of the living God.

As long as our soul lives, we heed and hear this great voice, which penetrates all of the Torah.

Throughout all its generations, the people of Israel has recognized this great principle of the oneness of the Torah. We cling to that with all our heart and spirit. We know that God's Torah is perfect. We know that the essence of our unified soul wells from this true Torah's unified light, that the light of the one God appears within us with a clarifying prominence: black fire upon white fire.

And we attribute all of our original nature to this living source. We are certain that this is a tower of strength for us. We know that the entire Torah is merely one name of the Holy One, blessed be He: one name, one expression, one statement, with none else, for everything is contained within Him.

Orot Hatorah 4:1

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

When the vessels of the mishkan were stored by the cohanim, they were for the most part placed in a double wrapping. The inner wrapping was a wool cover dyed blue, and the outer wrapping was the hide of the "tachash."

The Ramban explains that the tachash was placed on the outside to protect the object from the elements.

However, the central object of the mishkan, the aron kodesh, was wrapped differently. It was first wrapped in the curtain that usually hung vertically, hiding it in its special chamber. Then it was covered with the tachash hide, and over the tachash hide, the blue wool was placed. The Ramban explains that in this case, the blue-dyed wool was open to sight, for the blue was reminiscent of "the essence of the heavens for purity."

The mishkan structure, the Ramban teaches elsewhere, was a recreation of the Mt. Sinai experience. Here, the Ramban's use of the phrase, "the essence of the heavens for purity," is taken from the episode in which God's presence appeared to the elders at Mt. Sinai.

On the one hand, the ark is the most hidden of all the artifacts of the mishkan. Yet on the other hand, in transit it is the most ostentatious. Even though it is covered in a triple seal, it exhibits its heavenly purity.

"And it was on the day that Moshe completed setting up the mishkan" (Bamidbar 7:1). The word "completed," "kalos," is related to the word kalah, or bride. Moshe himself was first king of Israel. The sages teach that "chasan domeh limelech" (Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer)--a bridegroom is like a king. The relationship of Moshe and the completed mishkan was that of a bride and groom.

The aron kodesh symbolizes marriage: its content is to be kept hidden, yet its purity is to shine forth.

"Chasan domeh limelech--a bridegroom is like a king." Why is that?

The sages teach (Chagigah) that there are three things that one should not stare at: the cohanim when they bless the people in the beis hamikdash, a rainbow and a king. It is said of all three that God's presence rests upon them. God's presence rested upon the outstretched hands of the cohanim as they pronounced God's name. His presence rests upon the rainbow, for it is the sign of the covenant between Him and humanity. And His presence rests upon a leader, as in the verse, "You have placed Your majesty upon him."

By blessing the people of Israel, the cohanim would create a connection of peace between the Jewish people and God. The cohanim in general are emblematic of peace. The leader of the cohanim, Aharon, was known as a paradigm of a man who "loves peace and pursues peace."

And the rainbow is a sign of peace and reconciliation between God and the human race. It is God's commitment not to destroy humanity after the great Flood.

Perhaps this theme can be applied to the king as well. The role of the king is to create and maintain peace amongst his subjects, to create stability and peace for his nation amidst other nations and also, as leader of his nation, to create peace between the Jews and God.

Perhaps this indicates why a bridegroom is similar to a king. The bridegroom's role in his new relationship is also to create peace with his bride.

There are two ways to experience this world: one is through triviality, through confusion and delusion. This was the view of the ten spies who brought back an evil report about the land, and of the Jews who listened to them. The spies brought back the extraordinary fruit of the Promised Land and displayed it before the people. But then they began to malign the land. And rather than be aware of what they were seeing, the people listened to the slander of the spies, and interpreted the gift of the land of Israel according to that interpretation.

Calev stood before the people and called out, "Has!" "Silence!" In the plain meaning of the term, he was silencing their complaint. But one might also say that he was calling for internal silence--for a true silence from the false, trivial and misleading interpretations of this world.

These interpretations sully the awareness of newness. They tarnish life and make everything old. Sometimes they are a stream of triviality. Sometimes they are a stream of negativity.

The ten spies and those who heeded them were afraid to make changes. They were caught within lack of flexibility and egotism. Because they were inflexible, they could not deal with impending change. Because they were self-centered, they could not fully convey a blessing.

The Gemara in Chagigah discusses at length a man who could no longer see with the eyes that can see beyond distortion: Acher, the "other," who descended to earth after his mystical experience in the Pardes denying God's unique sovereignty. Rabbi Meir, Acher's student, never left Acher, and always attempted to sway him to return to God.

One time, Rabbi Meir quoted a verse referring to vessels of gold and vessels of glass, comparing both to a Torah scholar. "What does this mean?" he asked Acher.

Acher replied, "Just as gold is difficult to acquire, so is the wisdom of Torah difficult to acquire. And just as glass can be easily shattered, so may a Torah scholar be easily spoiled."

"This is not what your teacher, Rabbi Akiva, told you," Rabbi Meir replied. "He taught that just as broken gold and glass vessels can be repaired, so can a spoiled Torah scholar be rectified."

The marriage ceremony traditionally begins with gold and concludes with glass. It begins with the giving of the gold ring and ends with the shattering of a glass cup.

Those who have despaired of change cannot see a transcendental reality that provides solutions. But the view of those who look at things in the light of Torah--for Rabbi Meir's name means "illumination"--see only possibilities for rectification.

When the chumash describes the service of the Levites, it several times uses a phrase that contains two words: "service" and "carrying." And in several instances, the order of these two words alternates. The sages teach that the word "service" refers to the music of the Levites. And the "carrying" refers to their carrying the objects of the mishkan when the camp of Israel was in transit.

