The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume III, Issue 14
Vayeishev 5759 / December 98
Translations and original material copyright (c) 1998 by Yaacov
Dovid Shulman (unless otherwise noted)
* Adam and Eve
-from a Yiddish Story Book
* The Daughter of the Rebbe of Belz -from a Yiddish Story Bookv * From When Do We Read the Shma in the Evening?
-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
* The Growing Stone
-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
* The Woman Who Sits in the Attic, Kneading Dough -by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
ADAM AND EVE
from a Yiddish Story Book
At the time that Rabbi Shalom of Belz began to act as a rebbe, Rabbi Feivush was living in the town of Hobnub, which was two miles' distance from Belz. Rabbi Feivush was an old man, one of the disciples of the rebbe of Lublin.
When he heard that Rabbi Shalom had become a rebbe, he told one of his most important Hasidim that he wanted the two of them to go to Belz to see Rabbi Shalom in the "shlyer."
They came to Belz, and Rabbi Shalom invited them to eat with him. Rabbi Shalom sat at the table with Rabbi Feivush next to him and Rabbi Feivush's Hasid sat next to him.
As they sat there, the rebbetzin came in and set the table. Then she herself brought the food to the table.
When Rabbi Feivush's Hasid saw this, he grew very angry. He did not approve of such conduct [of the woman appearing]. In addition, he considered the fact that the rebbetzin herself, rather than a manservant, handled the food was a sign of disrespect to his own rebbe. However, seeing that Rabbi Feivush said nothing, he too remained silent.
After the meal, Rabbi Shalom entered the room where his wife and mother were sitting. The rebbetzin told him, "Take one of my pieces of meat. You will see how good it tastes." Rabbi Shalom took the piece of meat and ate it.
When Rabbi Feivush's hasid saw this, he could no longer control himself. He said to his rebbe, "Do you see how these new leaders conduct themselves?"
Rabbi Feivush told him, "Be still. Say nothing. All the rebbe's actions are for the sake of heaven. And his conduct with the rebbetzin is like that of Adam and Eve before they sinned."
Dover Shalom #37
THE DAUGHTER OF THE REBBE OF BELZ
from a Yiddish Story Book
The second daughter of Rabbi Shalom, the rebbe of Belz, was the rabbanis, Mrs. Eidele.
She conducted herself like a rebbe. People brought her kvitlech (notes seeking spiritual and physical blessing, which hasidim bring their rebbe). Her father said of her, "The only thing that my Eidele lacks is a spodek" (a type of shtreimel, worn by Hasidim and originally only by rebbes).
In Brode, there was a person who had developed an illness in his lungs and chest, and the doctors said that he had no hope of recovery.
Once, he was coughing up blood. The doctors told him that this blood contained the last of his lung, and that he did not have much longer to live.
His family ran to Mrs. Eidele in a great commotion. She told them, "A similar thing once happened with my father. He said, 'First, I don't believe the doctors when they say that the patient has no more lung. Secondly, even if he no longer has a lung, who says that a person must have a lung? He Who decreed that a man lives with a lung can also decree that he can live without a lung.' And the man recovered. I hope to God that in the same way this man will also recover."
And so it was. The man was healed and lived for many more years.
Dover Shalom, #15
FROM WHEN DO WE READ SHMA IN THE EVENING?
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
"From when do we read Shma in the evening? From the time that the cohanim enter to eat their terumah" (Berachos 2a).
The reading of Shma in the evening and the morning signifies two types of calling out in God's name that are incumbent upon the Jewish people. We must accept upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven; our proclamation that the name of Hashem is one must ultimately cause all inhabitants of the world to recognize and know that Hashem, the God of Israel, is King, and that His kingdom extends over all. However, during our exile, which is comparable to evening, our main activity is to influence ourselves, to fortify ourselves in the name of Hashem, in order to stand against the waves that roll over us.
