The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 23
T'tzaveh, February 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
* A BLAZING FLAME
* WHAT IS HASIDISM? (Continued)
* SANCTIFYING THE MOON
* THE BUSINESS OF THIS WORLD
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
In every group and every movement, there are certainly things that I cannot agree with. But this cannot in the least affect my love, filled with a blazing flame within me, toward our holy nation and its every individual. This love remains within me exactly the same for those who honor me as for those who disparage me. I love them all without restriction.
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)
In Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim, I posed the question: what are Hasidism and Hasidic worship?
One cannot be satisfied with the answer that Hasidism consists of passionate Torah learning, prayer and service. Although this is indeed the essence of Hasidism, the Kabbalists of previous times–the Ari, his students and their students–certainly were passionate in their worship, with a holy fire, on a much higher plane than we can comprehend.
[Another answer that people give is] that in the generation directly preceding the Baal Shem Tov, this passion had grown cold, and the Baal Shem Tov renewed it. But if this is the case, why were those in this movement called "Hasidim" and not "Kabbalists"? Furthermore, why did their opponents storm against them if they had not created something new? From what I have said up to this point and what I will continue to say, God willing, I hope that the character of Hasidism will grow a little more clear to our limited understanding.
From the time that the Oral Torah [was given to the Jewish people], there was a development [and revelation of divinity] (as discussed earlier), so that the [godly] "lights" within the [lower] "vessels" were [increasingly] revealed.
[These lights were revealed as well] in the area of human understanding. That understanding might be seen as human [intellect, as it is exercised in the study of] Talmud; or whether it is the [type of] understanding and intellect seen as higher [than the purely human], in the Kabbalah.
[Either way,] the basis of those revelations [and development] was learning and intellectual understanding.
But Hasidism differs. Hasidic drawing forth [of spirituality] is not limited to intellect. Rather, [it reveals that Godliness] exists within everything–even in the vessels themselves. And so if [Hasidism] causes the vessels to shine, and if the essence of the foundation [of Hasidism] is to reveal the light within lowliness, then why should any part of the body be any less important than human intellect? Although the body is lower than the intellect housed within it, it is nevertheless the essence of Hasidism to reveal the light within lowliness, to show that that too is holy. And so the body, as well as a person's traits, have an influence upon the heights.
by Avraham Stern
[Each one of R. Israel of Rizhin's sons was a rebbe in his own right.] As one of these sons was once sanctifying the new moon (kiddush levanah), one of his close Hasidim arrived late. The Hasid decided that he would rather sanctify the moon later by himself, because he now would rather watch the rebbe sanctify the moon. After Kiddush Levanah, the rebbe distributed cake and wine to each individual, wishing each person lechaim and "a gutn chodesh"–a good month.
When the rebbe came to this Hasid, he said, "I will tell you a story. On two occasions, Rabbi Yaacov Yitzchak Ish Horowitz Halevi, the rebbe of Lublin, went to see my grandfather, the rebbe, Reb Dov Ber of Mezritch.
The first time, he arrived just in time to see someone bring my grandfather the live fish that had been bought in honor of the Sabbath. (Later on, this became the custom of R. Dov Ber's grandchildren–the Rizhiner's children. Live fish would be brought for them to look at, and only afterwards would the fish be brought to the kitchen.) R. Yaacov Yitzchak–the "Lubliner"–also had a look at the fish. The Lubliner's eyes were spiritually open; people called him the Polish Seer. One particular fish pleased him. He went into the kitchen, and when the cook cut the fish, one particular piece of that fish pleased him. He marked it so that on the Sabbath, at my grandfather's tisch (ceremonial meal), he would recognize it.
At my grandfather's table sat the Holy Fellowship, the "sixty mighty men" (Shir Hashirim). The rav, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was the youngest of the group, and so he sat at the foot of the table.
With my grandfather's permission, an acquaintance of the Lubliner had him stand behind my grandfather's chair. When the fish was brought to the table, the Lubliner looked for his piece of fish, but he didn't find it. He left his place behind my grandfather's chair and looked everywhere, until he found it with the last person sitting at the table: the rav. The Lubliner sat down behind the rav's chair. He decided that he would wait for my grandfather to taste from his fish. Then, as everyone else would begin eating from their own plates, he would ask the rav to let him taste that piece of fish. But as soon as my grandfather tasted his fish, and everyone there began eating the fish on their own plates, the rav didn't even taste his fish. Instead, he turned to the Lubliner, handed him the entire plate of fish untouched, and said, "Listen, young man! ‘No one can touch what is set aside for someone else' (Talmud)." Following this, my grandfather leaned across the people at the table and handed his plate of shirayim, leftovers, to the rav.
After the tisch was over, my grandfather told the rav, "That young man, the Lubliner, pleases me. Zalmanyu, befriend him."
How did R. Shneur Zalman befriend the Lubliner? Once there was a weekday tisch that not everyone knew about. The rav told the Lubliner and brought him to the tisch. When the meal was over, my grandfather gave the Lubliner the honor of leading the birkat hamazon, the grace after meals. The Lubliner had the custom of engaging in all sorts of movements [while servoing God]. And so he recited birkat hamazon loudly, making all sorts of movements. The others there looked at each other, and then looked crossly at the rav, because they knew that he had brought the guest. The rav quietly spoke to the Lubliner, but the Lubliner continued reciting the birkat hamazon and making those movements.
Afterwards, the rav asked the Lubliner, "Why did you cause me grief? Now everyone is complaining about me."
The Lubliner replied, "If I had not recited the birkat hamazon, the rebbe would not have had anything to elevate [spiritually]."
And now the Rizhiner's son said to the Hasid, "If you do not sanctify the moon [now], what will I have to elevate?"
May their merit protect us and all Israel, amen.
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Abaye said, "Many did as R. Yishmael [by engaging in this-worldly affairs], and succeeded. Many others did as R. Shimon ben Yochai [and dedicated themselves exclusively to the service of God], and failed."
Rava said to the rabbis, "During the days of Nissan (the harvesting season) and Tishrei (the season for pressing grapes and olives), please do not come to me, so that your income will not be adversely affected for the course of the entire year."
The reason a person does not find complete satisfaction in exclusive involvement in wisdom and study, disconnected from activity and work, is that his Creator has carved this [dissatisfaction] into the nature of his soul, so that his inner yearning will impel him to attend to his many needs. Without such a desire, many people would cease to take part in any work and instead engage in cerebral matters. This cessation would ultimately lead to the lack of things, until they would not even find that what they were seeking in wisdom, because they would be so distracted. So once a person fulfills his tasks in his active, physical business during the appropriate times of the year, his nature is then drawn to learning and study during the rest of the year.
Perhaps Abaye and Rava disagree about Rabbi Yishmael's reasoning Abaye says that besides the fact that [work] is a necessity, the essence of a person's nature is to engage at least to some degree in the work and business of this world. This can be seen in the experience of most people. And [human] nature can be deduced from the nature of the majority of people.
On the other hand, Rava claims that [this-worldly affairs] should only be dealt with to the degree that is necessary. The more one can find a way of removing oneself from the affairs of this world in order to dedicate oneself to Torah and intellectual service, whose purpose is to know God, one approaches the content of the highest quality of a human being–and in particular of a Jew. This goal should be pursued as much as possible. When a person prepares his needs during set times, he can urge himself to arrive at a state where his desire is only for God's Torah.
Ein Ayeh (Brachot 35)
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