The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues



Volume III, Issue 22

Yisro 5759 / February 99

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

* Broad and Elevated Thoughts

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* The Baal Shem Tov's Journey to the Holy Land

-by Hillel Zeitlin

* There is Nothing Old

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* Eternal Matters That Transcend Time

-by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

* Miriam: The Way of Faith

-by Yaacov Dovid Shulman


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

If, by your nature, your thoughts are broad and elevated in their supernal purity, do not lower yourself and limit your spirit within mediocre thoughts, even if they are good and honorable in essence.

Arpelei Tohar, p. 53


by Hillel Zeitlin

I will here tell a legend that I heard from Breslover Hasidism. It will help us understand, a few chapters from now, the purpose of Rabbi Nachman's journey to the land of Israel.

The writings of the Breslover Hasidim (or, as they are also known, the Hasidim of Uman) tell nothing of this. In the middle of the night, however, elder tells youth the following story: (footnote: The stories about the heavenly opposition to the Baal Shem Tov at the time that he travelled to the land of Israel have been written and published. In the light of the legend that I will now record as I heard it --and which, to the best of my knowledge, has never before been published--they receive an entirely different complexion:)

As is known, the Baal Shem Tov travelled to the land of Israel, but had to turn back, for the generation was not worthy. Satan stretched himself out and protested: "Is this fair? Where is the quality of justice? The Jews have done this and done that. The Jews have sinned. And now this Israel ben Eliezer is travelling in order to bring the moshiach."

The opposition was frightful and terrifying. The Baal Shem Tov struggled with all his might, but could accomplish nothing. He wanted to rise into the upper worlds, but the opposition spread like a black cloud across the heavens and did not allow his prayer through. He wanted to make use of meditations, but all his spiritual attainments were taken from him.

So once, when the Baal Shem Tov awoke at midnight and, as was his custom, opened a holy book, he did not understand a word of it. He took another holy book. But he had forgotten everything--as though he had never learned at all.

The Baal Shem Tov began to weep: "Have I indeed forgotten everything? Do I no longer remember even the alef beis?" He began reciting, over and over again, "Alef, beis, gimel, daled, hei; alef, beis, gimel, daled, hei." And he did so with such bitterness and with such love and yearning for God that all the gates of heaven opened for him and all his spiritual attainments returned. But at the same time, he was explicitly told: "Return home. The time has not yet come."

But the Baal Shem Tov did not give in. He wanted to break down all the barriers and force his way to the land of Israel. One time he heard a voice from heaven: "Israel ben Eliezer has lost his portion in the world-to-come." The Baal Shem Tov was not impressed. If this were the case, he would serve out of love alone, without any hope for reward, and so his service would truly be for the sake of heaven. So what, if one has no world- to-come? "I do not need this world of Yours, I do not need Your world-to-come. I only need You."

But the heavenly opposition grew overwhelming when the Baal Shem Tov set out by sea from Istanbul together with his daughter, who accompanied him on all his ascents and rectifications. So strong did the opposition grow that the Baal Shem Tov heard a voice from heaven: "You have a choice. Either throw your writings into the sea or else your daughter, Hodel."

"Throw me into the sea," said Hodel. "At least your writings should survive."

But as Hodel was about to leap into the depths, she suddenly called out to her father, "Wait! A light has shone for me. I have just been told that there will come from me a person who will reveal greater lights than you, more than you have revealed in your writings."

At the time that the Baal Shem Tov had been in Istanbul, the following episode had taken place:

A young, wealthy woman resident of Istanbul came to him and poured out her bitter heart: "Holy rabbi! I have a great complaint to make to you. Some time ago, a student of yours, a Polish Jew named Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka travelled through Istanbul. He was already an old man. When I saw this holy Jew, I sent messengers with offers of marriage, even though he was so old and I am still so young. The holy Jew accepted my offer, and we were married. But my joy was short-lived. Immediately after the wedding, he disappeared, and I remained a pitiful agunah.

"So I have a complaint to make to you, rebbe. After all, he is your student. How can it be that your student should do such a thing? Have mercy on me. Help me!"

When the Baal Shem Tov heard this, he used the power of binding angels with oaths to find out where his student is. He connected his own three levels of soul to his student's three soul levels and thus forced him to take temporary leave of the land of Israel and come to Istanbul.

When Rabbi Nachman Horodenker came before his rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov told him, "What did you do here in Istanbul? Did you marry a woman and then abandon her?"

"I married the woman," Rabbi Nachman Horodenker explained, "because I saw the light of moshiach surrounding her. But at the time of the wedding, it was revealed to me that as soon as she gave birth, she would leave this world. This caused me great pain: Why should such a young tree be broken? I said to myself, I will disappear and allow the young woman to live a long life."

"No," the Baal Shem Tov replied. "I command you to live with the woman whom you married according to the law of Moshe and Israel. Behadi kivshe derachmana, lama lach: What is your concern with the hidden things of God?"

So Rabbi Nachman went to his destined wife and told her everything.