Therefore, at night, "whoever does not conclude the evening Shma with the words 'true and faithful' has not fulfilled his obligation" (Berachos 12a). Night is a time of faith. For us, it is enough to have faith, to receive the truth from our forefathers, who saw the light of God and His glory eye to eye.
However, in the time of the redemption, the might of Israel shall be exalted. That will be the time of reading Shma in the morning--at that time, Shma is introduced by the words "with greave love." At that time, all the nations will proclaim the light of Israel to be an eternal light. Then, all those aspects of the Torah that had been hidden will become revealed (Pesachim 3a). In order to draw close those who are distant, it is fitting to clarify the words of truth and to translate the matter in accordance with the superficial understanding of the nations. Therefore, the morning Shma concludes with the words "emes veyatziv"--emes is "truth" in Hebrew, and "yatziv" is "established" in Aramaic.
The people of Israel are the priests of God in this world. In regard to their involvement with inner matters amongst themselves, they have nothing to do with outsiders.
When the cohanim teach Torah or even when they offer sacrifices, they have a connection with outsiders. They may be our agents or God's agents (Yoma 19a), but they rate, at any rate, agents. However, when they enter to eat the priestly portion of terumah, they enter a cohanic sphere, where it is forbidden to be in partnership with an outsider. An outsider has no part in that food at all, and it is necessary to be separate.
Similarly, the time of the evening Shma causes Israel to be a separate nation, so that it may guard its holy acquisitions: an eternal life with God in its midst.
Thus there is a connection between reading Shma in the evening and the time that the cohanim enter to eat their terumah.
THE GROWING STONE
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
The verse states in Vayeitzei that Yaacov Avinu came to a well, which had "a large stone" upon it. If one reads the Hebrew carefully, one notes that it says, "ha'even gedolah" rather than "ha'even hagedolah." The phrase should thus be translated "the stone was large" upon the well, or even "the stone was growing" upon the well.
The next instance of the word "gedolah" occurs soon afterwards, in describing Leah, who is the "large," or older, sister to Rachel.
One might say that Yaacov's experience at the well presaged his experience with Leah. Yaacov came to the domain of Lavan to marry and have children. His desire to marry and have children with Rachel was frustrated at first, and it was through Leah that his first children came.
A well symbolizes fecundity and children. A stone upon the well is the blockage of that fecundity. A stone also indicates, in its proper time, the process of birth. The birthstool is "avnayim": a stone seat.
It is precisely when we are coming to a goal that the obstacles grow larger: the greater the goal, the greater the obstacles. Therefore, the stone was large precisely because it was upon the well.
Ultimately, the stone itself may be transformed into the birthstool. Leah, the impediment to Yaacov's marriage to Rachel, is the most fertile of his four wives.
THE WOMAN WHO SITS IN THE ATTIC, KNEADING DOUGH
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
According to Beit Shammai, it is possible to have a situation of a woman kneading her dough in which the bowl is tamei (ritually impure), yet the woman and the dough remain tahor (ritually pure). Beit Hillel disagrees and says that they are all tahor (Chagigah 22b).
In this case, the woman is an am ha'aretz--one of that class of people whose halachic proficiency is not completely reliable. She is sitting in an attic. On the main floor of the house, there is a dead body. The hole linking the attic to the ground floor is blocked by a clay vessel.
Beit Shammai says that this clay vessel is assumed to be tamei because it is in the possession of an am ha'aretz. That makes it porous to tumah. But if it is porous to tumah, why do the woman and the dough remain tahor? The answer is that we declare it tahor for the use of an am ha'aretz, who would otherwise be angered at our critical judgement, since we are causing him trouble and loss of money (e.g., having to throw out food). However, since the am ha'aretz may lend a chaver--one who is not an am ha'aretz, and who stringently keeps tahor--the bowl, we declare the bowl tamei (and that bowl may be easily made tahor by being placed in the mikvah).
Beit Hillel, on the other hand, makes the assumption that the clay vessel is tahor. Thus, it is impervious to tumah, and everything in the attic remains tahor.
