This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Re'eh (5766)
In this week's Torah portion we find a clear hint at Jerusalem "And it shall be that the place in which G-d your G-d will choose to make is name abide. Bring your offerings etc." (Deut 12:11).
Jerusalem is central and essential to Judaism. Not only was it the home for the first two Holy Temples and the direction to which every Jew in the world must face when praying today but it is there that Moshiach will rebuild the third Temple and gather the Jews.
So why isn't it mentioned explicitly in the Torah? Why only as "The place that G-d chooses"?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likuti Sichot Vol. 2 pp 617-6 19) asks this question and answers it from 'Sefer HaChaim' a book written by the brother of the famous Mahaha"l of Prague (1520-1609) as follows:
The Torah is telling us that if a Jew directs his prayers to the Temple and Jerusalem and yearns for Moshiach who will rebuild them - then wherever in the world he happens to be, that place becomes transformed into THE PLACE; it is as though he is spiritually in the Temple.
And when the Talmud in Ketubot 110b says that any Jew who lives outside of Israel is as though he has no G-d, it is referring to a Jew whose thoughts and desires are never directed to the Holy Land. But as soon as he yearns for Jerusalem …. he is in 'the Place'.
This is very beautiful but it seems to contradict a well-known Chassidic story.
Some three hundred years ago in the Ukrainian city of Mezibuz there lived a Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov who desired to travel to Israel. But for some reason the Besh't (short for Baal Shem Tov) discouraged him. And so it was for years....until one bright day he begrudgingly agreed!!
The joyous Chassid bought his ticket for the sea journey and then sped home to pack and prepare himself spiritually.
Everything went smoothly and before heading for the boat he went to immerse in the local mikva (a spiritual cleansing used extensively by Chassidim) for a final purification.
He removed his clothes, entered the water and had an urge to open his eyes under the water. Strangely in the water before him unfolded a vision of the approaching shores of Israel!
When he couldn't hold his breath any longer he came up for air and again immersed and opened his eyes. This time he saw Jerusalem and the Holy Temple coming closer and closer! It was too incredible to believe but it was happening before his very eyes!!
Again he came up for air, took a deep breath and this time under water he saw himself entering the Temple, past the altar, into the holy room where the Menora and incense alter were and approaching the drape that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies!
He was bursting from lack of air and did not want to lose the vision. He quickly stuck his head out of the water, took a deep breath, again immersed. The curtain slowly parted and there in the holy of holies was sitting….. the Baal Shem Tov!
Now he understood; the holy tablets were in Mezibuz! He returned his ticket and canceled his trip.
The Besh't seemingly discouraged the Chassid from thinking about the REAL Holy Land, Holy City and Holy Temple!! The opposite of what we said above!
To understand this here is a story I just heard from Rabbi Yosef Eisenbach, Shliach of the Rebbe in Litchfield Connecticut (where I just spoke for a very successful Israel rally he made).
A few years ago he read in a local newspaper that a woman professor was making a lecture, or series of lectures, in a nearby town dedicated to the topic of 'False Messiahs' and he snapped into action.
He understood that the catalyst for these lectures was a book that had been recently published attempting to besmirch the Chabad movement and the drive for Moshiach awareness begun by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He knew he had to attend.
As a rule Chabad tries to avoid confrontations because they are non-productive and divisive but here Rabbi Eisenbach felt he had to be ready for battle and dispel any misconceptions if necessary.
He arrived at the lecture room a bit early and was presently surprised to see among the pictures of the famous rabbis adorning the wall pictures of the First and of the Previous (i.e. the sixth) Lubavitcher Rebbes which calmed him down a bit.
But he was still apprehensive about what was going to happen.
Sure enough the lecturer took the podium, the crowd fell silent and as part of her short introduction mentioned that among the 'transgressors' to be discussed would be the Chabad Chassidim who say that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach.
Suddenly a middle aged, bald headed, intelligent-looking fellow in shorts stood up from the crowd and began waving his arms and shouting,
"What? You can say that my Rebbe is not the Moshiach?! How can you dare to say such a thing?! My Rebbe! Aren't you ashamed of yourself?!"
The professor was taken completely by surprise and Rabbi Eisenbach even more so. True he was used to seeing the inner Jewish soul suddenly awaken in Jews… in fact, that was his job… but nevertheless he never expected such an ally with such fury.
