This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Haazinu (5766)
This coming Shabbat is called Shabbat Tshuva the 'Sabbath of Return' and is a preparation for Yom Kippur, the 'Day of Forgiveness'.
And the Torah portion read this Shabbat contains a fitting message. It is the song "Ha'azinu" dictated by G-d through Moses warning the Jewish people that abandoning the ways of the Torah will bring misfortune and tragedy.
Its purpose is that when the Jews see how G-d predicted their follies and resultant calamities and nevertheless declares He will always love them, they will return to their true identities as His Chosen People.
The perfect message for the Shabbat of Return.
But interestingly there are two interpretations of this song (see Rashi on 32:43).
According to Rabbi Yehuda the song refers to Israel (as we explained)
But according to Rabbi Nechemia much of it, especially the tragedies, refers to the other nations.. which seems to really weaken any Jewish connection it
might have to Shabbat Tshuva or Yom Kippur!!
To understand this here is a story about a well known Rabbi, scholar and miracle worker; Rebbe Mair of Parmishlian who lived some 150 years ago in the area of Poland (from the book 'The Power of Ruach HaKodesh by Uri Auerbach pg. 293)
Once there was a Jewish innkeeper (who we will call Avraham) who lived with his wife and children in a small village and eked out a living from a small inn he rented.
This Avraham, being a Chassid, always tried to be in a good mood and treat all his clients, even the coarsest drunks, with respect and even admiration.
And as a result the inn was always peaceful, never empty and despite being often filled with drunks, never out of control.
It so happened that one day a certain Baron from a distant town happened to stop in Avraham's inn and was very impressed with what he saw.
"Ach!!" He thought to himself "If I had a manager like this in my inn it might make a profit!"
As Divine Providence would have it.it seems that this Baron also owed an inn. but it was a miserable failure and now he understood why; his manager was a half- drunkard with a terrible disposition that drove the clients away.
The Baron made Avraham an offer. Avraham was flattered but said he had to ask his Rebbe first. He traveled to Rav Mair of Parmishlian, the Rebbe gave his consent, and two days later the Baron's men had loaded all of Avraham's possessions into boxes and he and his family were on the way to their new home.
It was like a dream! In just a few months his inn was full of customers and was finally making money.. The Baron was overjoyed!
Then, one night when the inn was empty, the Baron came in with a miserably depressed look on his face, sat at a table in the corner, ordered a brandy, lit his pipe and just stared at the wall.
It was inevitable that Avraham had to ask him what was wrong and it wasn't long before the Baron began pouring his broken heart out.
True he was the Baron and everyone envied him but in fact, despite his wealth and success he was miserable; his only son was insane.
The boy never spoke a word; from the day he was born all he did was scream, kick, bite, throw things and go into tantrums without warning. At first they thought he was just hyperactive but as he grew they realized that something was seriously wrong.
They took him to the best doctors in the world but they all said there was no hope. He had to be watched constantly by two guards lest he hurt himself or someone else.
And today was his fourteenth birthday. The Baron was at his wit's end, about to go insane himself! It seemed that he would have to put the boy a madhouse and it was breaking his heart... But there was no other alternative.
Avraham told him not to worry, sat down opposite him and told him about his Rebbe.
The Baron's eyes lit up with hope.
He announced that he would gladly take Avraham and his family to this Rebbe of his and give him a nice reward as well if it would cure his son.
In a few days they were on their way in two large carriages, one for Avraham and his family and one for the Baron and his and when they arrived Avraham immediately wrote a letter to the Rebbe explaining the Baron's problem.
But in a few hours the Rebbe's secretary returned, took Avraham off to a side and gave him a disheartening answer;
'The Rebbe says he cannot see the Baron or his son. Don't tell the Baron this but the Rebbe says that when he blesses a Jew and, G-d forbid, the blessing doesn't take effect, the Jew will justify what happened and won't get angry. But if his blessings don't materialize for this Baron he'll get angry and won't even try to understand. Rather he will be certain to take revenge and everyone will suffer."
But when the Baron heard that the Rebbe refused he got furious and screamed.
"If this Rebbe of yours doesn't want to bless me then you and all the other Jews can get off my lands! Understand? Find another place to live!!"
