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by Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
"Aaron will carry the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgement upon his heart....You shall place in the breastplate of judgement the urim and the tumim, and they shall be upon the heart of Aaron when he comes before Hashem" (Exodus 28:29-30).
Aaron, the cohen gadol, wore a breastplate of judgement upon his heart. That breastplate was studded with twelve stones representing the twelve tribes, and upon each stone was written the name of its tribe. Within the fold of the breastplate of judgement was placed the Urim Vetumim, usually described as a parchment upon which God's name was written.
Whenever the Jews had a question, the cohen gadol would consult the breastplate of judgement. Powered by the Urim Vetumim, the letters on the stones would combine and jut forth to give a message. In this way, the Jews would receive clear advice and direction.
The Urim Vetumim are a map of all the worlds. Upon the stones of the breastplate were written all the pathways and circumstances of every individual.
And so, whenever any individual experienced any doubt, the stones combine and jut forth, and provide a person with ideas and advice (Likutei Halachos, Tefillah 4:22).
One evening, when Rabbi Nachman was speaking with someone, he heard someone reciting the evening prayers. The person rushed through the phrase, "Rectify us with good advice before You."
Rabbi Nachman said to the person he was speaking with, "Do you hear how that person is swallowing the words 'rectify us with good advice before You'? A person has to say those words with great feeling and intent, from the depths of his heart. This is a very precious prayer. We have to beg God for compassion that He give us good advice, so that we will know how to conduct our lives" (Sichos Haran, #238).
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
When we gaze at that within creation which our senses can perceive, we view it as one organic being. We see that its parts are connected and integrated: every plant and every animal.
As for humanity: we see how those highest parts within us, which carry a splendor of all-inclusive, ideal awareness, rely in their nature, being and existence on particular, primitive, mean components that we sometimes view with revulsion.
The same dynamic applies universally to inter-relationship.
When we gaze clearly, we clearly see with an individual precision. Even where our eye cannot penetrate, we discern with a clear understanding and a comprehension that is spiritual and profound: how all components of existence are interdependent.
The deepest depths and the highest mountains are inter- related. They are integrated with each other.
This awareness constantly makes us recognize that only because of the dark and unsightly lower states of being do the highest states of being, honorable and bright, come forth and climb to the zenith of their splendor.
Then integration and unity constantly increase within us.
From the world of the tangible, we move to the world of the non-material, to the thoughts and schemes of man, to the avenues of various cultures, faiths and systems.
And we are repelled, seeing how evil and foolishness have ruled and continue to rule in the paths of the human heart: in customs, opinions, beliefs, in how people live--privately and socially. We look at the abominations justified by faith, at all the sacrifices of humanity to idolatry, at all the victims of vile custom and at all the evils, degradations, weakness and darkness that have gained broad acceptance.
On the other hand, we see flashes: the crown of grace of humanity's intelligence and virtue, the wisdom of the wise, the courage of the mighty, the flaming holy light of a pure and elevated faith, the ideals and hopes for the great future, and pillars of light that pervade the present.
Seeing both of these, we immediately realize: all of this, all this non-material vision constitutes one world. It too has an organic content. It too, with the entire splendor of its soul, with the lightning flash of its holy spirit and the might of the God of gods within it, relies upon its base, upon its cellar. If not for the trash within the spirit of man, the fruit of our understanding--which gives joy to God and man--would not blossom.
Then immediately, we are consoled for the dust and ashes. We lovingly accept the profound wisdom of the universal Architect, the Creator of all being, the God of all spirits, the Master of all souls, Who gives a soul to the people of the land and a spirit to those who walk upon it--so that from His goodness we may all draw goodness.
Ever more strongly, we are girded with holiness and might. We begin to recognize our lowliness and greatness-- simultaneously.
We take pleasure in the flowers of grace and beauty that have blossomed upon the flower beds of human history. In this, we recognize something more exalted, something unendingly greater.
We are all permeated with the yearning of song, we are all filled with might: to walk upright upon the road of light, to know the greatness within the ultimate harvest of the spirit, where all goodness and virtue, all light and freedom blossom.
We take the fruit of faith in its purity, in its first-born state, to the degree we can reach it according to our straight path of understanding. And as for whatever sparkles within us beyond the power of our mind, we know with faith that from the very heights, God guards.
We are resolved to teach our upright wisdom. We are filled with the excellence of that divine greatness which we know as an inheritance from the early masters, from the teachings of the holy assemblies.
"Who is like You, mighty God, surrounded by Your faithfulness?" (Psalms 89:9). Oros Hakodesh II, pp. 417-18
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
Hashem, please help me promenade
This issue is sponsored by Joel Klein and Rachel Rotenberg in honor of the bar mitzvah of their son, Elisha; and by Mark W. Hart in honor of the birthday simchah of his mother, Dorothy C.
All translations and original material. Copyright 1998