"I wanted to save you," he said. "I had pity on your youth. Now do as you want. But you must know that as soon as you give birth, you will pass away."

"That is fine," the woman replied. "I accept everything with love, as long as through me, the light of the moshiach will shine onto the world."

When the pregnancy drew to an end and the time of birth came near, the young woman cried, "Master of the world! If it is decreed that such a light should come into the world through me, at least give me the merit to look upon my child. Let me live at least one month after his birth."

When Rabbi Nachman Horodenker heard this, he trembled. "Woe, woe! With her outcry, the woman broke through all the barriers of heaven. If she would have asked for life, it would have been given her. This was a moment of divine favor. But that moment has passed, and she will not be given more than she has asked for."

And so it was. The woman gave birth to a son. He was given the name Simchah, and a month later, she passed away.

to be continued...

Reb Nachman Breslover


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

In the fullness of our soul, we sense the necessity of absolute goodness, the impossibility of its not existing, and the unceasing longing in the depths of our heart to rise to it, to approach its heights, to gaze upon its pleasantness.

We feel that the fulfillment of this absolute goodness in the completeness of its being--free of every boundary, of every condition and ordinance, of every definition and alteration--is a universal fulfillment.

The only way to fulfill our hopes for such goodness is to gaze--to the extent possible--upon the sparks of its radiance. Then strength and life, eternity and splendor shall descend to us and fill us.

After all this vision, we still remain thirsty for goodness to ascend. We still do not embrace the full circumference of goodness in its wholeness. We shall do so only when we shall see, besides the fulfillment of goodness, an ascent of goodness: a constant blossoming, an increase of strength, an ascent without limitations, without standstill.

The fulfillment of our ideal-oriented thirst will show us how to distinguish between the divine light and the worldly light, which draws life from its source.

The divine light satiates our exalted thirst for absolute goodness in its heights.

The worldly light, which grows ever brighter and which constantly rises, drawing from the life of its source, will satisfy us with the goodness of ascent, of increase of might, of additional rising--for which we so deeply thirst and yearn.

We will not be compelled to slake our thirst for knowledge and goodness--when they are united, making understood all existence, making knowable the secret of its ethical grandeur-- with a dry conclusion that existence and decay are the final endpoint; a conclusion that leaves us mortified and shaken, filled with desperation about an on-going, unfolding process that depresses our spirit with the groan that "there is nothing new under the sun."

We rise above everything to the simple vision that our senses could grasp from existence only superficially. We step forward spiritually, striding higher than the sun. Then we pronounce that there is nothing old: everything blossoms, everything rises, everything constantly increases light and life.

Nor does the magnificent spirit fall when it sees that the path of ascent is circuitous, incorporating ascents and descents, advances and very great retreats--for the descents and retreats are filled with the spirit of ascent and advance.

The comprehension of this progress--as it approaches completion, becoming well-integrated in a knowledgeable, ethical life, as it is blessed and emerges from unripeness so that it is not eaten green--lifts the human spirit to the heights of divine light. It makes us assimilate within ourselves the inner goal of the knowledge of God--free of every ordinance and boundary--that exists within the treasure-house of the soul of Israel, that is revealed through the divine manifestation unique to Israel as the highest blossoming of the stream of light of the human soul in the midst of all the nations.

This constant progress fills us with an ideal-oriented, ethical outlook on all of existence. It brings us to the fullness of a divine, knowing and comprehending light that unites our existence with the light of the Life of worlds, with the ultimate purity and ethics, strength and power in all their fullness.

The honor of God, wrapped in the breadth of creation in all its rich and varied hues, becomes known to us in its ideal radiance, growing constantly.

"May His great name be magnified and sanctified."

Oros Hakodesh II, pp. 466-67


by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

To those of great understanding, time is not seen as relating to the past (as it appears to most people). As a result, the things of this world, even the most important, claim no place with them.

In their study, therefore, they are compelled to turn always to eternal matters that transcend time: divine matters and supernal spirituality.

Such people are those who love God, who walk in the light of His countenance constantly.

Arpelei Tohar, p. 53


by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

"And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon took..." (Shemos 15:20). The acrostic of "Miriam, the prophetess, sister" (excluding the prefix, "the") is Mem, Nun, Alef: the letters of amen. Amen is the root of emunah: faith.

While Moshe is knowledge, Miriam had faith. That is why she is here called "the sister of Aharon." As Rashi explains: : "She prophesied when she was Aharon's sister, before Moshe was born, saying 'My mother will bear a son,' etc."

She had emunah that Moshe would help save the Jews.

"And all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing" (ibid.).

The acrostic of "after her with tambourines and with dancing" (excluding the prefixes) is Alef, Tof, Mem: the letters of Emes, truth.

While the men reached faith through knowledge--Moshe--the women reached truth through faith--Miriam.


WINGS OF MORNING is distributed weekly.
To subscribe (free) or to sponsor an issue, please contact:
Yaacov Dovid Shulman 410.358.8771;

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues
Jerusalem, Israel