Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Neschizer Rebbe: "Do Not Curse Anyone"

from Zichron Zot (Mei-Avdut Hatzaddikim 38), 1892

         I have decided for a reason known to me to add here the following story of the Neschizer rebbe when he was in the town of Ratna.
            Mr. Yosef of Ravne came to him before going on to travel to the Holy Land. He told him a story, and after he left, the Neschizer told it [from his own perspective] as follows.
            In the year 5618 (told the rebbe), I was in a certain town where a new synagogue was about to be built. I was asked to attend a ceremony to mark the placing of the cornerstone.
            My carriage was harnessed to go from my lodgings to the synagogue site. Usually I would walk in front and the carriage would follow afterwards. But this time Hashem sent me the idea that I should send my carriage ahead of me, while I and the other people followed behind.
            (Author’s note: I recall all of this as though it were happening today, because I was there.)
            There was a person there who was enticed to do evil. There was a bridge along the way, and he secretly sawed through its pillars so that when I traveled over the bridge the sawn posts would break and the bridge would be destroyed.
            (As is known, many people would ordinarily hold onto his carriage, and so it would be very heavy.)
            But with Hashem’s kindness, since I had given word that the carriage should travel in front, when it went over the bridge and the pillars began to move to the side so that the bridge began to break, tipping over the carriage, the people accompanying me were told to go to the other side of the bridge.
            After that, the Holy One, blessed be He, made it known that the person who had done the sawing had gone insane. [This happened because] he confessed his sin in public. As a result, he was taken to the paupers’ hospital.
            R. Yosef went there and saw him when his mind was clear. The sick man told him that all of this occurred to him in punishment for something that he had done.
            When the Neschizer rebbe told this story, a member of his household, [his aide,] said, “So should all of Your enemies be destroyed, Hashem, and all those who intend evil to the master.”
            The Neschizer replied, “Why do you curse?”
            The aide answered, “Am I not speaking properly? Certainly this should happen to whoever contemplates doing evil to the master even if he does so just once a year.”
            The Neschizer answered him angrily, “Hashem does not listen to curses from the mouth of a person who likes to drink a little whisky and then lie down to sleep.”
            The aide responded, “If so, then let Hashem be zealous on behalf of the honor of a person who does not drink whiskey and who does not love to sleep”—with which he alluded to the honorable Neschizer.
            The Neschizer replied, “Such a person does not curse and is not pleased with your words.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Neschizer Rebbe: The Walls of His House

      The Neschizer rebbe treated the walls of his house, which had been home to his father and brother with especial holiness and great love.
      In the year 5618 [1867-68], when he was in the town of Kalk, he gave orders that the house in Neschiz should be repaired, because it was getting very old.
      When he returned from his trip and saw that the walls had been raised as part of the repair process, he was upset and said that it was not right to move the house.
      And regarding the wooden window frames (reimen), he also gave orders not to remove the old ones and make new ones. Rather, where the old ones rotted, he commanded to cut away the rotted part and put a new piece there, and paint them so that the repair would not be noticeable.

Zichron Zot (Mei-avdut Hatzaddikim, 37) , 1892

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poem: The Moon Rose

The moon rose in the swinging sky
And glittered at the fox
Who turned his pointy nose and sniffed.
A cat turned on the rocks.

The ocean turned upon the shore,
The boy turned on the gutter,
And musty men in dusty rags
Turned up to rage and mutter.

Oh in the apple of your eye,
Oh in the woods medieval
The woodman struck, the cages shook,
The king decried upheaval.

The Neschizer Rebbe: The Mysterious Purim Visitor

(Story translated from an authentic Hasidic text, first published in 1892)
            Also on Purim 5627 [1867], the Neschizer Rebbe quoted the book [unclear] that a person should write the word Amalek or Haman and then erase it, in order to perform the positive commandment of wiping out the memory of Amalek.
            Regarding the custom mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (690) that “a person should bang when the megillah reader says ‘Haman,’ etc., and we should not eliminate or mock any custom, for they were not established without reason,” the Neschizer rebbe told that one time a law was passed forbidding Jews from making noise when Haman is mentioned during the megillah reading.
            But during the megillah reading, very loud striking noises were miraculously heard in the synagogue.
            I believe that the Neschizer rebbe told that an old man who was doing the striking appeared. The other Jews begged him not to make noise so that they would not be endangered, but he told them not to worry.
            The gentiles searched for the man making noise, but they did not find him.
            And so the other Jews themselves went back to making a great deal of noise when the word “Haman” was read, and the decree was rescinded.

