This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim (5766)
This week we read a double section; the first is called "After Death" and the second is called "Holiness".
At first glance these names are not very important… after all; what is in a name?
But the Baal Shem Tov (in his teachings called 'Chassidut') taught that they are perhaps the most important things in the world!
According to Chassidut, G-d creates every detail of creation anew constantly and hides secret messages everywhere; in every detail, event and occurrence, to inspire us and help us serve Him.
So if every detail in the world is important, how much more so something found in the Torah; the blueprint of creation; like the names of two entire sections.
But it's not so easy; we have to know HOW to find these messages.
For instance, one might mistakenly think the hidden message in "After Death-Holiness" is; only after we die (After Death) can true 'holiness be achieved'.
But the Baal Shem Tov taught exactly the opposite! He taught that true holiness can be reached only in this physical world by doing what G-d wants (That's why the 'Holy' Temple was a physical building) NOT in heaven.
If so, what message is hidden in the names 'After Death - Holiness'? .
To understand this here is a story that occurred some forty years ago. (Beis Moshiach #544).
Mrs. Raizel Estulin o.b.m. the mother of Rabbi Naftali Estulin in L.A. California had recently arrived in Israel from Russia when she got a chance to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York.
It was a lifetime opportunity and without hesitation she took it. In Russia there were Chassidim that only dreamed of seeing the Rebbe in person but never thought it would actually happen. There were times that if someone succeeded in smuggling just a picture of the Rebbe into Russia the Chassidim would make a minor celebration.
A few weeks later her dream came true; she was standing before the Rebbe in his office in 'Yechidut' (private audience) and it was infinitely more than she ever dreamed of.
The Rebbe asked her many questions about her family, the situation in Russia and her transition to Israel and after giving her many blessings added that she should devote time to the Shabbat Candle Campaign (going out to encouraging women to light Shabbat candles).
But Mrs. Estulin explained that she hadn't yet gotten used to the Hebrew language and was very afraid that in the anti religious attitude that prevailed in Israel.
But the Rebbe just smiled and said, "You do what you have to and if anyone every gives you problems, just tell them that you are a Chassid (follower) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
She returned to Israel and that very Friday went to a local hospital with some other Chabad women and began going from room to room, patient to patient passing out Shabbat Candles.
But, as fortune would have it, she met up with exactly the wrong person.
She must have been in her sixties with a mean look to begin with, and as soon as Mrs. Estulin entered the room she angrily snapped "What do you want here?"
Our heroine hesitantly replied, "I have Shabbat Candles if you would...."
The woman's face turned scarlet with anger, she sat up in bed and began to yell, shaking her finger in the air, "You get out! You religious people are all parasites! Superstitious rodents! You hear me!!? Get out of MY ROOM!!!"
Mrs. Estulin jumped back in shock! All she wanted to do was make people fell good and instead she was bringing this woman to the verge of some sort of fit. She stumbled back trying to make some gesture or say something over the screaming so as not to leave on a bad note when suddenly she remembered what the Rebbe told her to say.
"I am a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe!" She blurted out keeping her eye out for flying objects. "He sent me!"
Suddenly the woman fell silent, a look of surprise covered her face and she repeated, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe? Sent you?"
Mrs. Estulin could not fathom what just happened. This woman was obviously anti-religious… how could she possibly be so deeply affected by the mention of some Rebbe's name? The woman had spoken with a Russian accent so Mrs. Estulin took the cue and asked her in Russian, with as friendly a smile as she could muster up, how she knew the Rebbe.
The woman first apologized for her outburst, tears began to fill her eyes and she began her story.
The story began some five years earlier when her brother left Russia for the U.S.A.
In Russia they had been very close. They had lost both their parents when they were children and all they had in the world was each other.
Her brother succeeded in medical school and became a very successful doctor, almost the head of an entire department in a hospital. But his wage was pitiful and he decided to try to get out of Russia. He had heard that in America, the land of opportunity, he could earn a fortune. There, it was said, doctors were in great demand and in no time he would become rich and respected.
But he got a cruel surprise.
When he finally arrived there (after much red tape and frustration in getting out of Russia) there was no one to meet him in the airport and it didn't take him long to discover that no one was waiting for him in America either.
All the hospitals he went to for work turned him flat down; his degrees and experience in Russia meant almost nothing. He would have to go to university for another year in order to get a job anywhere… but he had no money for that. In fact he barely had money for rent.
He tried for several months to find work or make some sort of connections but with no success ,,,, until he began to give up. In another few weeks his money would be gone… then what would he do?! He couldn't return to Russia. In those days in order to leave he had to forfeit his Russian citizenship and most of his possessions as well. And in any case he had bought a one way ticket to the U.S.. Now he wouldn't even have rent money.
He became more and more depressed and his depression only brought more disappointments until he felt he was going insane and decided that he simply couldn't take life any longer.
After several sleepless nights he decided there was no solution other than….. (G-d forbid) the worst.
He walked down the Manhattan street in a daze toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The honking of horns and the crowded streets around him seemed to be miles away, in just a few minutes he would be there.
Suddenly he heard from behind him a young man call out to him. "'Scuse me mister but are you Jewish? Did you put on Tefillin today?"
For some reason he glanced there briefly and saw a young bearded man standing beside a small table holding out a small black box with a leather strap attached to it. But he turned away and resumed walking toward the bridge.
But that glance was enough for the young Chassid. "Hey!" he yelled as he approached my brother. "If you're a Jew then come on take your Jewish blood pressure, heh heh! Hey! It's free! And you'll feel good! And it only takes a minute! You're Jewish, right?"
Well, to make a long story short he didn't leave my brother alone till he put on the boxes for a few minutes and they get to talking.
Of course my brother tells this Chassid his whole story and when he got to the part about why he was heading toward the bridge, well that's when the young fellow promised that he could get my brother an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
And he did it! He took my brother with him to Brooklyn and that very night he got him in to talk the Rebbe!
Well, I don't know what exactly happened in there or what the Rabbi said, but he talked to him for a long time, it was like a half an hour and I know he encouraged him and even gave him some connections. But my brother came out a different man.
In fact, afterwards he wrote me a letter telling this entire story and ended by saying "Just know and always remember my dear sister, that if today you have a living flesh and blood brother it is thanks to the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
The woman dried her eyes and held out her hand to Mrs. Estulin. "In Russia I was an atheist and I still am now. But maybe things will change… maybe give me those Shabbat Candles and tell me what to do."
This answers our question.
Death doesn't necessarily refer to physical death, sometimes it means leaving an old, limited way of looking at life and entering a new one.
Like what happened in our story
Mrs. Estulin thought that she wasn't ready to convince others to light Shabbat Candles and the woman in the hospital thought that G-d and Judaism were meaningless.
But both were wrong and had to let their misconceptions 'die' in order to become really holy.
And so it is with each of us. We all have limiting ideas that we must let 'die' because they keep us from really being 'alive' and joyous Jews; happy to do the commandments of the Creator of the Universe…. just as the Rebbe changed the women in our story and myriads of other Jews (today more than ever)!
And it's all a preparation for Moshiach.
This is exactly what Moshiach will do; convince and educate all mankind to let their misconceptions 'die' and to fill the world with 'holiness'; with new life, blessing, joy and meaning!!
We just have to do all we can to bring....
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