Divine Inspiration and Eretz Yisrael
By Rabbi David Samson
In a previous essay on Prophecy and the Land of Israel we learned that the Holy Land and Prophecy go hand in hand. A fascinating story which illustrates this unique connection concerns the Maggid (a Celestial Angel) which appeared to Rabbi Yosef Karo on the Festival of Shavuot night in Turkey. We have an amazing firsthand testimony from Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, a renowned scholar, Kabbalist, and the author of the song, “Lecha Dodi.” The famous description of the Maggid which appeared to a group of outstanding Torah Scholars on the night of Shavuot is published in the book, “Shnei Luchot Habrit,” by Rabbi Yishayahu Halevi Horowitz, in his chapter on the holiday of Shavuot. The Maggid who spoke to them seems to have spoken in the name of the Shechinah. HaRav Alkabetz writes:
I want you to know that the pious one (referring to Rabbi Yosef Karo), may the Merciful One watch over him and bring him salvation, and I, his and your servant, agreed to stay awake all night on the night of Shavuot. May the Lord be praised – we were successful for we didn’t stop learning for even a moment except for what you must hear to your soul’s delight.
This is the program that I formulated and organized for that evening of study:
First Torah, we chant loudly from the beginning of the Torah until “Vayichulu,” (Bereshit,2:1).
We then chant from, “The third month…” (Shemot, 19:1).
Then we continue from Parshat Mishpatim, “And he said to Moshe…” (Shemot, 24:1) until the end of the portion.
We further chant from the portion of “V’Etchanan” beginning with, “And Moshe called to all of Israel…” (Devarim, 5:1) until the end of the portion of “Shema Yisrael,” (Ibid, 6:9).
We continue to chant from the portion of “Zot HaBracha” from “And Moshe ascended…” (Ibid, 34:1) until, “to the eyes of all of Israel,” (Ibid, 34:12).
We also chant the Haftorah, “And it was in the thirtieth year,” (Yechezkel, 1:1), as well as the Haftorah, “A prayer by Chabakuk the Prophet,” (Chabakuk 3:1).
After this we recite the Psalm, “The Heavens declare…” (Psalms, 19) and the Psalm, “May the Lord raise…” (Ibid, 68). Then the Aleph Bet Psalm (Ibid, 119) without the songs, (Ibid, 120).
We then chant the entire Megillah of Shir HaShirim and the Book of Ruth.
Then the last verses of Divrei Hayamim.
We chant these melodically with unbelievable awe and reverence.
We then began learning Kabbalah. At the time that we began learning the Mishna and two tractates, our Creator granted us merit us and we heard a voice speaking in the mouth of the pious one (Rabbi Yosef Karo) may the Merciful One watch him and grant him salvation. We heard a loud articulated voice. All of the neighbors also heard the voice but they were unable to understand it. It was exceptionally sweet sounding and booming. We all fell on our faces. We were so terrified, no one dared lift his eyes or head to look.
The voice was speaking to us and it began by saying, “Listen to Me my friends, the elite amongst those who glorify Me, my friends my beloved. Shalom to you. You and those who begot you are fortunate. You are fortunate in this world and fortunate in the next world because you took upon yourselves to adorn Me this night. It has been a number of years now that the crown of My head has fallen and there is no one to console Me. I am cast to the dust embracing sordid refuse, but now you have returned the crown to its status of yore. Be emboldened my friends, be courageous my beloved, rejoice in gladness and know that you are the elite and have merited to belong in the palace of the King. The voice of your Torah and the breath of your mouths has risen to the Holy One Blessed Be He. It has traversed many atmospheres and firmaments until it rose. Angels were silenced and Serafim were muted and the Chayot stopped in their tracks. All of the Holy One’s hosts listened to your voices.
Behold I am the Mishna that rebukes man. I have come to speak with you. If you were ten you would have risen even higher and higher. Nevertheless, you have ascended. You my friends and those who begot you are so fortunate for remaining awake tonight. Through you, I myself have been rectified tonight. Also, by means of the other friends in the large communities of Israel.
You are not like those who sleep upon ivory beds. Sleep is one sixtieth of death. You are not like those who squalor on their mattresses. You have clung to Hashem and He is happy with you. Therefore, my children adopt vigor, courage and joy for my love, for my Torah and for my Awe. If you could imagine a millionth or even a billionth of the anguish I suffer you would never be able to experience an iota of joy in your hearts, nor could you ever muster a smile on your faces for because of you (the sins of the Jewish People) I am cast to the dust.
Therefore, be strong, be courageous, be joyful, my invested companions and don’t stop your study for you now are cherished and your Torah is delightful to the Holy One Blessed Be He. Stand my sons on your feet and rectify me. Proclaim with a loud voice like on Yom Kippur, “Blessed is the honorable Name of his Kingdom for ever and ever.”
We stood trembling on our feet, and we proclaimed the words out loud as we were commanded. The voice returned and told us, “My fortunate sons return to your study and don’t waste a moment. Make Aliyahh to Israel for not all times are equal. Nothing bars Hashem from salvation with either the many or the few. Have not pity upon your earthly possessions for you shall have sustenance from the goodness of the spiritual Land. If you harken to my words you will nurse from the goodness of that Land. Therefore, hurry and make Aliyah for I am the one who gives you sustenance and I am the one who will continue to provide for you. Peace be with you. Peace be with your homes and may peace reside in all that you own. Hashem endows his Nation with valor. Hashem will bless his Nation with peace.”
