The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

Shoftim 5758 / August 98

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


* What We Can Earn in This World
-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
* Rabbi Nachman's Trip to the Land of Israel (continued)
-by Hillel Zeitlin
* Contained Within the Torah
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* The Torah Scholar's Search
-A Yiddish Tale
* The Joy That the Torah Gives Us
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

What we can earn in this world is unimaginable. We do not even need to make any investment of our own. All we need is what the Creator has set right in front of us. We merely have to stretch forth our hand in order to earn so much.
Likutei Moharan II 45

by Hillel Zeitlin

When the two Hasidim returning from the land of Israel saw that they could not learn anything from the servant about his rebbe (who was Rabbi Nachman), they went to the rebbe himself. But he deflected them with various excuses and contrivances. To all their questions as to his name, background, family and so forth, he would give nonsensical answers.

For instance, they once asked him, "Are you a cohen?" "Yes," he replied.

The next day, they asked him, "Are you a yisroel?"


They said, "Yesterday, you were a cohen and today you are a yisroel?"

He answered, "Cohen is the attribute of mercy, and Yisroel is another attribute. Thank God, I possess both."

Seeing that they could get no clear answer from him, they said, "Now we see that you are only going to the land of Israel in order to make trouble."

Another time, when the men where pressing Rabbi Nachman about the purpose of his journey, he told them, "What can I tell you about my reason for going to the land of Israel? It is a matter that 'the heart does not even reveal to the mouth.' But 'how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together.' We can get along with each other, even when one person doesn't know the other's intentions."

To this, they replied, "When you tell us the purpose of your journey, we will certainly treat you well."

But he replied, "No! I will not receive a favor from you. But you may receive a favor from me."v They said, "You talk to us as though you are one of the great rebbes such as Rabbi Boruch, Rabbi Nachman or Rabbi Shalom. Obviously, you aren't one of them, but just someone travelling in order to start up with the tzaddik, Rabbi Avraham."

Once these two men were sure that this young rebbe is travelling to the land of Israel for no other reason than to lead a campaign against Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, they insulted him daily, still hoping to discover who he really is.

It once seemed to them from their conversation that he is the son of the Kamarner Maggid, with whom many rebbes were at that time involved in a controversy. But suddenly, he began censuring the Kamarner. They yelled at him, "But he is your father!"

Once, they suddenly called him, "Yishaya!"--which was the name of the Karmarner's son--and he came over to them. They began saying that they were carrying a present from the Kamarner to his son. He began to ask them, "Show me the present." But then he again began to speak harshly against the Kamarner.

They began to revile him: "Why do you say one day that you are called so-and-so, and the next day you say that you are called something else? Where you live, do they also call you a different name every day?"

"Every name," Rabbi Nachman answered them, "corresponds to the attribute and sefirah that a person is connected to. Thank God, I am connected to all the attributes and sefiros."

When Shabbos came, Rabbi Nachman wanted to eat with the two Hasidim, for they had a ritual slaughterer with them, and he did not. But they only invited Rabbi Nachman's servant. On Friday night, Rabbi Nachman showed up. They got into an argument with him and wanted to throw him out. The next day, the same thing took place, and Rabbi Nachman had to make do without meat on Shabbos.

Rabbi Nachman did all this in order to awaken the anger and hatred of these Hasidim returning from the land of Israel. And besides the fact that he did not tell them anything about who he is, nor remove from their hearts the suspicion that he is going to the land of Israel to foment controversy, he did other things as well: he would answer all their questions enigmatically, waken them from sleep, and irritate them in other ways. For instance, when they came from the bathhouse on Friday afternoon in an elevated pre-Shabbos mood, he lay in bed barefoot, without a belt. In general, he exhibited either excessive greatness or childish behavior.

Rabbi Nachman wanted to comfort the two returning Hasidim for having bothered them so much. He tried to make them understand that one cannot apply to him the measures applied to others, that they must cease asking him questions and making accusations, and try to forgive his caprices. He frequently tried to engage them in friendly conversation and told his man to treat them respectfully.

But this had no effect. The two Hasidim viewed Rabbi Nachman with suspicion and hatred. They even went to a Jewish travel agent in Istanbul (who himself came from Poland, although his wife was a Sefardi, and his mother-in-law a very respected woman), and tried to persuade him not to allow the young rebbe travel to the land of Israel, for he would stir up controversy and cause the Jews to be expelled. And they promised him a heavenly reward if he would act against the young rebbe.

Before these men left Istanbul, Rabbi Nachman wanted to give them a letter to deliver to his family and Hasidim. But they did not want to take any letter from him. But they did take a letter from Rabbi Nachman's servant. So Rabbi Nachman placed his letter in that of his servant. When the men got this letter, they wanted to open it in order to discover at last who was this unusual rebbe who was acting so strangely. However, they misplaced the letter and couldn't find it. Only when they arrived in Wallachia did they find the letter, and they opened it then. When they saw the name at the bottom of the letter-- Nachman of Medvedevka--they were astonished, and a great awe fell upon them.

After these two men left Istanbul, the previously-mentioned shipping agent came to Rabbi Nachman and, showing him various letters in which rebbes requested that he help them and their Hasidim, he said, "If you tell me who and you really are, I will do you great favors; but if not, I have the power to make you great problems, including having you thrown into jail."

