The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 32

Nissan 5759/April 99

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


* They Shall Not Be Untrue
* The Relationship Between All Souls
* The Entirety of Israel
* The Withholding of Tranquility
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* From Volozhin to Jerusalem
-by Rabbi Meir Berlin

* Wondrous New Things
-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

* To Become a Companion
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

* When All the Waters Split in Two
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

There are matters that are good and holy, which are sustained by ugly causes. For instance, weakness, falsehood and wickedness at times support the good basis of shame, modesty, faith, and the like.

"To the righteous, the good deeds of the wicked are evil." Similarly, the goodness that something good and holy receives from something evil and unclean causes great evils.

The light of redemption reaches actuality only when all evil foundations--even those that strengthen the good and holy--are destroyed. This causes pain to goodness, holy and faith. It causes them to descend and appear impoverished. But in truth, that impoverishment and descent are ascent and improvement.

After the evil foundations disintegrate, the light of purity and holiness immediately begins to blossom upon healthy foundations of knowledge, wisdom, might, harmony, eternity and glory.

And with this, the eternal kingship is established in the light of God and His goodness, in the end of days, with the faithful love of David, an eternal covenant that shall never prove false.

"And He said: 'Indeed, they are My people, children who shall not be untrue'; and He will be their savior. In all their suffering, He suffers, and the angel of His countenance has saved them. He has redeemed them in His love and mercy. And He took them and raised them all the days of the world" (Isaiah 63:8-9). Arpelei Tohar, pp. 108-09

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

The flash of light that unveils the relationship between all souls of all generations and the soul of an adept engaging in visualization is the beginning of a holy spirit.

When you develop this holy ability with regular practice and connect it to wisdom and good deeds, you will rise level by level, and attain a number of realizations. "Open the gates of justice for me; I will enter them, I will thank God."
Arpelei Tohar, p. 108

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

It is proper to yearn to be connected to the entirety of all Israel.

The more you purify your thoughts and deeds, the more can you connect to the highest and smallest levels of the entirety.

If there is smallness and preponderance of judgements [within you], the connection will be less inclusive. [And then,] if there is a lesser amount of connection with the most degraded level, there will be a lesser amount of connection with the greatest of levels.

This is because complete perfection is connection with the whole entirety--whatever the manner and measure.
Arpelei Tohar, p. 47

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

In essence, spiritual toil and the withholding of inner tranquility result from your having distanced yourself from what your soul's abilities have made you fit for.
p. 46

by Rabbi Meir Berlin

Rabbi Meir Berlin was a famous Mizrachi leader and the son of the Netziv, rosh yeshiva of the legendary Volozhin Yeshiva. He wrote a series of memoirs in Yiddish, which appeared in the Yiddish newspapers. These were gathered in a book in 1933. The following is the opening of that book.

Incidentally, I discovered this book a few years ago when I passed by Baltimore Hebrew College and found that the parking lot was filled with boxes containing thousands of books and magazines, including chumashim, other holy texts, and historically important material, which had been set out for the trash. A number of people (all Orthodox) rescued whatever they thought particularly significant. We lodged a complaint with the school, which retrieved the remaining books and committed itself not to repeat such an action. Among the material that I recovered was a few copies of a second edition (1903) of an early sefer by Rav Kook on the importance of wearing tefillin correctly, and this work by Rabbi Meir Berlin.

Rabbi Berlin writes that although he presents the episodes in a way that reflects his subjectivity, "the facts in themselves are presented with the greatest degree of objectivity possible." He points out as well that (in his day) although much had been published about the Hasidic world and the non-religious Jewish world, little had been published about the misnagdish, yeshiva world.

His writings might be seen as having particular value in the light of the modern tendency in the Orthodox world to revise history (as witness the attempted suppression some years ago of "My Uncle the Netziv," the translation of a memoir by the noted talmid chacham, Rabbi Boruch Epstein).

The town of Volozhin and the yeshiva in Volozhin were two separate worlds. The town families took no part in yeshiva affairs, and naturally the yeshiva took no interest in town matters. In one aspect, the inhabitants of Volozhin were on a lower level regarding the yeshiva than the inhabitants of other towns and hamlets--even those in the same area. Meshullachim-- fund-raisers--travelled, raising money for the yeshiva, going even to the smallest hamlets and villages where Jews lived, coming once a year for annual donations. Jews were proud to help the greatest Torah institution in the world. But the Jews of Volozhin did not have that pleasure.

In Volozhin itself, no inhabitants were ever asked to support the yeshiva or its students. Whether this was the result of high-minded intent on the part of the yeshiva or if it had developed on its own, this was the fact. The town benefitted from the yeshiva, because hundreds of students paid for housing and food. But the yeshiva derived no benefit from the town. Students were not given meals, either during the week or on Shabbos--everything had to be paid for.

But on extraordinary occasions, the townspeople and the yeshiva students were equal, working and bearing the burden together.

One of the most important of such circumstances was a fire. In general, fires were a normal occurrence. Every summer, people took an interest in learning which town had been half-burned or entirely burned. Such an event was as natural as the death of a sick, old person. Houses were made of wood and their roofs of either wood or straw. Everything was completely dry. The smallest spark landing on a roof would start a fire. And then, as soon as one house was burning, all the surrounding houses were in danger. There was little water, fire-fighting tools were almost non-existent, and the slightest wind might spread the blaze right and left, until nothing was left to burn.

