This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Terumah (5766)
This week's section tells us about the Tabernacle that the Jews built in the desert after receiving the Torah.
The purpose of this Tabernacle was to enable the Jews to serve G-d properly and completely.
For instance, we see that the specifications of this Tabernacle were very detailed. And we are taught that it was the center of not just the Jewish religion but of the entire world: the Creator's connection to His creation.
Demonstrating that G-d's plan for man is exact, available and achievable.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that every detail of the Tabernacle is important on a personal basis as well. That is what our section hints at when it writes: "Make me a Temple and I will dwell in THEM (rather than in IT)" (25:8) namely in each and every one of us.
In other words, even in the time of exile (until the Moshiach builds the Third Temple....NOW!) our PERSONAL Temples are exact, available and achievable by each of us.
One of main materials used in the Tabernacle was 'Shittim Wood' (also referred to as 'Arez' or Cedar). The very walls of the 'Tent of Meeting' containing the Holy and Holy of Holies besides many of the Temple vessels were made of this wood.
Rashi (25:5) tells us that these Cedar trees were planted by the Patriarch Jacob when he entered Egypt over 200 years earlier. He actually planted Cedar (Shittim) sprouts in the desert to be used in the Tabernacle hundreds of years later!
Why did he do this? Why didn't G-d just make the Shittim trees miraculously grow, or tell the Jews to take such wood from Egypt or somewhere else? In fact why did they need specifically Shittim wood? Why not just make the Tabernacle tent from skins or from cloth or some more available substance?
To understand this here is a story (Rabos Mofsai pg 14)
Rabbi Ari Shmit the author of Rabos Mofsai writes in his book, which is a compilation of stories on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that one Shabbat (It happened to be the Torah portion containing the story of Josef and Potifar's wife (Gen. 39:7-11)), at the 'Third Meal' in the last hour of the holy day, he went to hear Rabbi Yisroel Hagar, the son of the Viznitcher Rebbe who lives in Bnei Brak Israel, with the hope that he might get a story from him for his book.
Rabbi Schmitt knew that Rabbi Hagar, besides being a Torah genius and a gifted, holy Jew was also a big admirer of the Rebbe of Chabad and had heard him speak with enthusiasm about his personal meetings with the Rebbe for long periods of time. Certainly he must have a story or two. But Rabbi Schmitt was in for a pleasant surprise.
As he entered the huge Viznitcher Synagogue Rabbi Hagar was just beginning a miracle story he had witnessed involving....the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In the early 1980s Rabbi Hagar had been in California, possibly to gather funds for the many vast educational projects of Viznitch and was staying at the home of an elderly, wealthy Chabad Chassid who we will call Moshe.
When Rabbi Hagar mentioned that in a few days he would be returning to Israel and on the way would try to stop in Brooklyn to, hopefully, see the Lubavitcher Rebbe his host replied almost spontaneously.
"Ahhh, the Rebbe! You have to be careful with the Rebbe. He knows what is happening to you thousands of miles away! How much more so when you are in his room."
And then fell silent as though he regretted saying what he said.
Of course Rabbi Hagar asked for an explanation and, his host, seeing there was no way out, began to explain.
"In the late 1940s when the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, was leading the Chabad movement in Brooklyn. I went to see him more out of curiosity than anything else and immediately became attached to his son-in-law (who eventually became the next Rebbe). His son-in-law was a truly unique and deep person and there was something deep and unique about him that drew me to him at first glance.
"Although I was not a Chabad I frequently used to ask his advice and this continued even after he became Rebbe.
"Eventually I moved to California, went into business, with G-d's help succeeded and became a very wealthy man. I donated large sums of money to charities, among them Chabad and remained, as always, a totally religious and G-d fearing Jew.
"But for some reason I didn't have so many questions and almost ceased to call the Rebbe for many years until, when in the early 1970s I suffered a severe heart attack.
"I was rushed to the hospital and as soon as I could I had my wife call in to the Rebbe's secretariat to inform them what happened. In fact I received the Rebbe's blessing for a complete recovery and, in fact began recovering.
But suddenly there occurred an unexpected complication.
