The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume III, Issue 13

Vayishlach 5759 / December 98

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

* The Rebbe and Rebbetzin of Belz: Five Vignettes

-from a Yiddish Story Book

* Halachah and Aggadah

-by Haim Lifshitz

* Repentance

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* Patience

-by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov


from a Yiddish Story Book

I. A Young Couple

The father of Rabbi Shalom, the rebbe of Belz, was named Rabbi Elazar. When Rabbi Elazar passed away at a young age, his wife married a wealthy man of Brode. Her brother, Rabbi Yissachar Dov, who was av beis din of Skahl, took her son--who was then a small child--home with him. He brought up the boy and guided him in the ways of Torah. Afterwards, he gave Rabbi Shalom his own daughter, the rabbanis and tzaddekes, Malkah, as a wife.

Everyone knows of her piety and that it was she who brought him to his greatness.

Every night, she would wake him and tell him, "Shalom, get up from bed to serve God. Open up your eyes and see that all the workers have already gotten up from bed to go to work. So you too must get up to your holy service of God."

Every night, Rabbi Shalom would pretend to the others in the house [principally, his parents-in-law] that he was sleeping in his room. But his wife would let him into the street through the window. Then he would go to the beis medrash of Rabbi Shlomo Oytzker of Skahl, with whom he would learn the entire night. Before the morning star shone, he returned home, and his wife let him in through the window. No one else knew of this. And then he would lie down to sleep for a while.

Just as he had closed his eyes, his father-in-law would get up. And when he would realize that his son-in-law is still asleep, he would grow very angry at him. He would knock on his door and tell him, "How much longer will you sleep? When will you get up?" In his piety, Rabbi Shalom would get up and sit down to learn with his father-in-law. This was his constant custom.

One day, his father-in-law told him that he could no longer support him. He would have to learn a profession. Rabbi Shalom was ready to go to Leipzig to buy merchandise. But his wife, the rabbanis, sold her pearls and earrings so that for a period of time he would be able to continue sitting and learning Torah.

Dover Shalom, #1

II. The Student

At the time that Rabbi Shalom was learning from Rabbi Shlomo Loytzker, a great desire awoke in him to go learn from the rebbe of Lublin. He told this to Rabbi Shlomo, but Rabbi Shlomo did not agree. Still, Rabbi Shalom's desire to go to Lublin burned within him, and so he pleaded with Rabbi Shlomo to allow him to do so.

Rabbi Shlomo replied, "If you go to Lublin, I will take away from you everything that you have received from me."

But in his great desire, Rabbi Shalom paid this no mind. He told him, "Even so, I want to go there." And he left.

When he returned home to Lublin, he went to see Rabbi Shlomo. At that moment, Rabbi Shlomo was standing at the window. When he saw Rabbi Shalom, he told his wife, the rebbetzin, "Come and have a look at my student, Rabbi Shalom. Look at how his face is shining and how the holiness of the Torah is shining upon him."

ibid., #3

III. The Difficult Shidduch

Rabbi Shalom, the Belzer rebbe, once went to his brother, the gaon Rabbi Leibish Rokeach, in Berditshev.

Rabbi Leibish's son-in-law had daughters who were ready to be married off. [The author could have referred to these young women as Rabbi Leibish's daughter's daughters, or simply as Rabbi Leibish's granddaughters. The fact that he refers to them as Rabbi Leibish's son-in-law's daughters perhaps provides a sociological insight into the author's understanding of significant family roles.] The eldest, Miss Chayah, was having a very difficult time finding a husband--as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea.

Rabbi Leibish asked his brother, Rabbi Shalom, to give her a blessing. So Rabbi Shalom summoned her. When she entered the room, she stood in a far corner and wept. Seeing her, Rabbi Shalom said, "Why are you crying, my daughter? I see that your success is shining, just like that of the tsarina."