Poor Avraham never saw the Baron act like this. He wrote another letter to the Rebbe explaining the Baron's reaction and pleading for help and this time he got the appointment he wanted.
The Baron entered the Rebbe's office with Avraham, stood respectfully in the presence of this holy man, apologized for his anger and then wept as he repeated his tragic story.
The Rebbe looked up for a moment and said. "If you want your son to be healthy . the only one that can do it is a priest they call Father Thaddius that lives in a small town near the city of Lemberg. Only he can help."
"A priest?" Thought Avraham to himself. "Am I hearing right? How can an idolater possibly do what the Rebbe cannot?"
But the Baron did not sense the irony. The next day he loaded his son, his two guards and, of course, Avraham on his carriage and set off in the direction of Lemberg.
They searched and searched from village to village with no results. No one heard of a father Thaddius until, near the end of the day, one villager said that he heard that in the next village was a new priest who the rumor had it, had once been called by a different name. Possibly this was who they were looking for.
And sure enough in the next village in a small church they found a priest that admitted to having changed his name from Thaddius several years ago for spiritual reasons.
But every time he looked at Avraham he began to mumble bitterly and when he heard that a Rabbi had sent them he began cursing in every way possible; spitting out blasphemies against the Jews and their beliefs.
Avraham was really perplexed. This fellow did not look at all spiritual, exactly the opposite. But the Baron paid no attention to this and ordered his men to bring his son in.
"Listen, Father" the Bishop said, "I want you to try to cure my son. I'll give you whatever money you want.. just please help me! I'm sure you can do it. "
And saying this, the two guards brought his son in the room.
As soon as the boy saw the priest, it was as though a bolt of electricity passed through him. With one twist he broke loose from his guards and jumped at the priest as though possessed; knocking him to the ground and punching, kicking and biting him with such fury that only after several minutes were the guards able to tear him off.
The priest lay on the ground semi-conscious, bleeding and moaning when suddenly the boy in the clutches of his guards turned to his father, smiled for the first time in his life and said in the calmest and most normal voice. "Thank you daddy. Whew! I'm really tired after all that. What do you say we return home?"
It was the first time he had spoken since his birth!!
Needless to say Avraham was stunned by all this and even the hard hearted Baron was so overcome with joy that he began hugging and kissing Avraham and gave him a large sum of money for his Rebbe.
Of course when Avraham returned home and reported to to the Rebbe what had happened he asked for an explanation. The Rebbe smiled and explained,
"That evil priest Thaddius once kidnapped a simple Jewish orphan and tried to force her to accept his religion but she refused for weeks on end. The girl somehow escaped and ran away into the woods. She almost would have made it to freedom but when crossing the frozen river the ice cracked and she fell in and drowned.
It so happened that at that very moment of her death the Bishop, his wife and their newborn son passed by in a carriage and somehow the poor girl's tormented soul entered the baby. And that is why he was insane; he truly was a man possessed.
But just now when the Baron's son was brought to the priest the soul jumped out in revenge and entered his body until justice will be done and then the soul will be released.
This answers our question.
The purpose of the Jewish people, which can only be realized through the arrival of Moshiach, is to teach the entire world about the Creator and His
Torah: how He is infinitely far (He creates the gods of all the other
religions) and infinitely close (He creates us constantly)!
As we say over and over in the main prayer of Rosh HaShana and Yom HaKipurim, "Raise the flame of your Moshiach. Every object should know that You made it and every creation should know that You create it. And every living being with breath in its nostrils should say 'The G-d of Israel is King and His Kingship rules all!'"
This is also the message of the story of Jonah that we read near the end of Yom Kippur; G-d cares about the gentiles, wants them to leave their false beliefs and live true lives. to RETURN to be aware of the Creator as they were before birth.
And this is what Rabbi Nehemiah meant by interpreting "HaAzinu" to relate to the gentiles. Namely he was referring to the days of Moshiach when all mankind will believe only in the Creator and His Torah according to the Seven Noahide Commandments (see:
True, it could be that those gentiles that persecuted the Jews will have to suffer (as in our story) but the MAIN message of Yom Kippur is that G-d is forgiving;
He cares about His creations and He forgives all sins if we only RETURN to Him and His Torah.
All we have to do is 'open our eyes' and do all we can to see....
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