"I was confined to the hospital for three weeks and in that time, I don't know how it happened, after all I am a man that believes in the Torah and every word written in it and I know it was insane but it happened. It was like the story of Josef and Potifar's wife. In this case it was a young, attractive gentile nurse.
"She was considerably younger than I and perhaps she heard that I was rich but little by little she wove a web around me. Maybe I fell for it because I was weak from the trauma of the heart attack. Maybe the long stay away from home and my work put me I was off guard but for what ever reason her efforts paid off.
"From the first day that I arrived she devoted herself day and night to nursing and caring for me and eventually it got to the point that I looked forward only to seeing her and talking to her. She was intelligent and charming and we would speak for hours each day. Until finally one Friday we decided that the next day, on Saturday, we would leave the hospital and....get married in Nevada!
"My mind was made up. I was positive like I'd never been positive in my life.
"It was sometime in the early afternoon that very Friday, I was resting, half asleep on my bed when suddenly I heard what sounded like my name being announced on the loudspeaker in the hall. Then, as I was just drowsily opening my eyes, a nurse entered my room, apologized for disturbing me and announced that there is an urgent phone call for me. 'I don't know who it's from. I told him you were sleeping,' She said apologetically 'But he insisted that I wake you immediately.'
"I rushed to the phone wondering who and what it could be and when I put the receiver to my ear and said hello to my astonishment I heard the voice of Rabbi Hodakov, one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's personal secretaries, answer.
"'Moshe, I was just in the Rebbe's office' he said very seriously 'And the Rebbe told me to call you in the hospital and tell you that you must immediately leave there and return to your home before Shabbat.'
"I tried to protest: First of all the doctors said I couldn't leave until next Tuesday and second, my home was over one hundred and twenty miles away! I wouldn't make it before Shabbat (never mind that I planned to elope with the nurse the next day on Shabbat)!"
"'Moshe,' Rabbi Hodakov said impatiently, 'Don't try to play games! The Rebbe told me to call you and tell you to leave immediately. You know the Rebbe. I want you to promise, to promise right now that you will take your things, catch a taxi and do what the Rebbe says! Immediately!!'
"I had no choice. It was a terrible battle. Seconds earlier this was the very last thing on my mind! I wanted to argue. To just say I would do it to get rid of him. But I knew that if I didn't keep my promise I would be playing with fire! Why, the Rebbe knew my thoughts! It was simply not normal!! It was frightening!
"I felt like I was going insane. I got dressed, threw my belongings into a plastic bag and ran out of the hospital like a madman, caught a taxi and arrived home only minutes before Shabbat, just as the Rebbe said.
"Once home I sat down at the Shabbat table and suddenly felt as though I woke from a bad dream. I was simply incapable of understanding how it happened. It was as though I had been temporarily insane and the Rebbe saved me when I couldn't save myself with a different type of craziness! His type of craziness!! ".
Rabbi Hagar concluded the story; "This is what Rashi comments (Gen. 39:11) That Josef wasn't able to control himself, but the form of his father Jacob's face appeared to him and kept him from sinning."
The Tzadikim, like the Rebbe, give superhuman power to do good and turn from evil.
Now we can understand why Shittim wood was an essential ingredient in the Tabernacle.
Because (as the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe points out in his last essay 'Bati L'gani') the word 'Shittim' is similar to the word 'Shtus' which means craziness:
The real purpose of the Tabernacle (and the Temple after it) was not just to fix up the Jews but rather to transform the craziness of this world to living, healthy meaningful existence. And this can only be done through 'Jewish craziness'. As the Rebbe did in our story.
And that is why Shittim wood is also called Cedar (erez) because the Tzadkim are liked to cedar trees (see Psalms 92:13). And only they can really inspire true 'craziness' for Judaism.
So we can understand why it was Jacob who planted the cedar (Shittim) trees long before the Jews left Egypt: To let the coming generations know that they too would need this 'Jewish craziness' even after they left Egypt. And that only the Tzadikim (like Jacob) could provide it.
Today this can be accomplished by learning Chabad Chassidut; the teachings of the Rebbe's. These are the ideas taken from the 'Tree of Life': "Jewish craziness' so that we will believe that Moshiach, The Third Temple, and transforming the entire world is available and achievable....above and beyond all logic and reason
We must only open our eyes and do all we can to bring....
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