Niddah 30b: The Innate Ability to See All

Niddah 30b: Rabbi Simlai expounded: What does a fetus in his mother’s womb look like? Like a folded writing tablet, his hands on his temples, his elbows on his knees, his two heels on his two buttocks, and his head between his knees. His mouth is closed and his navel is open, and he eats from what his mother eats, drinks from what his mother drinks, and does not eliminate waste, lest he kill his mother. And once he emerges into the air of the world, that which was closed opens and that which was open closes, for if not, he would not be able to live even for a short time. And there is a candle burning above his head, and he gazes and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it is written (Iyov 29:3), “When He lit His candle over my head; by His light I would go through the darkness.” And do not be surprised, for a person can sleep here and dream about Spain.   

נדה ל ע”ב: דרש רבי שמלאי: למה הולד דומה במעי אמו ־ לפנקס שמקופל ומונח. ידיו על שתי צדעיו, שתי אציליו על ב׳ ארכובותיו, וב׳ עקביו על ב׳ עגבותיו, וראשו מונח לו בין ברכיו, ופיו סתום וטבורו פתוח, ואוכל ממה שאמו אוכלת, ושותה ממה שאמו שותה, ואינו מוציא רעי שמא יהרוג את אמו. וכיון שיצא לאויר העולם ־ נפתח הסתום ונסתם הפתוח, שאלמלא כן אינו יכול לחיות אפילו שעה אחת. ונר דלוק לו על ראשו וצופה ומביט מסוף העולם ועד סופו, שנאמר (איוב כ״ט) בהלו נרו עלי ראשי לאורו אלך חשך. ואל תתמה, שהרי אדם ישן כאן ורואה חלום באספמיא.

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that the Chofetz Chaim possessed miraculous spiritual intuition, to the extent that he knew the next person’s thoughts and general situation. He added, in explanation, that the human personality was created with the capacity of seeing and knowing everything. And so we find in Niddah that a child in its mother’s womb looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, for such is the nature of the soul which the Holy One, blessed is He, has molded, and every Jew has such a soul. The trouble is the soul resides within a corporeal body, which acts as a barrier and blocks our vision. The body of a person whose every action is performed for the sake of Heaven, however, becomes so purified as no longer to constitute a barrier. Everything becomes transparent to him.

Rabbi Aharon Kotler was with the Chofetz Chaim at the Warsaw conference in Shevat 5690 (1930). Before leaving to return home, Reb Aharon went to take leave of the Chofetz Chaim, who took him by the hand and talked about the problems discussed at the conference. In the course of the conversation, he remarked: “It should also be known that once a masechta is begun, it should be completed.” And then he reverted once more to the topic of their conversation. Reb Ahraon was shocked, since just at that time of year he often had begun the study of an additional masechta besides the one he taught to his yeshiva in Kletzk, but did not complete it. He himself had not mentioned the subject to anyone else. The Chofetz Chaim could only have known this because “G-d reveals His secrets to those that fear Him.”

When Reb Aharon related the incident to Reb Elchonon, the latter revealed that this had happened to him as well. Once, the Chofetz Chaim had said to him, quite unexpectedly: “We consider ourselves lomdim. How is it possible to think so, if we omit a single masechta, like Nazir or such-and-such?” Until then, for some reason or other, Reb Elchonon had neglected studying in depth Nazir and the other tractates mentioned by the Chofetz Chaim.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan related that whenever Reb Elchonon would return to Baranovich from a visit in Radun with his Rebbe, he would be in a festive spirit and would hardly stop speaking about what he had seen and heard on his visit to the Chofetz Chaim. But on one occasion, he hardly spoke. Instead, he remarked with deep emotion, “The Chofetz Chaim looks and sees from one end of the world to the other… I heard terrible things from him… and were I permitted to divulge to you what he said, you yourselves would certainly be convinced that he observes and literally sees from one end of the world to the other.” Reb Mendel later conjectured that the Chofetz Chaim had spoken about the impending Holocaust, to which he had alluded beforehand on several occasions.

A remarkable personal anecdote was related by Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky: “In August 1930 I was sent to prison by the Russian Bolsheviks for engaging in religious activities. I was tried and sentenced to five years of hard labor in exile in Siberia. For almost 14 months I was kept in prison and persecuted. On Erev Yom Kippur 1931, they suddenly came to me and informed me that I was to be freed, and was to leave Russia within one month… When I escaped and traveled by train from Moscow to Riga, the first person to greet me in the railroad car was Reb Elchonon of Baranovich, who fell on my neck with tears of joy. And after I had settled in London, I was privileged once again to meet Reb Elchonon, who was there in the interests of his yeshiva. This time I met him on the platform of the railway station. And while we were standing there, we talked Torah and spoke of the Chofetz Chaim. Then Reb Elchonon told me: “On Erev Yom Kippur of that year, I was staying in the Chofetz Chaim’s home. We were studying together. Suddenly he interrupted the subject of our discussion, and without any connection with what we had been talking of beforehand, he announced again and again, triumphantly, raising his hands: ‘The Bolsheviks didn’t accomplish anything; the Bolsheviks didn’t accomplish anything. They were forced against their will to release the Slutzker Rav.’ Then he resumed his studies. Reb Elchonon looked at his watch and noted the time. Years later, he learned that this was the very moment when I was given my liberty.”  His son, Rabbi Mordechai Ezra Abramsky, added that during the entire period of his imprisonment, the Chofetz Chaim would recite eight chapters of Tehillim each day after Shacharis to pray for his release. On the day of the release itself, however, he did not.

Source: Reb Elchonon (Artscroll), pp. 52-54

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