The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 12

Vayeitzei 5759 / November 98

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

* The Rebbetzin's Blessing

-from a Yiddish Story Book

* God Willing

-by Haim Lifshitz

* Rabbi Moshe Leib and the Butcher's Assistant

-from a Yiddish Story Book

* The Narrow-Mouthed Container

-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman


from a Yiddish Story Book

Once, a porter came to Rabbi Shalom of Belz. Rabbi Shalom was sleeping, so his wife, the rebbetzin, asked the porter what he wanted.

He told her that he had suffered pains in his feet for the past year.

She told him to undertake to light a candle in the beis medrash, as a result of which he would be healed. He did so, and her blessing came true.

When Rabbi Shalom learned of this, he asked her, "Where did you know this from?"

She replied, "After all, King David has said, 'It is a lamp for my feet.'"

Dover Shalom, pp. 16-17


by Haim Lifshitz

Someone once told Rav Kook, "God willing, we will move to the land of Israel."

Rav Kook replied, "God is certainly willing. What counts is that you be willing."

Shivchei Harayah, p. 208


by Haim Lifshitz

Once, a man close to Rav Kook confided in him, "My son does not have a great desire to learn Torah."

Rav Kook replied, "When I was young, I also did not have a great desire to learn the halachah. My heart was drawn after aggadah. And by learning aggadah, I came to learn halachah. I advise you to teach your son aggadah. As a result, he will also come to learn halachah."

And so it was.

Shivchei Harayah, p. 180


from a Yiddish Story Book

Rabbi Moshe Leib once learned about an upstanding young man in Brode who had been unjustly convicted of a crime and sentenced to a long prison term.

Rabbi Moshe Leib was filled with a burning passion for pidyon shevuyim, freeing the unjustly imprisoned. Thinking and considering the matter, he paced his room, speaking to himself: "What can be done? How can this young man be freed?"

He commanded his gabbai, his personal assistant, to travel to Brode and contact a young butcher's assistant. This assistant was a very strong man who could break down walls. He was also a gambler, even ready to risk his life--and he always had to succeed. Rabbi Moshe Leib told his gabbai to bring him this butcher's assistant. The gabbai immediately left and returned with the butcher's assistant.

"What do you want of me, dear rabbi?" the assistant asked Rabbi Moshe Leib when he entered.

Rabbi Moshe Leib replied, "I want you to get so-and-so out of prison, and I will pay you whatever you ask for."

"For such business," the assistant said, "I do not take money. Instead, dear rabbi, if you give me a note promising me your portion in the world-to-come, I will undertake to do this."

Without much thought, Rabbi Moshe Leib immediately wrote the note. After all, he thought to himself, saving a Jew is even worth selling one's portion in the world to come. He immediately gave the assistant the note and told him, "We have a deal."

When one makes a deal, one must drink on it. So the assistant butcher told Rabbi Moshe Leib, "Come to the tavern with me, dear rabbi, and let us have a drink together."

Rabbi Moshe Leib immediately accompanied him, so that the matter would take as little time as possible. In the tavern, the butcher's assistant ordered an entire liter of whiskey. Rabbi Moshe Leib drank a little. The assistant drank the rest and called out, "Rabbi, it's a deal!"

Immediately, the butcher's assistant travelled home to Brode. But a day later, he returned to Rabbi Moshe Leib in Sassov. He told him, "Dear rabbi, I regret the deal we made. I have spoken with people, who have explained to me that in the world-to-come, the righteous sit in the garden of Eden and learn Torah from God's mouth. I am an ignorant person, and in the world-to-come, I will only be embarrassed. What good is such a deal to me?"

"If so," Rabbi Moshe Leib asked him, "what do you want?"

"Dear rabbi," the butcher's assistant explained, "I want you to give me a note promising that I will marry a good woman and have fine children who will grow up to be Torah scholars. I was told that this is the best that a person can hope for. I want good children who will bring me honor when I am in the other world."

Rabbi Moshe Leib took back the first note and immediately gave the assistant another note, as he had requested. And, as they had done the first time, they went and drank a liter of whiskey.

"Be well, dear rabbi!" the assistant said. "We have a deal! Tomorrow, God willing, I will bring you the young man."

The deal was made at night. The butcher's assistant returned to Brode and bought a liter of fine whiskey. Immediately, that same night, he went to the prison warden. He knocked at his window and told him, "Open up! You know me. We always drink together. I have something for you."

Hearing his good friend's voice, the warden immediately opened the door. "What's new, good brother?" the warden asked him.

"Nothing's new! It's an old story. I was in the village, where I found some whiskey that is better than anything we have ever had before. I brought along a liter of the merchandise so that we can taste it." He put the bottle on the table. "Bring two glasses! I have to share this with you, brother. The taste of heaven is in this whiskey." The butcher's assistant kept pressing the warden to drink. They both started tasting the merchandise, until they emptied the bottle. Sitting at the table drunk, the warden fell fast asleep. The butcher's assistant slipped out his keys, and quietly went to the cell where the young man was imprisoned. He freed him and immediately brought him to Sassov. A few hours later, the young man was spirited to the other side of the border.

