The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 22
Trumah, February 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* WHAT IS HASIDISM? (Continued)
* THE OHR HACHAIM AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL (continued)
* NOW THIS WAS A GOOD ONE
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)
At every stage [in the development of Judaism, spirituality] was drawn down and developed, drawn forth and brought ever lower. But this drawing out merely affected that which is within the "vessels" [of physicality]. However, the drawing forth and revelation brought about by the Baal Shem Tov and his students is something new: drawing forth even the walls of the vessels themselves, until they too will be transformed into light. And it is not exactly correct to say that they will be transformed. Rather, their light will be revealed–since, after all, what are they? God created them from light; and if so, they are [already] the light of God.
[Whatever was emanated first in the creation of reality is intrinsically higher than that which came afterwards.] It is known that the [supernal] root of "letters" and "vessels" is higher than the root of the inner being [of reality]. The "letters" and "vessels" were emanated [before the root of inner being] (cf. Eitz Chaim, Heichal I Shaar 4; in particular, the explanation of R. Gedaliah Levi).
[R. Gedaliah Levi] points out the following: God made the vessels of the lowest stage of the lowest universe (Malchut of Asiyah) at the beginning of creation–even before Adam Kadmon (a primal proto-universe) and Atzilut (the highest universe). But as for the lights of that lowest stage of the lowest universe, He made those last (Shaar One, Anaf Two in the comments and explanations, note one).
In other words, the vessels of the lowest universe (asiyah) were created before their lights were–even before the [extraordinarily great] lights of Adam Kadmon and Atzilut.
[And so we see that] the source of the vessels–even of Asiyah–is very high. Only later did these vessels thicken and become instruments of concealment.
We can understand this to some extent even with our simple intellect. In truth, what was the purpose of the creation of the vessels? It was to reveal God's light within them. They are necessary to revealing God's light. [That light] is revealed only by means of the vessels.
If a person creates some physical object, he and the object are two separate things. It is possible that, although his intent is to do good, he effects this improvement by means of something that is not good and by means of suffering. For instance, he uses a surgical knife to operate on a sick person (may the Compassionate One guard us). Although his intent is good, the knife is bad.[This is analogous to a creator and his tool–or vessel–when the two are separate.]
But this is not the case in regard to God [and the vessels]. In this case, everything is spiritual. God's actions[–e.g., His creation of the vessels themselves]–involves nothing outside Himself. This is comparable to God's knowledge, which is [within Him, and] not external to Him (Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah Two).
Therefore, His actions–i.e., the vessels themselves–are the result of the illumination of His will and thought. And what is God's will and thought in regard to them? To contract and conceal [His unimaginable greatness], so that the illumination of His sanctity will be [conceivable and] revealed.
The inner nature of God's will and intent is the same as the inner nature of the vessels [of creation]. And that nature is the revelation of divinity. Only the external aspect [of the vessels] is concealment. At first, the inner nature of God's will and thought was not in any way revealed in the world–i.e., before the beginning of the revelation of the aspect of the rectification of the messiah. Then all that could be discerned in them was their superficial aspect–their [trait of] concealment. [This concealment of God's Presence] ultimately resulted in this world: a world of physicality, a world that even contains a cosmic evil and sins (may the Compassionate One protect us).
But this shall not be so in the future, when our righteous messiah will come and the light of the inner nature of God's will shall be revealed. Then the inner aspect [of the vessels]–which is not concealment but rather revelation within them–will be manifested. Then even the cosmic evil will rise to and become a holy angelic minister. Only the [core of] evil within [that power] will descend. [That core is indicated by] the letter Mem (which [begins the word] Mavet, "death"), [and which appears in the name of the source of cosmic evil, called "Samael."] When "Mem" falls away from [that cosmic evil,] the letters Samech, Alef, and Lamed will remain. And these letters are numerically equivalent to the holy Names of God (Havayah Adni). So did the Baal Shem Tov teach.
Then the holiness of the vessels themselves, [the holiness] even of this world, will be revealed. Then "the earth will be filled..."–even earthiness will be holy.
The opponents of the Baal Shem Tov challenged him by asking why the holy masters before him did not interpret the verse, "the whole earth is filled with His glory," as he did. Why was he wresting the verse from its simple meaning, from the way it had been previously interpreted: i.e., as telling us that God's glory and life-force are found inside the vessels and the physical world[–but not as the vessels and physicality themselves]?
However (as I have already mentioned a number of times), all the holy masters were flaming fire, cosmic illuminations. When they delivered their holy teachings, they were not merely presenting interpretations. Rather, by means of these teachings, they were literally drawing down soul-forces.
Previous [to the Baal Shem Tov], the essence of what was to be drawn down was the inner light that fills the vessels. [At that point,] the vessels had to be sanctified only [as a means of making them] capable of receiving that light. Once they were purified and sanctified, they would be able to receive this level of light. And so the knowledge and understanding of the verse, "the entire earth is filled with His glory," was also revealed in this way: as telling us that God's light and life-force are found inside the vessels.
But this was not the case when the Baal Shem Tov revealed the light of the vessels themselves: that they themselves are light: not concealment, but illumination. Now he revealed a knowledge and understanding within the meaning of the verse, "the entire earth is filled with His glory": that the vessels, even physicality, are themselves the light of the holiness of God.
by Avraham Stern
Hasidim tell that when R. Gershon Kitover traveled to the land of Israel with the approval of his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov revealed to him that the Ohr Hachaim has a secret yeshiva (separate from his regular yeshiva), where he teaches Kabbalah to his greatest students. And the Baal Shem Tov directed R. Gershon to strive to become a student there.
When he came to the Ohr Hachaim's yeshiva, R. Gershon made inquiries until he learned who the shamash of the Kabbalah yeshiva was. Seeking him out, he asked permission to be accepted as a student. The shamash advised him that when the Ohr Hachaim returns from his immersion in the mikvah on Friday afternoon, R. Gershon should run up to him and be the first to reach him with a container of water with which to wash his hands. If the Ohr Hachaim will allow him to do this, then R. Gershon will certainly be accepted as a student in the kabbalah yeshiva.
The Ohr Hachaim did allow R. Gershon to wash his hands. Afterwards, he told R. Gershon, "It is taught in Pirkei Avos (1:3) that ‘he who makes use of the crown [of Torah] passes away.' R. Ovadia of Bertinoro explains that the word ‘b'taga'–‘of the crown'–is an acronym for ‘b'talmid gavra achrina'–‘of the student of another man.' This is referring to someone who allows himself to be served by the student of another Torah scholar.
"I have just been informed from heaven that you are the great scholar, R. Gershon Kitover, the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law and one of his leading students. Complaints have been lodged against me in heaven for having allowed myself to be served by you. The only way I can justify myself is to invite you to become my own student in my Kabbalah yeshiva. Then I will be able to defend my having made use of you."
May their merit protect us and all Israel, amen.
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
Now this was a good one: we
It was consummation. Do
Little by little, we are
Hearts burst with gladness, we can't
Class for Men: Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim ("Spiritual Training"), step-by-step guidebook on how to develop an awareness of our souls and of God, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe), Sunday night. For information, call (410) 358-8771.
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