The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume VI, Issue 14

Vayigash, December 2001

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2001 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (

--by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

--by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)

--by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Do not be terrified of
The lion that is stalking you.
He merely means to devour you, he merely
Means to spit out your small bird bones. You know that he is

Peering in through each window,
You recall how you didn't take
Him seriously, now you take him seriously,
Now he is outside the house, now the winter branches

Will not conceal you. It was
Pleasant, the conversations with
The men who now are still talking, and they do
Not know that the lion is inimical, he is

Vengeance, he will not leave a
Black shadow, he will saunter and
His black muscles will ripple, his eyes are not
Human, they are power, he regrets and leaves nothing.

by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)

8. Work conscientiously to improve your character traits. And work extra hard to improve every trait that you recognize to be particularly flawed. Wage war against it, using the strategy of seeking advice on how to improve it. Find out what is keeping you from improving and then remove that obstacle. If you do not succeed the first time, try again. And if one piece of advice does not work for you, try another approach. If you do not retreat from the field of battle but you remain constant, strong and active, God will assist you, and you will be victorious.

In general, studying yourself will be very helpful to you. For instance, let us take two people who possess the lowly trait of anger. If they do not examine themselves well, they will find this anger difficult to overcome. But if they look into this evil trait deeply and penetratingly, and come to its kernel, they will be able to more quickly heal this wound.

[One person may simply be an angry person.] But the other person may not have a problem with anger per se. His problem is a vaunting ego. As a result of this ego, everyone else appears to him to be no more important than an ape. That is why he grows so angry, and curses and ridicules others. This man could devote his entire life to working on anger, but it would not help. Even a person who doesn't have an issue with anger could come to yell at, and perhaps even strike, an animal such as an ape or a donkey. But once this person looks deeply at himself and arrives at the core of his anger, and realizes that his anger is actually the expression of his egotism, he will attend to that egotism, and then he will be healed.

And the same idea holds for someone who is expressly egotistical. Unlike another person who is simply an egotist, this person may be egotistical only because he has never experienced being with people greater than he. Or, even if he does find himself in their company, he doesn't recognize their greatness. And so if (for example) he has some skill in Torah learning, he thinks that he is a great scholar, superior to everyone else. The cure for this condition is simple and easy to carry out. He should keep company with people greater than he is and speak with them, and study books that treat great and holy character traits and attainments. Then he will come to recognize his insignificance, and he will grow ashamed of his previous egotism.

9. Do not let a single day pass without learning Torah. It is good to set aside time for learning in the morning, for the Holy One, blessed be He, loves beginnings (as the midrash teaches). If you cannot learn in the morning, do so in the evening. Set a fixed goal of how much Talmud, Midrash, and so forth, you will learn every day and every week, without fail. Grow so accustomed to this schedule and make it such a permanent part of your life that if you do not fulfill it, you will feel as much of a lack as you would feel if you did not put on tefillin one day (heaven forbid). With this in mind, you will find the time to attend to this. If tefillin and prayer were not absolute obligations, you might imagine that you have no time for them either. [But just as you have time for them, view this learning as an obligation for which you must also make time.]

10. Heed and listen, remember and guard this well. There are certain practices that you know you should engage in, such as learning Torah and praying, and personal conduct. If you fail–for instance, although you had to get up early, you failed to do so, or although you had resolved that for a few days you would not eat a food that you find particularly desirable (cf. Seder Hatza'ot 19), you succumbed and ate it–it should appear to you as though you have stumbled and committed a grave sin (heaven forbid). If a person does not view such a failure as a sin over which to grieve (heaven forbid), he is light-headed. And this light-handedness means that he does not take a firm stance, but blows in the wind like a hair or a feather. One moment he stands in the east, a moment later a breeze has blown him to the west. Although such a light-headed person may resolve to attain all good traits, he cannot be sure that he will do so. Worse, his light-handedness might lead him to transgress all the sins in the Torah (heaven forbid).

11. Learn Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud, Zohar and Midrash (the last, in particular, contains within each letter a heavenly fire that can destroy the Side of Evil that surrounds you and gnaws away at you). If a person is busy and cannot learn all of these topics in one day, he should divide them according to the days of the week: for instance, for four days of the week he will learn Talmud, two days Midrash, and so forth.

Learn works of piety such as the Sh'lah, the works of the Maharal, the works of the first Hasidim, such as those of the great Maggid, and Noam Elimelech, k.l., the Maggid of Koznitz, Imrei Elimelech and Divrei Elimelech, Beit Aharon, and so forth. Even if there are some passages that you do not understand, do not stop learning, them, since at the very least their path–the path of holiness, the path of Hasidism–is in them. You will understand as much as you can, and beyond that, the words and holy spirit within them will cling to you and you will be purified. Also, learn some Kabbalah, for at the very least you should not be an absolute ignoramus in these matters. Shefa Tal is a good work for you to begin with.

Bnei Machshavah Tovah

by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook

There are four yearnings in the human spirit, which flow from the spirit of the universe in its divisions.

The first spirit is a yearning for total evil. It is the desire that evil rule over life and the cosmos in all its conditions. From this came the era of idolatry. That era still remains active to the very depth of its depravity in all its branches (the "branches of an alien vine"), with complete evil, disease, foolishness and destruction–whether their corrosiveness is patent or whether it is concealed within the sheathe of superficial beauty, ostensible honor and political power.

The second yearning involves the recognition of the nature of evil. And this results in a proclamation of total despair regarding all reality and in a yearning for redemption through complete annihilation–and life is then arranged to arrive at that end.

The third yearning is a partial despair. That is to say, it is a despair in the face of evil and its power. This yearning cedes to evil the realm of physicality and society (which is so much captivated by what it sees). This yearning thus hopes that such a capitulation will save the inner aspect of life, the facet of goodness within life.

The fourth yearning will save everything, overlooking not even a scrap. It will see to it that "no one will be abandoned." It will save the body as much as the soul, the outer nature of reality as much as its inner nature, evil as much as good. More, it will transform evil into total good, and raise the world and everything in it–in all its aspects and its activities, the world of the individual (with all its physical components) and society with all its configurations–in order to set everything upon a foundation of goodness.

This is the yearning of Israel, as expressed in the depths of Torah, in the foundation of faith, upon the pathways of life: in all of our wars (physical and spiritual), in all of our hopes to strengthen the rulership of and attain eternal peace for the throne of David and his kingdom: to prepare for this and to uphold it with justice and charity. This will be accomplished by "zealousness [on behalf of] the Lord of Hosts." Such "zealousness [on behalf of] the Lord" is the living spirit within the power of Israel, which does not tolerate even the slightest degree of either human or cosmic evil. Then "the idols will be completely destroyed," "Hashem alone will be exalted that day," "the heavens will rejoice and the earth will delight, as among the nations, they will proclaim, ‘The Lord rules.'"

Orot Hakodesh II, pp. 488-89

Class for Men: Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim ("Spiritual Training"), step-by-step guidebook on how to develop an awareness of our souls and of God, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe), Sunday night. For information, call (410) 358-8771.

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