Mei-avdut Hatzaddikim 36, Zichron Tov

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Neschizer Rebbe: The Story of a Torn Ear

            The Neschizer rebbe was told that a certain person was learning forbidden literature.
            The Neschizer rebbe said to that man, “Tell me the truth about what I have heard about you.”
            The man answered, “Heaven forbid, I am only learning books on grammar--dikduk.”
            The Neschizer answered him, “That is connected to the idea of the ‘sufferings of poverty’--dikdukei aniyut.”
            The man also said, “I sometimes study the Kuzari.”
            The Neschizer said, “It is fitting to learn Talmud with the comments of the Rosh. Also learn the Duties of the Heart, but skip the Gate of Unity.”
            And the Neschizer said, “It is clear to me that when I learned a page of Gemera my eyes would be illumined by that.” And he directed the man to recite Zohar on Sabbath morning before prayers.
            Also when the completion of a tractate was made in his presence on the Three Weeks, to make it possible to eat meat, he would at times ask the man who had completed the tractate, “Do you learn Talmud with the Rosh?” People were not sure if he meant the work Ashri by the authority called the Rosh, or if he meant, “Did you learn using your head (‘rosh’)?”
            The Neschizer also very much recommended learning the Shnei Luchos Habris.
            He told a story that the author of the Shnei Luchos Habris had a student in his yeshiva who had difficulty paying attention.
            One time the Shlah struck him and tore his ear. The student ran away and joined a band of thieves and became their leader, and he lived in the forest.
            Hashem brought it about that the Shlah was so immersed in his thoughts of Torah learning that he lost his way in the forest and he came to that very forest, to that very house.
            The student recognized him, but the Shlah did not recognize the student. And he stayed there on the holy Sabbath. After the holy Sabbath was over, the student told him, “Know that I am your student, So and So.” And in proof he showed him his torn ear. And he said, “If you can show me a way to repent, fine. But if not, I will kill you.”
            The Shlah gave him a regimen of repentance: to place a small snake in a bottle and hang it around his neck and feed it every day for seven years from everything that he himself eats and drinks. Afterwards, the snake will arise and kill him, and that will be his atonement.
            And with this regimen of repentance, the student became a perfect tzaddik.

Zichron Tov

Rav Kook On: Bringing Light to the World

The greatest spiritual illumination that can possibly rest in a person’s heart for the good is that he will always find himself desiring to act from his good side on behalf of all of existence.

The more that his awareness embraces reality, universally and in its details, in its spirituality and in its physicality, and the more that its order and structure are comprehensible and clear to him, the more well-founded will be his supernal love and the tendency of his will, so that he may, as best he can, do good for all.

The stronger that this thought grows, the more Divine it is. Then the supernal, Divine light is present. Kindness is revealed in the light of wisdom and illumines the face of [this] person and causes his soul to grow.

When this supernal thought grows stronger, with all of its conditions, when it proceeds in its order, it paves pathways in a person’s heart of how to tend in actuality to the universal good.

And when no knowledge and intellect suffice for this, immediately a holy spirit and a Divine, supernal light rest upon him. And when this grows very strong, it gives power to bring about miracles and wonders in heaven and on earth.
When universality is established very well in a person, he rises to the heights of spirituality.

He then hears and heeds the great being of spiritual matters, the strength of their existence and the multitude of life and activity within them, and he becomes entirely supernal and spiritual.

Since he is in the spiritual world, distances are nullified for him. They no longer form a barrier before him.

And all of existence appears before him in one glance and flight.

And the desire to do good with the entire world of action is a single matter.

The universal thought lifts everything, and in the light of thought that envelopes everything, he in truth shines upon everything.

All of being is filled with light as a result of his light. Everything is elevated by means of his elevations.
When the person descends from his heights and the world of action, which is defined and limited, forms a barrier before him, he then arranges his positive qualities in stages.

He knows that he requires, in the greatness of his spirit, a self-elevation, so that he will be uplifted, whole and elevated, so that he will have the ability to perform all good with the ultimate, broadest outreach.

He goes with the line: his person, his family, his tribe, his nation, his type, his classification—all that is found in his world, which is to say, in his physical reality.

Afterwards he goes and envisions, yearns as he grows elevated that all of these will participate in the improvement of the all, of all that is higher than space and more elevated than time.

And this thought itself strengthens him, causes him to grow and raises him beyond all deeds.

He goes forth to his people and speaks and acts, impresses his action upon his generation, and leaves an eternal remembrance for all generations.

He lives with eternity.

That which he will do while he is still in the corporeal sphere is a slight beginning in doing good to the all. But it is well-arranged and placed in regard to the state of the living world and existence within the boundaries of time and space.

These things themselves, in their essence and uplifted states, will be taken along with his eternal being, his essence that lives with the all.

His Divine longing will be revealed in every generation, from the supernal heights to the lowest depth.

His people will draw forth his spirit, the good spirit, to the all—with feeling if not entirely with clear understanding. They too will yearn for Divinity, for good, and beyond these heavens there will flash onto them constant brilliant flashes.

If they are not fit to rise to those heights, they will descend many descents. They will stumble as they walk. But although seven times will they fall, they will arise.

The supernal spirit, in the heights of eternity and might, places upon them the spirit of the living God, until the graves will be opened and dry, scattered bones will rise and be revived, and a very great army will stand upon its feet.
            Kibbutzim Mi’ktav Yad Kodsho II, p. p. 70

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poem: A Stray Bird Flew

a stray bird flew
above the scrubby hill
the air twisted like an olive press
The howler monkeys seemed on the verge of speech