He spoke to us all of these words as our ears heard. There was much more like these matters of wisdom. There were also quite a few grand promises. We all burst into tears as we were overwhelmed with joy. We also heard the tragedy of the Shechinah due to our sins. Her frail voice was like one afflicted pleading with us for help. We then were emboldened until dawn and we didn’t stop chanting our Torah study with awe and joy.
Once morning came, we went to immerse ourselves ritually as we had done two days before. There we found three friends who were not with us that night. We reprimanded them and told them all of the good that Hashem has done for us. Their hearts sank as they slapped themselves and burst out crying. We too joined them in tears for because of them we too lost out and did not merit more and more, as I mentioned before.
They said if only tonight we can be together and have a minyan of ten. We agreed to do this even though the previous night we didn’t sleep even a wink, literally. During the day we also had no opportunity to sleep because the pious one (Rabbi Yosef Caro) delivered a lesson after Mincha that we all attended.
Nevertheless, we girded our loins and repeated the program of the first night on the second night (of Shavuot) as well. Due to our exuberance at being ten, the voice of our companion began. This time the voice did not wait until we read the Mishna or until midnight like it had the night before, appearing exactly at midnight. Rather, as soon as we read the Ten Commandments in Devarim and we reached the portion of Shema, the voice began:
Listen you elite of those who glorify Me. Wake and sing, dust dwellers in the mystery of metaphysical dust, the two Hehs of Hashem’s Name.… etc.” The voice continued saying many matters of wisdom. Then it said. “How fortunate you are my dear friends, how fortunate you are for rectifying me. You have ascended many fold now that you are ten for all matters of Kedushah. You and those who begot you are fortunate in this world. Fear not the abuse of man, nor fret their mockery for you are the ones uplifting the Congregation of Israel. Know that you are the elite group… as I said above. As you cling to me, honor crowns your heads and you are blessed with favor. If the eye had permission to see, you would witness the holy fire that now surrounds this house. Therefore, be strong and courageous and don’t break the connection between us. Uplift me by reciting out loud the Shema and Blessed is the Honorable Name of His Kingdom for ever and ever, like on Yom Kippur.” He continued with this and other matters for a half hour. We then returned to the secret of our study.
Later at about midnight, the voice returned a second time for more than an hour. The voice again praised our study. The voice said:
See has anyone ever seen such a voice speaking with you like this? Ask your fathers and they will tell you ,ask your elders and they will confer. It has been many hundreds of years since anyone has seen or heard anything like this. You have merited this. Therefore pay attention to your paths. Every man will help his neighbor and to his brother he will say, ‘be strong!’ He who is weak will then proclaim, “I am strong.” Consider yourselves Gedolim for you are the members of the King’s palace. Now that you have entered the hallway, try to enter the throne room. Beware never to leave the hallway for anyone who leaves is deserving of death.
See that it is me that is explaining this to you. Wake up, my dear friends, summon courage and become men of war. Be careful of cynicism and be strong. Delight in the aura of favor about you every day. Cast away the façade (of material existence) and see how you are drunk from the desires of this world. Wake up from your stupor, for behold a day is coming when man will remove his silver gods and stop worshiping possessions and earthly pleasures. He will remove his gods of gold and overcome his lust for money.
Make Aliyahh to Israel now because you indeed can. It’s just that you are swamped in the quicksand of lust for this world’s vanities. Anyone of you who turns back is responsible for his own death. See what you have merited to witness, that which others for many generations have not merited.
He talked extensively on this matter.
Now my sons, hearken to me. Lend me your ears. Open your hearts. Who is the imbecile that will hear these words and not take heed? Who can be so heartless as to not embrace this? Who can be so blind as to not see the merit of this? Who will not take this to heart and return unto God with all of his heart, with all of his soul, and with all of his might?
I testify before the Heaven and Earth that everything I have now spoken is not even one one-hundredth of the matter…
My brother, my people, harken and your souls will aspire (to merit an experience like this). For our colleagues of integrity who witnessed all of this were reborn with a new spirit.
Then on Shabbat, the voice returned to the pious one. He profusely praised what we did on these two nights. He repeated twice and thrice to command all of our colleagues to repent of their sins. After they have entered the hallway, they should try to enter the palace proper for if anyone leaves, he is then responsible for his own death – it is not the fault of anyone else.
Then the pious one (Rabbi Yosef Caro) stood and once again he gathered them all together, warning them as commanded. He then said I am your servant. To which they all replied, “Whatever you command we will oblige.”
For the pious one and I made a resolution to dwell in Israel… Now everybody should take this to heart and have no pity on your earthly belongings. Don’t allow yourselves to be blinded by the lust of this world with its limited capacity, lest you renege and won’t have another chance. For the voice has already said that “the time of the songbird has arrived” (an allusion to the final Redemption in Shir HaShirim) Therefore have mercy on the honor of your Creator and give Him honor and be careful not to regress, Heaven forbid. And I pray to God that that He will put in your hearts not to fall backward. May I merit to be reunited with you all in the Holy Land to worship Him together. Amen These are the words of my tongue, your brother, Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.