The chaver separates himself from this world. He attempts to live on a more pure, other-worldly level. Even when he is allowed to eat food that is tamei, he does not do so, but only eats food that is tahor. On the other hand, the am ha'aretz does not undertake such stringencies. He is more at home within this world.
Death is the ultimate expression of this-worldly, unredeemed existence. Death fills the house: that is the experience of this world. Yet one may rise into the attic, separate from the house. There in the attic, the woman kneads the dough. According to one opinion, the fruit of the tree of good and evil was wheat. It is our task to raise the very vehicle of our contamination and descent and raise it out of this death-tainted house, to a higher reality, to the attic, and there rework it. Thus, it is the woman--emblematic of Eve, who first ate of the fruit--who sits in the attic kneading dough: making bread of that wheat. Bread is the staff of this-worldly life; bread is our means of relating to God, as in the showbread offered in the Beit Hamikdash.
What separates the attic from the death-infested house? A clay vessel. A clay vessel is the symbol of this-worldly life, as expressed in one of the metaphors employed in the High Holiday prayers. The clay vessel is our awareness that in this physical world we are merely containers, temporary containers, for a higher, spiritual reality.
According to Beit Shammai, when a person is an am ha'aretz, not sequestered from the reality of this world, one's awareness of the world-to-come (symbolized by the clay vessel) is porous to the contamination of this world. Although we raise our consciousness, although we may rise to the attic to transform the things of this world to that of the next, our efforts are frustrated. The dough, the stuff of this world, which we are working to metamorphose, remains sullied with the illusions of this world. We ourselves, and the bowl, the means of our lives, are said to be pure. But this is apparently a condescending designation: we are pure in relation to an am ha'aretz who is not engaged in such self-transformative work--but in relation to a chaver, a truly elevated individual, we are still tamei.
Beit Hillel, on the other hand, does not assume that the vessel of an am ha'aretz is tamei. Even a person steeped in this-worldly life is capable of self-redemption, of awareness. His attempt to transform the compromised reality of this world and to attain the point of view of the world-to-come can be as authentic as that of an abstemious chaver.
On first hearing Beit Shammai's principle regarding the porousness of the clay pot, Rabbi Yehoshua mocked it. How could it be that the woman and the food are tahor yet the bowl is tamei? he asked. In other words, when one holds a purist, elitist view, one should declare everything about an am ha'aretz tamei: an am ha'aretz is completely unredeemable, completely contaminated by the fabric of this world.
When Beit Shammai's more nuanced position was explained to Rabbi Yehoshua, in penance he fasted until his teeth turned black. Beit Shammai still allows an opening for an am ha'aretz to redeem himself. As the mishnah states in Pirkei Avot, Shammai declared that one should greet everyone--including an am ha'aretz--with an inviting demeanor. Although a spiritually rigorous and purist point of view creates a hierarchy separating the chaver from the am ha'aretz, the am ha'aretz is assured that on his level he can rise to a state that can be legitimately called tahor.
Learning this, Rabbi Yehoshua realized that his understanding of the transmission of Torah and purity was incomplete. He fasted: an ultimate way of separating oneself from the things and the passions of this world. Having done so for a sufficient length of time, his teeth turned black. Bright- white teeth symbolize an edenic relationship with God. Yaacov blessed Yehudah that his teeth will be as white as milk. Teeth represent speech--the transmission of Torah to the next generation. The verse states, "Veshinantem levanechah"--and you shall speak them (words of Torah) to your children. The word for "speak" has as its root the word for tooth ("shein").
Yet black, the negation of all color, is even higher than white. It is the state of reality beyond all color. Rabbi Yehoshua separated himself from the world to such an extent that he rose to an extraordinarily high level of consciousness. Then he could recognize that what may appear as internal contradictions and logical flaws in a spiritually-based approach are, when seen from a higher point of view, internally consistent; what may appear as divisive and rejecting is, when seen from a monistic point of view, creating an opening of acceptance.
Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues