This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Ki Teitzei (5766)
This week's section begins with the bizarre law of the 'beautiful (gentile) woman':
"When you go to war on your enemies and G-d will put it in your hand and you will take prisoners. And you see a beautiful woman and you take her for a wife etc."
This is very hard to understand.
First of all, how can the Torah allow a Jewish soldier to take a gentile wife just because she is beautiful?
Even more; the only soldiers allowed to fight were those that had no sins and were completely righteous. Why would they even want to do such a thing?!
Another question; these sentences can also be read as promises. Namely; G-d is promising that when Jews or even one Jew goes to war He will give victory and beautiful gentile women etc.
Which really seems to makes no sense: Certainly there were wars that the Jews lost. And, of all things, why would G-d promise gentile wives to the soldiers?
And finally… all this is written in the singular, namely to each and every one of us for all generations. Rashi explains it is speaking of an optional war. Is it implying that any individual can go to war when he wants?
To understand this here is a story. (Rabim Hayshiv M'Avon vol. 2 by Rabbi Dov Halperin pgs. 237-243)
Rabbi Naftali Besser's connection to the Lubavitcher Rebbe began with miracles. He had not been always been a Chassid but after he and his wife had still not been blessed with children after four years of marriage his brother convinced him to ask the Rebbe for a blessing.
He told him to write the Rebbe a letter explaining the problem.
He did as his brother told him and a week later he received a reply! But the Rebbe just answered "I will pray for you". "Too short" he thought to himself and he decided to go in person.
He arrived at the Rebbe's headquarters in Brooklyn stood in line with thousands of others and when it came his turn and they were actually standing face to face the Rebbe smiled as though he was waiting only for him and said in Yiddish,
"Zul Zain Besser un Noch Besser" (It should be better and even better.)
As soon as he could, he excitedly ran to a pay phone, called his brother, told him what the Rebbe said and asked for an explanation.
His brother laughed and said. "The Rebbe was giving you a blessing for at least two more sons. (The word 'besser' means 'better'… but it is also implies he will have at least two more additions to the 'Besser' family; Besser un Besser').
Sure enough, shortly thereafter Rabbi Besser's wife became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, then shortly thereafter, a girl and finally, years later, another boy: Besser and Besser yet!
So Rabbi Besser became attached to the Rebbe and tried to bring as many friends and business associates as possible to meet him as well.
One outstanding incident was when he convinced a friend, an Israeli businessman who we will call Yaron, to attend a Yud Tes Kislev gathering (Farbrengen) of the Rebbe.
Yud Tes Kislev (the 19th day of the Jewish month Kislev) was usually a joyous occasion. It was the date that the first Rebbe and founder of Chabad was released from sure death in Czarist prison. The Rebbe spoke in Yiddish but because this particular holiday fell on a weekday, special earphones were distributed to the crowd to hear translations in the language of their choice. (On the Sabbath it would have been forbidden).
The plan was that Rabbi Besser and Yaron, would travel separately and meet there but that night there were terrible storms and Rabbi Besser got snowed in. So Yaron found himself alone with thousands of Chassidim.
But he wasn't alone for long. The Chassidim befriended him; found him a good place to stand, got him earphones so he could listen in Hebrew translation and the Farbrengen began.
The Rebbe spoke for hours and Yaron loved every minute of it. But then something unusual happened; the Rebbe announced that he was making an appeal for the town of Kfar Chabad in Israel. He wanted donations from the crowd.
Yaron was more than happy to give, in fact he couldn't think of a better cause.
So he raised his hand, waited for the Rebbe to look at him and yelled out "Five hundred dollars!" which in those days, almost twenty years ago, was quite a good donation - especially in Israeli terms.
But the Rebbe just looked at him and shook his head 'no'!
Poor Yaron was bewildered. He tried to convince himself that the Rebbe was signaling to someone standing directly behind him, but it didn't work. The Rebbe meant him. He began sweating, loosened his collar thought a few seconds and decided to meet the challenge.
"One Thousand!" he yelled out proudly.
But again the Rebbe shook his head negatively.
Now he was really sweating, where would he come up with the money? But something made him yell out again
"Two thousand! Two thousand dollars!"
But the Rebbe shook his head no.
He thought of leaving but something told him it would be a mistake. "Three Thousand?" he almost whined silently. The Rebbe didn't reply. Reassured by the Rebbe's silence he held up three fingers and said assertively, "THREE THOUSAND!!"
But the Rebbe just stared at him, shook his head 'no' and waited.
Yaron realized that it wasn't just money the Rebbe was after - something bigger was happening.
He almost whispered, "Four thousand" and the Rebbe agreed.
Our hero was confused; where would he come up with the money? Why did he say four thousand? It was a fortune! Perhaps he could give it in small checks over the course of a year or two. That's it! He'd spread it out. But the Rebbe read his thoughts and announced:
"I bless you all that everyone who donated will be repaid by G-d doubled and redoubled. But it is important that all donations be handed in tonight before this coming Shabbat, or at the latest, the day after Shabbat."
Now Yaron was really in a stew! Where would he come up all the money in such a short amount of time… it was already Thursday night! That left one day.
He had no choice. Then and there he took out his checkbook, wrote a check for the full amount, post-dated it for a week, handed it in and began to pray for a miracle. After all, the Rebbe did say it would be 'doubled and redoubled' - the problem is he didn't say when it would happen.
Late that night, when Yaron arrived home, he called Rabbi Besser, asked why he didn't show up, told him what happened and added that he was scheduled to fly to Antwerp Belgium early the next morning to spend the Shabbat by friends and then return to Israel.
Rabbi Besser apologized for missing the Farbrengen, wished him good luck in finding the money and added that if he needed help he should not hesitate to call him.
But he didn't call and Rabbi Besser almost forgot the entire incident.
Until a half-year later. They happened to met again and Yaron told the Rabbi what happened.
That Friday a half-year earlier he left New York before sunrise and arrived in Antwerp early in the morning. He got settled in the place where he was going to spend Shabbat and, with plenty of time left, decided to go to the diamond center to see what was going on.
He had just arrived when an old acquaintance approached him for advice. This fellow had been given an offer to buy a bag of unpolished diamonds. He handed the bag to Yaron and asked him if he thought it was a good deal.
Yaron looked at the merchandise and was impressed. "In my opinion they are excellent and I advise you to buy" he said.
But the other fellow didn't seem convinced. "No, you don't understand. The reason I asked you is because I want you to be my partner in this."
Yaron tried to explain that he had no cash on hand but the fellow cut him short. "I don't care if you can pay now or not. Just say you're in and you can pay later - if it's necessary you can pay when you want."
So they shook hands and the deal was closed.
The day after Shabbat Yaron returned to Israel and early the next morning called the fellow in Antwerp from Tel Aviv to find out exactly how much he owed him for his part in the diamonds.
"Ahh! The diamonds? Hey! You were right! It was really an excellent deal. I bought them a few minutes after you told me to and just yesterday I found someone to buy them at a nice profit.
"That's right! We made thirty two thousand dollars! What do you say to that? So you don't owe me anything - in fact I owe you half - sixteen thousand! Tell me your bank account and I'll deposit it later today! Is that alright?"
The Rebbe's blessing came more quickly than Yaron imagined.
This explains our questions.
The Torah here is giving advice to each of us (the word "Torah" means 'teaching').
There are many difficulties in life both inside us and outside. Each person must defeat negative impulses within such as anger, lust, frivolity, laziness AND try to make a positive impact on the world, according to the Torah, as well.
This is even more difficult and much higher standards are demanded of us if we live according to the teachings of Chassidut and try to prepare the world for Moshiach.
But nevertheless the Torah is telling us that we are certain of victory. And the way to certain victory is to 'Go to war ON the enemy'; something like how the Rebbe inspired Rabbi Besser and his friend in our stories.
Namely, to realize that the same G-d that is creating the world and l its difficulties is the same G-d that commands us to change it …. and gives us the power to change it.
So, if we are connected to the Creator… it cannot be that anything in the creation can stop us!
And that is the meaning of taking the beautiful gentile woman.
According to the teachings of Kabalah and Chassidut those things in the world that require changing really have a high spiritual source (that is how they can oppose the Torah) that are waiting for a Jew to come and reveal.
Just as the beautiful gentile woman catches the attention of the Jewish soldiers precisely because they are pure Tzadikim.
So also it will be with each of us. If we are attached to the teachings and advice of the Rebbe we are certain to conquer the world and transform it to a transparent window revealing the ONEness of G-d.
And we can make it happen one second earlier by doing all we can to bring....
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