Having no alternative, Rabbi Nachman had to tell him that he is a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman Horodenker, and that he is not travelling to the land of Israel to join in any controversies, but to connect himself to the holiness of the land.

from Reb Nachman Breslover

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The entire Torah consists of the names of the Holy One, blessed be He. Every good attribute, every mark of civility, is contained within the Torah. Every wisdom is rooted in the Torah. Indeed, the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, shines within everything good--whether in an individual or a group.

There is a difference between a person who knows that everything consists of light sparkling from the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, or a person who does not know. Nevertheless, this difference is merely a matter of degree.

The essence of the matter depends upon the inner core of our will: to whatever degree it corresponds to goodness. Only in this way can we find the light of the Righteous One of the world, He Who is cloaked in the foundation of all, in wisdom and kindness, so as to make the spiritual and physical visions of existence correspond: that is to say, the ideal of what existence could be and the actual coming about of that ideal. The actualization is the outcome of the ideal, and consummates it. Oros Hatorah 4:2

a Yiddish Hasidic Tale

In Mezhibozh, where the holy Baal Shem Tov lived, lived a great Torah scholar who learned day and night. But he was exceedingly poor and supported himself and his family only from what people gave him out of pity.

His wife was very pious. She never told him to earn a living, because she didn't want to keep him from learning Torah. After their children were grown, she came to him and said, "Although it is true that we live with great faith that His holy name will help us, what are we to do now that our children are already grown and we must marry off our daughters? It is not right that a girl should not be married at this age."

Her husband replied, "Nu, what can I do, since His holy name has not yet sent any help?"

She told him, "Listen to me, my husband. Here in town is the holy Baal Shem Tov. Many people are helped by him. You see how much money people spend just to come to him. Nu, if we live in the same town, why shouldn't you go to him? Put aside your opposition to him and go to him, you will also be helped."

Even though the Torah scholar was opposed to the Baal Shem Tov and didn't believe in him, what could he do? His wife didn't leave him alone. So at last he went to the Baal Shem Tov. he told him of his great poverty, and that his children are already grown and that he has to marry them off, but he doesn't have a single cent.

The Baal Shem Tov told him, "Go to Kazmir. There, ask after a certain craftsman." And he told him his name and father's name and gave him other signs of identification as well, so that he would be able to inquire after him. And then he would get everything he needs.

The scholar agreed to set out on the road as the Baal Shem Tov had told him to. Since he had no money for expenses, he travelled by foot from town to town, until at last he came to Kazmir.

When a poor man comes to town, he goes directly to the beis medrash to rest from his tiring journey. And so, this poor man came to the beis medrash. It was filled with people, so he immediately began to ask about the craftsman whom the Baal Shem Tov had told him about. But no one knew about him. They said, "There is no one here with that name. We don't know anything about such a craftsman."

The Torah scholar sighed deeply because of his great distress and weariness. He came to another beis medrash to ask after that man. There too no one knew what to answer him.

But there were some old people there who called him over. They asked him to tell them all the signs. And then they told him:

"Dear friend, why do you ask about that man? That evil man is already dead for the last sixty years."

They told him that it was true that this man had lived here, but he was an evil person, an informer, a troubler of Israel. There was no sin that he had not committed. It was already sixty years since his death--and when he had died, the entire town had rejoiced. "What does he matter to you? Why do you ask about him?"

Nu--when the Torah scholar heard this, he asked other old people, and they too told him that this had been an evil man who was dead for more than sixty years.

So the Torah scholar left, his heart deeply broken, and turned back home, without having been helped at all, but instead with great pains and troubles of the journey, until he returned to Mezhibozh, exhausted and weary, and made his way to the Baal Shem Tov, so that he might understand what the Baal Shem Tov had meant by sending him on that journey.

He told the Baal Shem Tov everything that had happened when he had come to Kazmir, how he had asked after that man and been told that the man was already dead sixty years, an infamous man, an informer who had not relinquished one sin.

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "You are in truth a God-fearing man, a Torah scholar. Do you believe in the Gemara and in all the holy, wise men who wrote about reincarnation--about how a person comes back to the world to rectify his misdeeds, and must undergo suffering for his sins?"

The Torah scholar answered, "I believe all these things with complete faith."

The holy Baal Shem Tov said, "You must know that you are that man from Kazmir of sixty years ago who transgressed the entire Torah and who informed on people and denounced them numerous times. Now I ask you: on top of that, do you desire riches and honor and everything good? If only you manage to rectify what you had ruined in that incarnation! If only your sufferings and poverty pay for the great sins of that incarnation."

When the Torah scholar heard this, he grew frightened. He wept before the Baal Shem Tov to receive some rectification for what he had done. He clung to the holy Torah; he prayed, learned with great diligence, until he became of the great students of the holy Baal Shem Tov.

from Maaseh Tzaddikim

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The joy that the Torah gives us comes from the preponderance of light within the letters of the Torah, filled as they are with the life-force of divine pleasure. These letters pervade the totality of our soul with the light of life and the joy of heaven.

This is a joy that flows from the letters themselves, which are already comprehended by the soul. But more than that, it flows from the glorious spiritual life-force that constantly cascades from the supernal wellsprings.

That life-force is much more exalted than the letters that are comprehended by the soul with which we can communicate. The light of those letters' hidden joy is great, filled with a tranquillity and wondrous pleasure which nothing can equal.

Oros Hatorah 5:2All translations and original material. Copyright 1998

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues
Jerusalem, Israel