The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 26
Vayikra, March 2002
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
LOVE FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE
THE BAAL SHEM TOV'S JOURNEY TO THE HOLY LAND
by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Love for the Jewish people, including the practice of championing the entire Jewish people and every individual Jew, is not merely an emotional practice. Rather, this comprises a great area of specialty within the Torah, a profound and broad wisdom with many branches, all of which blossom and draw their sustenance from the rich dew of light of the Torah of lovingkindness.
by Rabbi Kalman Kalonymus
In the midst of the Jews' sufferings in Egypt, Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon Hacohen appeared, and the voice of God spoke through them: "I have taken account of you and of what is being done to you in Egypt, and I declare that I will raise you from the suffering of Egypt to a land... that is flowing with milk and honey" (Shmot 3).
Not even a cold-spirited person with a dull faith could doubt these holy words (heaven forbid), for everyone perceived with his own senses that it was not Moshe who spoke, but that God was speaking through him.
But [this awareness might not last, for] in the eyes of a man who is depressed and crushed by his sufferings, even the flame of the sun can grow dim, so that he will grope at noon like a blind person groping in the dark. Therefore, in order to give these people faith, Moshe and Aharon performed the first and second wonder. All the Jews saw the miracles of our God, the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov. They bowed in acknowledgment and prostrated themselves before God, Who had seen their suffering and Who had from the heights and descended to their lowliness to save them. They spoke with each other, discussed the matter with each other, and they all rejoiced. A man would come home and tell his wife and children about this great thing, about the wonders he had heard and which his eyes had seen, and they would talk, imagine their exodus, and think about and how to prepare for the journey.
In one house, an innocent child asked fearfully, "Father, Mother, how can we leave when the taskmaster beats us? Remember, Father, when you once woke up late, that evil man beat you so hard that you were sick for many weeks afterwards, and you rolled in pain for many nights? I am afraid."
His father rebuked him, "Can the taskmaster do anything to us when God has decided to redeem us?"
The innocent child cried and asked again, "So why has God not saved us from our terrible sufferings until now?
"Do you remember when those evil men enclosed my friend, our neighbor's son, into a wall because his father hadn't completed his daily work quota? Remember, Father, when his entire body was already built into the wall and only his mouth was uncovered, how he cried out because of the weight of the bricks and mortar. Woe, my dear friend! With his last strength he cried out to his parents, 'Save me, save me! I cannot bear it any longer.' And he called out to me in his suffering. How terrible it was when they pushed in the last brick and crushed his brain. If Mother had not grabbed me to pull me home, I would have run forward to give my life for his, so that they would brick me into a building instead of him. Why didn't God have compassion then?"
The child wept loudly. His mother, one of the righteous women in Egypt, took him to her breast. She kissed him and said, "Listen, my dear son. Do not weep, my dear one. Have I not taught you from your earliest years to know that Hashem, the God of Israel, is God? He created the seas and rivers, the heavens and the earth. He has made everything according to His will, and He guides everything according to His will. Nothing is hidden from Him, not even the depths of the earth or the floor of the seas. He created everything, and He sees and guides everything. We and all created beings are finite, bounded and limited. But our living God is infinite, without boundary or limitation. So great is His infinite nature that no created being can understand Him.
"We realize that an act or thought that a child can understand is a small, childish act and thought, on the level of the child's mind and his ability to think. We know that something that an adult can understand is only on a human level, matching the ability of his mind to think. But our God is a supernal, uplifted God. All the wise men of the earth together with all the highest angels cannot understand Him. And that is His greatness. Nor can we know His actions in the heights and His activities upon the earth. And this is His glory.
"See, my son: is it not the case that Hashem, the God of Israel, fills the entire world? There is no corner, no crevice that He does not fill. Even as we speak, He is before us.
"Yet how is it that we do not see Him? Is the Holy One of Israel not within me and you? How is it that we cannot know Him? A person with his human intellect cannot understand this. But there is one thing we have: we believe in God without skepticism or subtly, and we follow the path of God, His rules and laws, just as Avraham Avinu taught Yitzchak, Yitzchak taught Yaacov, Yaacov taught his sons, and his sons their sons after them, until our generation.
"Fortunate are you, my son, that you are a Jew, one of the children of God. Be happy that you have merited to serve God, even if you have seen the cruelty of these contemptible people toward the children of Israel, how they treat us with contempt and embitter our lives (heaven forbid).
"Do not ask, 'Why does God not have compassion on us? Why does the King of the entire world abandon His own children, the children of Israel, leaving them so unprotected, so humiliated? Why doesn't He destroy these wicked, cruel people in the blink of an eye? Does He lack thunderbolts? Or is there no more lightning in heaven with which to burn incinerate these people and reduce them into dust?'
"Do not ask such questions. Even if you see a person who walks in the ways of God yet who suffers, do not throw everything away, my son. Do not dare to question the actions of the Holy One, blessed be He. He is the most compassionate of all and can do whatever He wants. What is too difficult for Him, and who can hinder Him? He is infinite, and His compassion and ability are infinite. Your question is valid only in accordance with the measure of your mind, for your mind does not understand why He did not have compassion until now.
"Your mind and my mind are human, but our God is infinite. The fact that we cannot understand Him constitutes part of His greatness. Even when you see all our suffering and the insults we bear, humble yourself before God and say, 'Hashem is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.' But pour your heart out to Him that He have pity upon us.
"And see, indeed see, my precious one, that almost two hundred and ten years have passed during which we have been mired in Egypt. The Egyptians have long rejoiced, saying that all our hope is lost, that we will remain their servants forever and die beneath their rods. But He Who dwells in the heavens laughs. Now that it has arisen in His will to save us, He has sent his holy prophets, Moshe and Aharon, the children of Amram, to redeem us from slavery to freedom, from subjugation to redemption, and from darkness to a great light."
by Avraham Stern
The Baal Shem Tov once traveled to the land of Israel.
Hasidim tell that his central purpose was to meet with the Ohr Hachaim face to face. One of them had the nefesh (the lowest soul level) of the messiah, and the other had the ruach (the next highest soul level) of the messiah. Had their generation been worthy, they would have come together, the nefesh and the ruach, and they would have automatically been impregnated with the neshamah (the next level up) of the messiah. And in their time the complete redemption would have come. (Old books tell the same thing about the author of the Reishis Chochmah, the author of Shevet Musar and the author of Sefer Chareidim in their time. At that time, they were also prevented by heaven from meeting.)
What happened to the Baal Shem Tov on his journey is already well-known and recorded: that pirates captured him with his two fellow-travelers, his only daughter Adel and his student, R. Hirsch Sofer, and tied them up while they went to fetch their other captives and the booty.
R. Hirsch then said to the Baal Shem Tov, "Rebbe! Why are you silent? We are in the greatest danger!"
The Baal Shem Tov answered, "What can I do? From heaven, all my spiritual levels have been taken away from me. I don't remember one verse, not even one holy word. R. Hirsch, perhaps you remember at least one word that I once learned with you."
R. Hirsch remembered two letters–alef beis–and he said to the Baal Shem Tov, "Rebbe! I remembered that you once learned the alef beis with me."
The Baal Shem Tov answered him, "Good, let us cling to the holiness of the letters." And the three of them yelled together, "Alef beis!" Their ropes suddenly tore apart, and the Baal Shem Tov's spiritual levels once more returned to him. A ship drew close, took them on board, and brought them to Stambul (Constantinople). to be continued
by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Sometimes an ordinary Jew just makes a movement with his sidelock, and God takes great pride even in that.
Likutei Moharan 17:1
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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