BEFORE ROSH Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many people look for inspiration. I know I do. Sometimes I am inspired by what I do not understand.
Though I am steeped in the rationalist, Lithuanian (Litvak) tradition admirer and consumer of its Talmudic, musar and philosophical works mysticism speaks to my soul.
For example, I am inspired by the writings of the first chief rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kuk. I understand next to nothing of what he wrote outside the rational context of Jewish law (Halachah).
R. Kuk was famously a mystic, a poet, a master of the tales and metaphors of Aggadah, a person whose mystical inspiration was so fierce that he found it painful to take his pen out of the inkwell to refill it. He couldnt bear to interrupt the inspiration.
Some consider themselves experts in the thought of R. Kuk. Not I. But his writings inspire me, even though I do not grasp them. They take me to higher places. I am moved by his access to a higher plane, even if I do not share in the access. It is not hard to see how deeply R. Kuk was connected to spiritual realities. I need not fathom him to be transported by him.
I RECENTLY ran across two new phenomena that inspire me, though I cannot grasp these ideas, either.
The first idea is that of an ibbur neshamah, literally, a leap soul (as in a Hebrew leap year, with its additional month).
Boruch Leff wrote (YatedMagazine, July 10) that a soul from a righteous person already in the next world can temporarily depart, and enter a person still in this world who is having trouble repenting. This leap soul, this temporarily implanted soul of a righteous person, will help motivate its recipient toward teshuvah, or repentance.
Leff continues: If a person has such difficulty with teshuvah, failing despite many sincere attempts, and despite the help of a leap soul an ibbur neshamah then G-d gives him nothing other than the soul of Moses himself, the strongest soul ever to live.
The famous kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (Arizal), said that an ibbur neshamah is taken not only from those in the next world but even from the pious among us. Said R. Luria: Sometimes a person might not reach his potential, and might lose part of his soul, and this lost spiritual potential is transferred to a pious person who will want to return the lost object to its rightful owner. He returns it through the ibbur neshamah, the leap soul.
Do you understand this?
A leap soul; taken temporarily from the maximizers of their spiritual potential and given to those stumbling, desperate to do better, unable to make it on their own.
What a rendezvous.
What a mystery.
Mystery inspires me.
Suddenly, while reading The Roar of a Lion, a biography by Yaakov Y. Reinman (Feldheim), I came across the second idea: Himmel Torah; literally, Torah in Heaven.
Not, it turns out, Torah from G-d in Heaven, but Torah to G-d in Heaven
The great scholar Rabbi Chaim Halberstam (1793-1876) told this story:
Rabbi Joshua Falk (1680-1756), author of the famous Talmudic commentary Pnei Yehoshua, was involved in a tremendous dispute with another titan of his time, Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz. Many were taken by R. Eybeschutzs charisma and style of teaching including R. Falks own son so taken that he did not even know any of his own fathers commentary.
One morning R. Falk told his wife. I have some bad news. Our dear son is no longer among the living.
The wife was shocked. There had been no news to this effect. News traveled a lot slower into those days, and their son lived far away.
How can you be sure this is true? his wife asked.
Unfortunately, I do know it, he said.
Last night our son came to me in a dream, and he asked me a favor. He had been invited by the Heavenly Court to deliver a discourse based on some of my Talmudic comments. He was embarrassed, because he didnt know any.
So he asked me to tell him a piece that he could repeat in the Heavenly Court. I did. That was the end of the dream. It is clear to me that he no longer among the living.
What was the piece of commentary the father told the son?
R. Chaim Halberstam concluded his story by calling R. Falks piece, devised on earth but repeated in Heaven, Himmel Torah, and identifying it as a segment in R. Falks work, Pnei Yehoshua.
THE PERSON to whom R. Halberstam told this story, namely, Rabbi Abraham Schwartz, responded with his own Himmel Torah.
R. Schwartz was in the habit of recording his Talmudic commentary in notebooks, which he sent to his teachers but did not show his father-in-law, Moshe Leib.
One night Moshe Leib had a dream. In it was the scholar known as the Yismach Moshe, who had arranged the marriage of Moshe Leibs daughter to R. Schwartz.
It was good advice to take R. Schwartz as your son-in-law, no? asked the Yismach Moshe.
Yes, Moshe Leib remembered himself saying in his dream.
Said the Yismach Moshe in the dream: This evening I saw a beautiful Talmudic presentation that he wrote. Did you see it?
No, he doesnt show me his writings.
Listen, Ill tell you one golden nugget I found in his notebooks.
He then told Moshe Leib a lengthy piece of Talmudic commentary from R. Schwartzs notebooks.
End of dream.
The next morning Moshe Leib sought out his son-in-law and told him about the dream.
You say the Yismach Moshe told you something Id written?
Yes, he did.
Can you tell it to me?
He did. It was lengthy.
R. Schwartz was dumfounded. How could you know that? I never showed it to you.
I told you, replied Moshe Leib, the Yismach Moshe saw it in your notebook, and he told it to me in my dream.
That was the Himmel Torah of R. Schwartz, written on this earth and repeated in Heaven.
Himmel Torah . . . R. Kuks Torah . . . leap souls . . . the High Holiday season takes us to higher places, different places.
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