Rabbi Shalom's blessing came true. She immediately became engaged, to the son of Rabbi Meir Brodsk of Zlotopoli. And the couple was very successful.

ibid., #10

IV. The Rebbetzin's Insight

In the town of Must lived a very hard man whom everyone hated, for he had committed many evil deeds. This man used to travel to Rabbi Shalom of Belz regularly. Once, he grew ill with an illness that threatened his life, and the entire town rejoiced.

Meanwhile, his wife gave birth to a boy. The man wrote Rabbi Shalom a letter inviting him to be the sandek at the circumcision. It was known that Rabbi Shalom used to travel for miles to attend a circumcision--and the town of Must was only two miles from Belz. So Rabbi Shalom got ready to go to Must.

But Rabbi Shalom's wife, the rebbetzin, came to him and told him, "In my opinion, you should not go--it will only make things worse for that ill man." Rabbi Shalom's son, Rabbi Yehoshuale, in his wisdom saw that his mother, the tzaddekes, was right. But since he realized that his father, Rabbi Shalom, was intent on travelling, he didn't want to dissuade him.

When Rabbi Shalom entered the house, the man immediately grew deathly ill and passed away. And his son was named after him.

When Rabbi Shalom returned home, Rabbi Yehoshuale told him, "My mother told you not to go."

Rabbi Shalom replied, "My son, I have long known that you mother is an intelligent person. But that she is as wise as the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov--that I had not known."

ibid., #36

V. Adam and Eve

Rabbi Baruch Halberstam of Garelitz told the following: When he travelled for the first time with his father Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz to Belz, they came upon Rabbi Shalom sitting at the table together with the rebbetzin. The walls of that destitute room were made of planks.

Rabbi Shalom used to address Rabbi Chaim with the familiar "you"--"du." But he spoke to Rabbi Baruch with the formal "you"- -"ir." Rabbi Baruch wondered about this, and he realized that Rabbi Shalom disapproved of him.

When they left the room, Rabbi Chaim asked Rabbi Baruch, "How did the rebbe and rebbetzin appear to you?"

Rabbi Baruch replied, "They appeared to me like Adam and Eve before the sin."

Rabbi Chaim said, "I swear that that is how they appeared to me as well." Then he asked him, "How did the room where they were sitting appear to you?"

Rabbi Baruch replied, "Like the garden of Eden."

Rabbi Chaim told him, "My son, you saw well. That is what I saw."

Then Rabbi Baruch asked Rabbi Chaim, "Father, why did he address you as 'du' but me only as 'ir'?"

His father replied to him, "My child, you have certainly not repented adequately. That is why he addressed you as 'ir'."

This caused Rabbi Baruch anguish. He cried the entire day and returned to God with a full heart.

That night, when he and his father again came to Rabbi Shalom, Rabbi Shalom addressed Rabbi Baruch, along with his father, as 'du.'

ibid., #37


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


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 Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Medicines consist of bitter substances. Spiritual cures are also bitter. They consist of obstacles that we must break through and sufferings that we must bear before we are truly healed spiritually.

Sometimes, an ill person grows so weak that he cannot bear medical treatment. Then the physicians lose hope. Similarly, when a person's misdeeds--his spiritual illness--grow, he cannot bear the bitterness of his treatment. At that point, he is almost beyond hope.

But God is compassionate. When he sees that a person desires to return to Him but cannot bear the bitter treatment he needs, God has pity on him and casts aside all his sins, so that he will not have more bitterness than he can bear.

Whoever cares for his life and wishes to return to God can understand this. When we enter upon a pious path and approach God, we are almost always beset by obstacles and suffering of all kinds. We imagine that we cannot bear such bitterness, such suffering, such obstacles. There are those who, facing this, fell, turned back, and went away.

But when our desire is true, we must know and believe that all the bitterness, sufferings and obstacles that we encounter come with great love. Our misdeeds called for a much greater amount of bitterness, which we would not have been able to bear by any means. We would have been beyond hope. But God has pity on us and He only sends that amount of bitterness and suffering that we can bear.

Likutei Eitzos, Savlanus 2

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