The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume VI, Issue 47

Shoftim, August 2002

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (

by Rabbi Shlomo Molcho

[translator's note: The following begins the narrative, Chet Hakaneh, an autobiographical sketch by Shlomo Molcho. (An excerpt was printed a few weeks ago.) It seems apparent that the beginning of this sketch–until the letter by Shlomo Molcho–is by another author. (In his The Jew in the Medieval World, Jacob Rader Marcus quotes the beginning of this material in the name of Emek Habachah, a work that was completed in 1575.)]

When the expulsion from France, Spain and Portugal was at its height, many Jews, even those of good families, assimilated amidst the gentiles. [At that time,] our great rabbi [R. Shlomo?] was sent into exile.

In those days, a Jew, Dovid [Hareuveni], came from the far land of India [i.e., a distant, eastern land] to the gate of the king of Portugal. He said to him, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God of heaven. I have been sent by my brother, the king of the Jews, to you, my master and king, for aid. Come to our assistance, and we will fight the Turkish sultan and take the Holy Land away from him."

[The king] said to him, "Peace be upon you in your arrival. I will send you to the archbishop, and I will do whatever he says."

Reuveni left the king and dwelled in Eilo Shebonei [Lisbon] for a few days, and the Marranos there believed his words. They said to each other, "He is our redeemer, sent by Hashem." They gathered about him and accorded him great honor.

From there, he traveled to Spain. Wherever he passed through, many of those who had been exiled streamed to him, and he was a stumbling block to them.

He passed on to France and went to Avignon. From there, he went to Italy. He made well-crafted flags upon which he wrote the Holy Names. And many believed him in those days.

He came to Bologna, Ferrari and Mantua. His intention was to get the approbation of the uncircumcised kings allow him to take all the Jews who were to be found amongst them to his place and land. He even spoke to the pope.

But the Jews were very frightened. They spoke to him and said, "What shall we do for our wives today and the children that they will bear when all of us set out to war?"

But he said to them, ‘There are many such. Do not be afraid, for God lacks no means of salvation."

He forged a letter from his own heart and said, "My brother, the king, sent it to me, written and sealed with the royal signet ring."

Ultimately, the day came that his secret was revealed, and no one believed in him any longer, for he had forged documents.

A shoot came forth from Portugal, and Shlomo Molcho was his name, from the seed of Israel that had been scattered there from the days of the forced conversion. He was a young man, one of the king's scribes.

At that time, he saw Dovid, and Hashem touched his heart so that he returned to Hashem, the God of our fathers, and circumcised himself. At that time, he knew nothing of the Torah of Hashem and the holy writings. But when he circumcised himself, Hashem gave wisdom to Shlomo, and in little more than a moment he gained more knowledge than any other man. And many were astounded at him.

He went to Italy and dared to speak of the Torah of Hashem our God before kings. He did not hide his face from them. He went to Turkey and returned to Rome, where he spoke with Pope Clement, who granted him kindness, in opposition to the will of all the other religious authorities.

[Shlomo] proclaimed himself a Jew and grew wise in the wisdom of Kabbalah, and from his mouth came forth the spirit of grace, for the spirit of Hashem spoke within him, and God's word was upon his tongue at all times. He also drew beautiful words from the wellspring of the depths of kabbalah, and he wrote them down upon the tablets, which you have not yet seen. He taught these things to many people in Bologna and other places, and many people ran to him to hear his wisdom and test him with riddles. Shlomo told them everything pertaining to them. Not one thing was hidden from him that he did not tell them. When they saw the wisdom of Shlomo, they said, "What we heard about you is true, and you have shown even more wisdom than was reported of you."

Although many were filled with jealousy against him, they could not harm him in Italy, for the princes loved him. At that time, he joined with Dovid, and they were as one.

Shlomo wrote words of peace and truth to the wise men, as follows. [However, despite the salutation, it appears from the letter that he was writing to one specific person.]

You great gates, pillars of the exile, you who know religion and understand knowledge, you who are beautiful in appearance before the One Who dwells in the heights, you who are able to stand in the palace of the holy King, tied with a knot of seventy facets of the tree of life–the Torah–to be a wall [and] doorway and a tall gate surrounding the destroyed city. May we merit to see it built, with great peace upon the throne of the messianic king.

You are the seed that God blessed from heaven. Incline your ears to hear the words of a worm and no man, a shoot of the seed of the children of our exile, who went forth from the masters of Rivna [?], who sat in the forest and the wilderness in a place of the worm, the bramble and thorn. There he grazed and there he lay down, for his father and mother had abandoned him. He went in the dark with no illumination. He considered in the nights upon his bed which way will apportion light to know the meaning of his place, keeping himself from unbridled ways, to go upon the paths of God, to seek wisdom from Him and to hear a word of truth. At all times, he filled his heart with worry so as to draw his soul back from destruction, so as to be illumined in the light of life and strengthened at the right side of God, and so as to cast Samael away from himself. In his troubles, he would raise his voice up high and he invoked holiness, to make an unblemished booth, for it is better to take refuge in Hashem than to trust in princes. They are serpents that will be destroyed, but God will stand forever. See and hear this, attribute greatness to our God.

In the twelfth month of the year that I heard, "Let us go to greet the face of God and seek the Lord of Hosts," I too went into the palace of the foreigners in the great city that one day will be desolate, its land burning pitch [Rome]. A messenger of yours, sir, came there, a missive in his hand, which he laid before me and which was filled with many sweet words, and which was as sweet as honey when I perused them. And I decided to reply to you briefly.

Your Torah honor already knows the description that I wrote from the city of Monistirio to R. Yosef Titask [a great Torah leader of that time]. When I was there, he asked me to inform him about my journey from Portugal, and I wrote him everything. And, as is my way, I promised that I would also write all that I would experience in the kingdom of Edom. In that description, you will see all that I have gone through from Portugal until I came from Turkey to the land of Edom, where I am caught by the hand of the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be he, by means of His servant, my master Dovid, without permission to do anything except what I will be shown from heaven.

Now I have come to tell the reason for my journey from Portugal. After the mighty and pious R. Dovid Hareuveni came to the court of the house of the king of Portugal, I saw awesome visions in a dream of the night, each different than the other, which shook me exceedingly. It would take a long time to tell them were I given permission to do so. And the intent of the vision that I saw was the command that I circumcise myself. Every day I went before R. Dovid and told him what I had seen in my dream, to know his counsel in this regard. It had occurred to me that because of him I had been shown these things. But he hid and concealed [himself] from me. He said to me, "I know nothing at all about this. What am I that you should be shown those awesome visions on my account?"

I said to myself, "Perhaps he does not want to reveal anything to me until I will circumcise myself." I left him and that night I circumcised myself, all alone. For His own sake, the Holy One, blessed be He, helped me and healed me, even though I felt a great deal of suffering and pain and lost consciousness, for blood gushed like a spring, ever more strongly. The Compassionate One, the Faithful Healer, healed me in a short period of time, which would not be believed were it to be told. to be continued...

Chet Hakaneh

by Rabbi Yechiel Moshe

I heard that it is very important to love every Jew as yourself. Even if it seems that someone is doing wrong, that stems from the evil within him. But he also has a good part. And it is possible that his good part is better than your own good part.

As I heard from the holy Kotzker rebbe, he only looks at the good points in every Jew. If he does not connect himself to every Jew, falsehood reigns over him, for the letters of the word "falsehood" (sheker) when re-arranged spell "connection" (kesher).

We also learn that in the generation of Shaul, when people fell in battle, it was because they were not united. But the generation of Achav was victorious in war because it was united.

Niflaot Chadashot

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