Volozhin was no exception. Every summer, people lived in fear of fire. Each house had a box on wheels into which one's possessions might be thrown and pulled into the street. The "great fire" of Volozhin took place in the summer of 5646 (1886). This fire began a new epoch in the life of the yeshiva of Volozhin--which meant, at that time, the cultural life of all Jews, not only of the town itself. The fire broke out on a Friday morning, while the yeshiva students were still learning.

Friday was a unique day for the yeshiva students. Until twelve-thirty, they sat and learned as usual. At half-past twelve, the lecture was delivered. On Friday, this was the ro'sh lecture [?]. Not everyone stayed for the lecture. Those who remained said the minchah gedolah prayer afterwards and then left to do their errands in preparation for the Sabbath. At no other time could one meet as many yeshiva students in the street as on a Friday afternoon. One student was on his way to buy something, another was going to the post office, and others used the time to be with friends. In the Volozhin yeshiva, Shabbos was a holy day. The students learned no less than on any other day, except that prayers and eating took longer than usual. It was Friday afternoon that was the day of rest. Between the week's learning and the beginning of the Sabbath, students rested a few hours, took a spiritual accounting of what they had accomplished in their learning in the previous week, and they prepared themselves for the beautiful, holy day of Shabbos, which could best be felt in the yeshiva of Volozhin.

But the Shabbos of the "great fire" was interrupted. Bells rang out from the cloister--signalling, since this was not a Christian holiday, a fire--and the outcry, "Fire!" penetrated from the street into the yeshiva. Naturally, all Gemaras were closed and the hundreds of students ran out to do what they could to extinguish the fire. At such a time, the sense of separation between town and yeshiva ceased. All the Jewish energy of the bochrim (the unmarried students) and the yunge leit (the married students) was thrown into rescue work. They did this not only for their own sake but to save the town Jews. The yeshiva students themselves had very little to fear from the fire. The entire possessions of a yeshiva student consisted of his small case which contained some clothing and antzug [?] that he had brought from home, with a few books that he had bought in Volozhin. All this could be carried out and saved from a fire. But the feeling of pity and brotherhood was so strong that all those students, entirely steeped in spiritual concerns, in the four cubits of halachah, who apparently had no connection to the town they were staying in, threw aside their aristocratic air, took off their jackets, and rolled up their sleeves. Some ran to the well, others grabbed a horse and harnessed it to bring the water, some fetched pails to pour the water out, others brought axes and broke through the roofs of the surrounding houses to localize the fire. A company of two or three hundred firemen like the yeshiva students provided a certain amount of protection for a town like Volozhin. In the past, they had extinguished more than one fire, not allowing it to spread too far.

by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

If even a simple person sits before a holy book and gazes at the letters of the Torah, he will be able to see wondrous new things. When he gazes at the letters, they will begin to shine and combine, as did the letters upon the breastplate of the cohen gadol. Then he will see new things, wonders and combinations. He will even be able to see things that the author did not have in mind.

A great person can see this without effort. But even a totally simple person can come to and see such new things, if he will sit and gaze at the letters of the Torah. But do not make this into a test, for then you might see nothing at all.
Likutei Moharan 281

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

In the time of the Gemara, a person who kept the laws of purity--taharah--was called a chaver, a "companion." The Gemara teaches us that on the occasion of a festival, even a person who did not keep those laws (in regard to terumah) was regarded as a chaver. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi brings a homiletic proof for this from a verse: "And every man of Israel gathered to the city like one man, companions" (Shoftim 20:11). Since they all gathered together, they became companions--which, in the language of the Gemara, means a person who keeps the laws of purity. And so when Jews gather in Jerusalem during a festival, they are all also regarded as chaverim--companions.

The Jerusalem Talmud brings another verse to illustrate this idea: "Jerusalem that is built like a city linked together, to which the tribes ascended" (Tehillim 124:3). The Hebrew root of the word "linked" is chaver--companion. When all the Jews go up to Jerusalem, they are companions.

The Gemara tells that "On a festival, God purifies the impurity of the am ha'aretz." Rashi tells us that "it is not that their purity is purity, but that on the holiday they are chaverim."

The verse cited by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi refers to the union of the nation of Israel against the tribe of Benyamin after the incident of the concubine of Giveah. According to him, any unity of Jews against criminality and evil transforms them into companions, and all that they touch is pure.

In a different view, the Jerusalem Talmud refers to a level of unity among Jews intended not to repel evil but to rise to a higher level of goodness: to ascend to Jerusalem. It is that which transforms every Jew into a "companion."

And in a third view, the Gemara and Rashi stress that it is the holiday itself that makes the people into chaverim. That is the unique gift of a holiday to the Jewish people.

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

After eating so much matzah,
Have we set off in a ship sailing on a sea of soup?
Egg volumes and olive volumes seem to litter the vast interior plains.
After so many cups of wine,
Have we aged until we can see the crown
f the Ancient King?
After so much story-telling,
Do we see a trace of our own stories?
And then before dawn,
When all the waters that sailors sail upon
In their sleep
Split into two
In the crevice in the midst of our heart,
Something was dislodged,
The buzzing of a fly,
Baal Tzefon crumbled,
Walls of ice collapsed behind us from a dizzying height,
And we stirred in our sleep.
Then we sang,
In the immemorial murmur of the soul,
Then the shore glinted with the ornaments of crushed chariots
And Miriam lifted the tambourine.

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