The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 11

Toldos 5759 / November 98

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

* The Light of Song

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Silver Lamps

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Soibelman

* Measuring What We Say

-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

* Why Has the Comet Fallen?

-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Faith is the song of the upper world. Its source is the divine nature within the depth of the soul, the pleasure of the inner gaze that comes from an infinite gladness.

The finite expression of Torah is built upon the outcome of this holy, supernal song in its actualized limitation.

Those who are filled with the splendor of song suffer at times because of the limited aspect of actual life and its boundaries. Nevertheless, they accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. They know that the world rests on measurement, that the light of song must be clarified in finite utensils. They accept this with love, and draw the light of love and song into measure and rule. By means of this patience, they rise; and the world rises with them. Oros Ha'emunah, p. 88


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Soibelman

Chief Rabbi of Zinkavitz (Ukraine)

In a certain town--I believe it was Tutoyev--there was an distinguished, wealthy man named Yoshia. Whatever happened in the town had to be approved by him. He was also the beadle of the burial society--a respected position. Being a Hasid of Rabbi Israel of Rizhin, he used to travel to Rizhin a few times a year, and he did nothing in his business without asking Rabbi Israel's advice.

In that town, there was also a wealthy, old man who took no part whatsoever in its affairs.

One day, this old man called the members of the burial society and gave them two large, beautiful lamps made of good silver. In exchange for this, he bought a burial plot.

The wealthy old man died and he was buried in the plot that he had bought.

Some time after this, the townspeople realized that the cemetery was full and that it would have to be expanded.

This was something that could only be done by a spiritual master. And so the townspeople asked Yoshia to travel to Rizhin and tell Rabbi Israel that they urgently needed him to come to Tutoyev and expand the cemetery. As a reward for his trouble, they would give him the two silver lamps, which were worth more than a hundred rubles.

But when Yoshia delivered this message, Rabbi Israel replied that he would not come immediately. Instead, he said that when he happened to pass by Tutoyev in his travels, he would come over to expand the cemetery.

Yoshia returned home and delivered this message. A few months passed, and the townspeople again asked Yoshia to travel to Rizhin and ask Rabbi Israel to come and expand their cemetery.

Yoshia travelled to Rizhin and implored Rabbi Israel for his help.

The holy rabbi answered that the townspeople could be sure that as long as he didn't come to Tutoyev, they would not need to expand the cemetery. In other words, no one in Tutoyev will die.

Yoshia returned home and told the townspeople what Rabbi Israel had said.

Matters remained this way for a full year: Rabbi Israel did not come, and no one passed away.

Then, one day when Yoshia was out of town, the holy Rabbi Motele of Chernobyl came to Tutoyev for an overnight stay.

[Rabbi Mordechai--or Motele (1830-1897)--of Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, was the second in line of the Chernobyl, or Twerski, dynasty.]

The townspeople came to Rabbi Motele and asked him to expand their cemetery, saying that it was urgent.

As for his trouble, they would give him the two silver lamps.

Rabbi Motele agreed to this. He said that he would be ready tomorrow morning, and that all the townspeople should await him.

That night, Yoshia came home. His wife told him that the townspeople had asked Rabbi Motele to expand the cemetery and that he had agreed to do so.

Yoshia was very upset. This was an insult to the honor of his rabbi, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin.

The next morning, the townspeople came to Yoshia and told him to give them the two lamps that were in his house, so that they could give them to Rabbi Motele.

But Yoshia refused. He argued that he had already promised them to the holy Rabbi Israel of Rizhin, with the agreement of all of them, and it was impossible to go back on the promise.

The townspeople went back to Rabbi Motele and told him that Yoshia had refused to give him the lamps.

Rabbi Motele sent a messenger to summon Yoshia. Yoshia came to Rabbi Motele and again explained his reason for refusing: the townspeople had already promised the lamps to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin.

Three more times, Rabbi Motele told Yoshia to give him the lamps, and each time, Yoshia refused. At last, Rabbi Motele grew angry at Yoshia and told him, "Listen, Yoshia, if you do not give me the silver lamps, you will not live out the year."

(Author's note: Rabbi Motele was deeply upset that Yoshia had refused him. This involved a measure of public humiliation.

(In a similar story, the Talmud tells that Reish Lakish died as a result of Rabbi Yochanan's becoming upset [Bava Metzia 86a]. The Talmud also teaches [Shabbos 56a] that Uriah the Hittite was called a traitor and judged guilty of death for speaking to King David about "my master, Yoav." Apparently King David was upset that Uriah referred to Yoav as "my master," implying that the king is not his master--or that, at least, Uriah equated the honor of Yoav to the honor of the king. It is self-understood that this would upset the king.

(In our story as well, Rabbi Motele was upset. And the Talmud teaches that the rabbis are our kings. Therefore, Yoshia was worthy of death. It is not that Rabbi Motele was punishing him. Rather, the punishment would be aroused from the divine force of judgement, because he had refused Rabbi Motele a number of times and caused him public humiliation.