The work of the Levites was not only this-worldly: carrying heavy objects. Their service was as well transcendental: bringing down the song, the music that links us to a higher reality. And in the consciousness of that music, the carrying itself was transformed. The sages say that the objects of the mishkan actually carried the Levites.

"Vayachulu hashamayim vahaaretz." On the seventh day of creation, the heavens and earth were completed. The word "completed," "vayachulu," is cognate to the word kalah--bride. A man without a wife, the sages teach, is a man without joy, without Torah, and not complete. The completion of the universe marked a transcendent nexus with heaven called Shabbos. So is it within a man's private life, in his private nexus, his individual balance of heaven and earth.

"I shall be like dew for Israel, which shall blossom like a rose. Its roots shall strike forth like [the forest of] Levanon" (Hoshea 14:6).

The rose of Israel--Shoshanas Yaacov--is fructified by the dew of heaven, by the transcendent. Then its earthly side as well, comprised of its roots, is connected to heaven, like the verdant forest of Lebanon--for Lebanon is, the sages say, one of the terms used to describe the Beis Hamikdash: the recreation of the Mt. Sinai experience and the ultimate meeting-place of heaven and earth.

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

It may be that you cannot visualize the subtle aspect of those exalted topics dealt with in the secrets of Torah and in all mystical concepts. Still, your general feeling and spiritual refinement are capable of perception. This comes as a result of your wisdom-giving soul's essential recognition and the sense of faith rooted within your spirit.

You may only need to use your intellect to purify concepts, so that they will not mislead you, contradicting clear awareness and the pure recognitions of refined faith. Then spiritual impressions will remain with you as thoughts that uplift your spirit and raise it to a supernal divine sphere, a sphere that is the source of soulful happiness and brightness for both the individual and the community.

Orot Hatorah 10:6

by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

"Here I am," the blind beggar called out to the young, newly-wed couple. "When I came to your wedding, I wished you to be as old as I am. But today I am giving this to you as an outright gift.

"You think that I am blind. I am not blind at all. But to me, all the time of the world is not worth an eye-blink." (That is, he appears to be blind because he does not look at the world, for the entire world is not worth an eye-blink to him.) "I am very old, but I am very young. And I have not even begun to live. Yet I am very old.

"And not only I say this, but I have testimony to this effect from the great eagle.

"I will tell you a story:
Once, people sailed on the sea on many ships. A storm came and broke the ships. The people were saved, and they went to a tower. When they entered the tower, they found all sorts of food, drink, clothing and whatever else they needed. They had everything good there, all the pleasures in the world. They decided that everyone should tell an old story that he called from his earliest memory.

There were young and old people there. They asked the oldest person among them to speak first.

He said to them, "What shall I tell you? I remember when the apple was cut from the branch."

No one understood what he meant.

But the wise men who were there said, "Indeed, this is a very old story."

The next-oldest man then spoke. "Is that an old story?" he said. "I remember that, and I also remember when the light was burning."

The people exclaimed, "This is an even older story than the first one!"

They were very surprised that the second man should recall an older story than the first man did.

Then they asked the third-oldest man to speak.v He said, "I even remember when the fruit began to form and became be a fruit."

The people said, "This story is even older."

Then the fourth oldest man spoke. "I even remember when the seed was planted to form the fruit."

The fifth-oldest man said, "I even remember the wise men who thought up the seed."

The sixth-oldest man said, "I even remember the taste of the fruit before the taste entered the fruit."

The seventh man then said, "I even remember the fragrance of the fruit before the fragrance entered the fruit."

The eighth man then said, "I even remember the appearance of the fruit before the appearance entered the fruit."

I was there as well--at that time, I was still a child. I said, "I remember all these stories, and I remember nothing." The people said, "This is a very old story, the oldest of them all."

They were very surprised that this child remembers more than anyone else.

Meanwhile, the great eagle came, and knocked at the tower. He told the people, "Stop being poor. Return to your riches! Use your wealth!" He promised them that they would leave the tower in order of age, the oldest leaving first.

He took them all out of the tower.

He first called me out, because I was really the oldest of them all. He took the youngest ones out first, and he took out the oldest man last; for whoever was younger was older (and thus remembered the older story).

The oldest man was the youngest of them all.

The great eagle said to them, "I will explain to you all of the stories that everyone told.

"One person told that he still remembers when the apple was cut from the branch. He means that he even remembers when his umbilical cord was cut.

"The next man, who told that he even remembers when the light was burning, means that he remembers when he was a fetus, where a light shone over his head (for the Talmud tells that when the child is in the mother's belly, a light shines over his head).

"The person who told that he remembers when the fruit began to form means that he remembers when his body began to form."

"The one who remembers when the seed was brought to plant the fruit means that he remembers how the drop of semen was drawn down.

"The man who remembers the wise men who thought up the seed means that he remembers when the drop of semen was still in the mind.

"The man who remembers the taste--that is the nefesh, the soul's lowest level.

"He who remembers the fragrance--this is the ruach, the soul's middle level.

"And the appearance--this is the neshamah, the soul's upper level.

"The child who said that he remembers nothing is greater than all of them. He remembers even what existed before these three levels of the soul.

"That is why he said that he remembers nothing--he remembers when nothing existed, which is the very highest level."

The great eagle told the people, "Go back to your ships. They are your bodies that were broken. They will be rebuilt. Today, go back to them."

And he blessed them.

And to me, the blind beggar, he said, "You come with me, because you are like me. Like me, you are very old and very young. You have not even begun to live, but you are nevertheless very old. And I am the same, for I too am very old and yet very young."

Today I give you an outright wedding gift that you should be as old as I am."

There was great joy there, and they were very happy.

excerpt from The Seven Beggars, Sipurei Maasiyos, p. 198

All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

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