The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume V, Issue 31

Tazria 5761 April 2001

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

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

How these men whom we seek have vanished
And left no path in the sea of their books,
And left no flint beneath their murmuring flame.

How these men whom we seek have left riddles
Speaking the language of a foreign heart
That awakens at times in the tongue of our longing.

How these men whom we seek have left portraits
That we glimpse in the dreams of our sleep
Or our prophecies.

How these men whom we seek have left trails
That the wind obscures, have left winds
That endure in the caverns of our thought.

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Holy people are ceaselessly connected to union with God. They cannot at all imagine for themselves a life absent of this pleasure of clinging to the Divine.

But every human thought has mixed into it a great deal of delusory imagination, and this is accompanied by a multitude of evil traits that spread like branches emerging from a small root, or like a profusion of plant-life from one seed.

Therefore, these people must clarify their clinging to the Divine by learning Torah and performing God's commandments, so that it will be entirely clear and holy.

Orot Hakodesh IV, p. 459

by Avraham Stern

When Rabbi Israel of Rizhin was imprisoned, a Hasid of his--a very wealthy man--undertook to visit him in jail. Before he came, he went to the rebbe's court in Rizhin so that he would be able to deliver regards to Rabbi Israel from his family. Rabbi Israel's mother told this Hasid that before he returns from Rabbi Israel to bring word from him, he should ask Rabbi Israel for a sign that would assure her that he had seen her son personally.

When Rabbi Israel greeted this wealthy Hasid and received regards from his mother and family, he entered into a friendly conversation with him. Their discussion was so informal that the Hasid gathered his courage and said to Rabbi Israel, "Rebbe, I have a request to make of you. But first, I want to ask you to promise that you will not get upset with me." Rabbi Israel agreed to this. And so the Hasid spoke as follows:

Hasidim tell that once, when the Baal Shem Tov had just recently revealed his greatness, he came to Bar (a shtetl in Volhinia). The Baal Shem Tov already had followers in that shtetl. However, the rabbi of Bar, a misnaged (an opponent of the Baal Shem Tov), did not want to go and greet the Baal Shem Tov. When the Baal Shem Tov's Hasidim asked him to do so, he replied, "No one considers the Baal Shem Tov a Torah scholar. And so although he may be a miracle worker, something is not right. And so I am not going to him." The Hasidim laughed at this and told the rabbi that the Baal Shem Tov was deeply learned in the revealed Torah. And so the rabbi made the following condition: If the Baal Shem Tov would allow the rabbi to test him, and the rabbi saw that the Baal Shem Tov could at the very least learn a passage from the Talmud with Rashi's commentary, then he himself would give the Baal Shem Tov a kvittel (the note that a Hasid gives his rebbe). And so the Hasidim delivered this message to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov agreed to this, and the rabbi had him learn a Talmudic passage. But before the Baal Shem Tov had a chance to explain it, the rabbi was summoned to the slaughter house to deal with an urgent halachic question. When he returned, the Baal Shem Tov told him what the Talmudic text meant. But the rabbi thought that since Rabbi Gershon Kitover (the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law and a well-known Torah sage) was in the neighborhood, the Baal Shem Tov may have simply reviewed the Talmud passage with him. And so the rabbi said that he wanted to test the Baal Shem Tov again. But this time, he would remain present while the Baal Shem Tov learned the passage and he would not leave him unattended until he explained it.

The Baal Shem Tov agreed to this. He learned a passage and accurately told the rabbi what it meant. And so the rabbi wrote a kvittel and presented it to the Baal Shem Tov as a disciple (praven). In his kvittel, the rabbi wrote that he was suffering financially. Immediately, the Baal Shem Tov called together the community leaders and he asked them to raise the rabbi's salary, so that he would be able to learn Torah with his mind at ease. From this story (said the wealthy Hasid), we see how saintly and patient the Baal Shem Tov was. Although the rabbi of Bar insisted on testing him two times before agreeing to even treat him in a civil manner, the Baal Shem Tov did not make an issue of it. And then, when the rabbi complained about his monetary problems, the Baal Shem Tov made an effort to help him. But as for you, rebbe, people say that when you were in Lemberg and visited the well-known Torah scholar, the author of Yeshuos Yaacov, his son, who is also a great rabbi, treated you disrespectfully, and then he soon passed away. (Some say that the Yeshuos Yaacov's son purposely set a plate of mixed, jellied fruits before Rabbi Israel, in order to confuse him regarding the laws of properly reciting blessings on food. But sensing this man's intent, Rabbi Israel simply did not eat.)

Pious scholars and Hasidim say that this type of incident is referred to in the Talmud: "if two Torah scholars...are not pleasant to each other in halachic matters, one dies and the other goes into exile" (Sotah 49a). The son of the Yeshuos Yaacov died, and you, rebbe, have gone into exile.

To this, Rabbi Israel replied, I once went to be treated by Dr. Rappaport in Lemberg. In each shtetl along the way, men, women and children came out to greet me. Why? They wanted to look at my face in order to be inspired to take on the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.

There was a law in Lemberg that the town walls must be locked up at nightfall, and only opened at ten o'clock the following morning. My followers in Lemberg were afraid that I might attract so many people that the crowded conditions might be dangerous, heaven forbid. They brought their concern to the government, which agreed to allow the gates to open at nine in the morning [before a great crowd could gather]. to be continued....

Chasidishe Maysios

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

We must put ourselves in alignment with physical nature and its forces. We must learn its ways and actions, which derive from the general principles governing the world--a world of which we ourselves are a part. And these principles govern within ourselves just as they do outside us. In the same way, and even more so, we must--we are forced to--put ourselves in alignment with the rules of spiritual nature. These rules govern the entirety of nature even more [than do the physical rules]. [Reality] is a part of [that spiritual nature,] whose principles rule within it even more [than do the physical principles].

The alpha and omega of this alignment is the supernal core of clinging to the Divine in all our ways and all our actions, all our feelings and all our thoughts. Every alignment with spiritual reality--which encompasses everything--flows forth from [that core], and returns to it. "God, You have been our dwelling-place in every generation. Before the mountains were born, before You made the earth and land, You have always been God. You bring a person down, and then say, ‘Return, humanity!'" (Tehillim 90:1-2).

Orot Hakodesh IV, p. 440

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Here is thick fragrance, Greek mist,
Stone-cutter teeth, a dull-green beat
Of dull-green hearts from shrunken trees whose naive
Leaves breathe the needle-pricking, bristle-scraping exhaust

Of men on a journey to
A static-stuttering street, who
Stagger with a lone ant's stumbling cheerfulness;
Their drunken tail-lights wink in the mechanical tide.

No car can even feel how
Blood of a declawed sky can sift
Open, how the ice-shard stars with a shortness
Of breath pour black water higher than the tide of time

On us, so that our full-moon
Arms embracing the black soul of
a perfect longing hold a cave of white glass.
Yet here grieve for the men whose hearts are single sapphires.

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