(This is the humble opinion of the author.)

Yoshia replied, "Whatever happens, I cannot give the lamps to anyone but Rabbi Israel, because they belong to him."

Rabbi Motele of Chernobyl left Tutoyev angrily, without expanding the cemetery.

Yoshia was terrified of Rabbi Motele's curse. He immediately travelled to Rabbi Israel and told him the entire story.

Rabbi Israel calmed Yoshia, telling him that nothing would happen to him, heaven forbid, and that he could be sure of remaining alive--on condition that he did not let Rabbi Motele see his face.

So it was. Yoshia kept out of Rabbi Motele's sight. If it happened that Rabbi Motele came to Tutoyev or to any adjoining town, Yoshia did not go to him.

That year, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin married off his son, the holy Rabbi Dov of Levya, to the daughter of the holy Rabbi Motele of Chernobyl.

And Yoshia went to the wedding.

Still, he kept himself away from the hall when Rabbi Motele sat at the table.

But Yoshia suffered greatly for six days, because he was forced to stay away from the table where the spiritual masters were sitting. Finally, on the last of the seven days of feasting, Yoshia went to the table. But he made sure to stand behind his rabbi, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin, so that Rabbi Motele would not see his face.

Rabbi Israel gave Rabbi Motele the honor, as father-in-law, of distributing wine to the guests.

Rabbi Motele poured out wine to the people who were in front of him. Then he turned around to give out wine to those standing behind him. And he saw Yoshia.

Rabbi Motele was surprised, and he exclaimed, "It seems that this is Yoshia." But then he gave him another look and said, "No, it is not Yoshia." And he turned back to the table.

He turned around again and said, "It seems to me that this is Yoshia." And he answered himself, "No, it is not Yoshia," and he turned back to the table.

Then, for a third time, Rabbi Motele turned around to look at Yoshia. This time, Rabbi Israel grasped Rabbi Motele's hands and told him, "Please, my friend and in-law, leave him alone. Do not disturb my joy."

So Rabbi Motele no longer turned back to look at Yoshia, and they said grace.

Later, Yoshia went to Rabbi Israel to take his leave.

Rabbi Israel rebuked Yoshia, "Why didn't you keep my warning not to let Rabbi Motele see you?

Don't you know that just now you were in mortal danger? But I had pity on you, and I put another soul into your body. That is why Rabbi Motele did not recognize you. But when I saw that he kept looking at you, I was afraid for you. I was forced to take his hands and ask him to leave you alone. If not for the fact that I had pity on you and with God's help saved you, you would have brought about your own death."

There is another version of this story, which goes as follows:

After the holy Rabbi Motele of Chernobyl cursed Yoshia, Yoshia traveled immediately to Rabbi Israel in Rizhin.

Rabbi Israel told him that for the entire year, he should take in any traveller who came to Tutoyev. He should be very careful to allow no traveller to stay in another house. And with this, he would be saved from Rabbi Motele's curse.

Yoshia understood that Rabbi Israel considered this curse to be very serious. So he kept Rabbi Israel's directive strictly, and allowed no traveller in Tutoyev to stay anywhere else but his house.

It happened that one of those travellers grew ill and died in his house, and he was buried in Tutoyev.

God helped Yoshia, and nothing bad happened to him the entire year. The Hasidim of Rabbi Motele who lived in Tutoyev reported to him that Yoshia was still alive and well.

Rabbi Motele was very surprised and found it hard to believe them. Under his questioning, they told him that a traveller who had stayed in Yoshia's house had fallen ill and died in his house.

When Rabbi Motele heard that, he said, "Only Rabbi Israel of Rizhin could perform such a miracle. He made a man Yoshia's age, who was close to death, travel more than four hundred miles so that he would die in Yoshia's house. That is why I saw that Yoshia had died and found it hard to believe what you told me. Because of Rabbi Israel's action, that man took Yoshia's place."

May his merit guard us and all Israel.

Sipurei Tzaddikim, p. 45-7 (The title page notes that "all the stories were heard by the author himself from respected and well-known elder Hasidim.")


by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

When we give charity before praying, we are saved from strange thoughts. Then, not straying right or left, we measure what we say within the proper rule. Likutei Eitzos, Tzeddakah 1


by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Why has the comet fallen into the sea?
Why has the pelican strayed?
Why do the squirrels stand at their posts at midnight,
Watching you skulk between them?
Why do the skunk, the porcupine, the groundhog
Scatter before you like scrabbling leaves?
What is it that they know?
Each is carrying the spark of its own life,
And you
Are carrying someone else's spark
In your coat pocket.
How brazen your songs all sound.

Now take a step
Into the park you call yourself.
See, the November wind is your wind,
The newly-minted sky features a moon upon its pale blue skin
Like a grinning, floury heart.
It does not matter if you never dance
When you are inside your own dance,
When even before you can begin to speak,
Your arms and legs are singing.
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