The man began to speak; he was emotional but spoke maturely and rationally. "I'll tell you who the Lubavitcher Rebbe is… he's alive! And if he isn't Moshiach I don't know who is!!!
Silence reigned. The professor was speechless and everyone was waiting to hear more.
"I'm a veteran of the Korean War" he continued. "That was almost fifty years ago, and if it wasn't for the Rebbe I'd probably be dead now." When he sensed that everyone was listening he opened up.
"I was a completely assimilated young Jew that just got drafted and a Rabbi in Boro Park by the name of Rabbi Shapiro suggested that I go to this Lubavitch Rebbe for a blessing.
"So I went. The Rabbi drove me and some other fellow who didn't like Chabad to Crown Heights where the Rebbe is. The fellow had a son who needed a serious heart operation and this same Rabbi Shapiro convinced him to drop his opposition and get a blessing.
"Anyway I entered first. As soon as I looked at the Rebbe I felt at home. He smiled and we talked for a long time. He was like the grandfather I never had. He blessed me and told me I would have a long happy life and suggested that I should do at least one commandment, like Tefillin, from now on… which I've been doing since then.
"Well, after me this other fellow went in and a few minutes later he came out red like a beet and angry as a bull… he couldn't even talk he was so angry.
"On the way home he finally couldn't keep it in. He said he went in to the Rebbe and asked for a blessing but the Rebbe said that it wasn't necessary because the boy doesn't need the operation.
"'Who does he think he is?' the fellow mumbled angrily. 'What, he thinks he's some sort of a doctor too!? The best doctors took tests. The child is suffering… but HE says it's nothing!?! Ach!!'
"Anyway I forgot about this guy and his son. I went to the war and came back in one piece. And a few years later I met this fellow, the one whose son needed the operation, on the street. He recognized me and started smiling and pumping my hand so I asked him what happened.
"He says, 'Ho ho!! Was I wrong about the Rebbe! Incredible! Listen to this! I took my son in for the operation and they got him all ready. In fact they were wheeling him out of his room to the operation when suddenly something happened to me. I usually had been meek and accepted everything the doctors said, but suddenly I began to argue with them. I told them that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said the operation was unnecessary and I think so too! I demanded another test.
"'They looked at me like I was mad. Who argues with a doctor?! But when they saw I was serious they agreed figuring it would calm me down. They wheeled my son into another room, made some quick tests and came out pale as ghosts.
"'Everything that was there on the previous tests and x-rays was gone! They cancelled the operation and my boy is completely healthy till this very day. 'The Rebbe was right!'
"That's just one story." he continued, half talking to the lecturer and half to the crowd. "But that's not all! What I just told you about me in Korea and that heart operation was before the Rebbe 'passed away' in 1994. But here is something that happened just now.
"My boss where I work had something wrong with his foot. Some sort of growth that he had to have removed surgically every couple of months. It was driving him crazy, he went to all sorts of experts but the only solution was these operations. So I tell him to go with me to the Ohel... the grave of the Rebbe.
"So he goes. He's not religious at all but he went and he prayed. And you know what? It stopped! It's a year now! And now he puts on Tefillin every day just like me! So don't tell me the Rebbe is dead and don't say he's not Moshiach!"
The lecturer apologized, said she would not mention the Rebbe and continued the lecture.
This explains our question; The Besh't wasn't discouraging the Chassid from concentrating on Jerusalem, exactly the opposite!
He was teaching him that the only way to really desire Jerusalem is by understanding and longing for Moshiach.
Yes, Moshiach will be a Jew who will educate all mankind to serve the Creator through Torah. (For details please see: http://ohrtmimim.org/Torah_Default.asp?id=781 )
And without him the hope to end the exile and rebuild Jerusalem is impotent; even one who lives in Israel… can be far from 'The Place' (as we see today; millions of Israelis have left Israel, the schools and media there are, at best, void of Jewish identity. The Israeli government has no goals, has tied the hands of its police and armed forces, evicts Jews and gives their land to Arabs for 'peace' and even advertises that it wants to 'return' more!)
We have to learn and hearken to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and do all we can to bring Moshiach.
Soon we will see miracles even greater than when we left Egypt. (We already see how G-d is miraculously protecting the Jews in Israel despite the suicidal government). And the entire world will rejoice with....
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