Out of embarrassment, the warden didn't dare tell what had happened. Instead, he claimed that he knew nothing about what had occurred.

The butcher's assistant continued his business. As part of his work, he would regularly deliver calf flesh to a distinguished count who lived near Brode. The count was a weak man whom the doctors had ordered to eat only calf flesh to maintain his health.

One week, the butcher (the assistant's employer) could not get any calf. He immediately informed the count, who sent messengers to all the other butchers in Brode. But they all sent back the same reply: that it was now impossible to obtain calf meat.

On his own, the butcher's assistant rode out to the villages and succeeded in finding a few calves, which he bought with his own money. He immediately brought the calves to the count. When the count saw him, he asked him, "Your employer told me that it is impossible to get calf meat now, and all the other butchers said the same. So how did you get this?"

The butcher's assistant replied, "Do not ask, dear count. For your sake, I would give my life. I did this all for you, for your life is worth more to me than my own."

"If that is the case," said the count, "please tell me whatever I owe you, and I will pay."

"Pay me?" said the assistant. "Your staying alive means so much to me that I do not want any pay. My greatest reward is that God considered me worthy enough to do this for you."

"If this is so, if I have such a good friend...!" The count pulled a sheaf of notes from his pocket. He told the assistant, "For your extraordinary loyalty to me, take this money. I do not want to know much it is. It is God's and yours. From this day onward, you will be my business agent, for now I know that you are my true, good friend. Whoever wants to do business with me will have to go through you. Without you, I will do nothing. You are my friend!"

Before long, the butcher's assistant gained the respect of all the wealthy men in town. The count had various business deals with each of them, and everything was done only through the loyal agent. After awhile, he was no longer thought of as the butcher's assistant. He became an eminent member of the community, and was even elected monthly community leader (as was the custom to elect a new leader every month).

Since he was a bachelor, he received outstanding marriage proposals. He married a woman from a very good family, the daughter of a great Torah scholar. And they had children who grew to be great scholars. They eventually became the most outstanding family in Brode, and great tzaddikim married into that family.

In his own lifetime, this man saw how Rabbi Moshe Leib's blessing came about. He saw how Rabbi Moshe Leib's note to him was paid off correctly and exactly. May his merit guard us.

Shivchei Ramal, pp. 27-30


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Why do we fall? Because we do not realize how easy repentance is.

Oros Hateshuvah 14:4a

If you want to become completely righteous, you will find it hard to even repent.

Instead, desire--always--to repent. Immerse yourself in the idea. Yearn to see the manifestation of repentance in action. Then your repentance can lift you to the level of a completely righteous person--and even higher.

ibid., 14:36


by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Imagine you want to immerse a few small items in a mikvah. You put them in a narrow-mouthed container and immerse the container in the mikvah. If the container does not need immersion (already being tahor, ritually pure), the immersion is ineffective for the items within it. But if the container does need immersion, along with the items within it, the immersion is effective.

There is a general principle that immersion in a mikvah is ineffective if the water has to pass through a narrow passageway- -such as the narrow mouth of a container. The narrowness of the passage halachically separates the water inside the container from the mikvah outside the container.

However, if you are intending to immerse the narrow-mouthed container itself, the immersion is effective. In that case, the above-mentioned principle is irrelevant--the water of the mikvah flows around and inside the container and makes it tahor.

If the narrow-mouthed container does not need immersion, the fact that it has a narrow passage prevents the utensils inside from being effectively immersed. However, if the narrow-mouthed container does need immersion, the water that enters the narrow passage effectively purifies the container. And if that water is effective in purifying the container, then it also purifies whatever utensils are lying within the container.

So here is a case where the fact that a container is tamei, halachically impure, broadens the possibility of creating purity.

One could homiletically compare this outer container to a human being, the small utensils within to his particular characteristics, and the mikvah to his spiritual self- purification.

A person can be like the container that is tahor and whose mouth is narrow. He is basically in conformity with Torah--he is tahor--and he is also a narrow person. Within himself exist unclean utensils--coarse personality traits or the influence of the surrounding degraded culture in specific areas. If this person immerses himself in an environment of piety and Torah, because he filters everything through a narrow opening he will not affect those specific areas that need rectification. But if he is broad-minded (like a container with a broad opening), then such immersion can transform him completely.

On the other hand, there can be a person who needs spiritual purification in a general way, as well as containing specific unrefined traits within himself. It may be that he too is narrow-minded. (He is like an impure container with a narrow opening). Yet when he immerses himself in a life of purity, when he transforms his outer life, he transforms as well those individual traits within himself.

The Talmud debates whether it is better to be unfailingly righteous or a penitent. Perhaps this halachah regarding the immersion of utensils within narrow-mouthed containers suggests the point of view that in the case of narrow-minded people, self- transformation is more possible in the case of a penitent.

However, in the case of a broad-minded person (as in the case of a broad-mouthed container), whether or not he is unfailingly righteous or a penitent, his specific traits can be purified in equal measure. In that case, the advantage is with the unfailingly righteous person, for he has never done wrong.

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