This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeitzei (5767)
In this week's Torah portion we read another chapter in the birth of Judaism; Yaakov, the third and 'choice' of the 'fathers' runs for his life from his brother Aisav only to fall into the clutches of the arch-anti-Semitic criminal, Lavan, who severely tricks him into working twenty years.
This is completely not understood.
Biblical stories are supposed to contain miracles, promises of heaven, some praise of Jewish heroes or at least some positive message.
But seemingly here we see none of these.
What is the point in relating the embarrassing facts that our forefather fled from his brother and was duped by his father-in-law? What does all this have to do with Judaism?
To understand this here is a story about the second Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Dov Ber (nicknamed the 'Mittler or middle Rebbe) whose date of birth, release from prison and passing away we celebrate on the ninth and tenth of the Jewish month of Kislev.
The Rebbe was a very fragile person physically and was warned by his doctors that getting over-excited could be dangerous and even fatal. But this was no problem for him. He was a very intellectual person and could size up and remain cool in every situation. Virtually nothing could surprise, anger or frighten him and his devotion to the service of G-d with his mind and heart was nothing short of super-human.
When he would pray he was literally 'out of this world' and was totally oblivious to even the feelings of his own body and it wasn't much different when he was learning Torah.
The famous story told about him is that once he was so engrossed in his Torah learning that he did not hear his own baby son fall out of his crib and lay weeping just several feet away! (His father, the first Rebbe of Chabad, who had been equally engrossed in his learning one floor below did hear all this, however, came up and returned the child to his crib – all unbeknownst to him - and then reprimanded him saying it's good to learn Torah but when a child, especially a Jewish child, is crying you have to stop learning and help him).
When Rebbe Dov Ber was only sixteen years old he was already expert in all the books of the Torah including the works of Kabala and his father appointed him to oversee the prayer and Torah learning of all the Chassidim.
This was no easy job being that many of the Chassidim were as knowledgeable as he but his job was to bring them to even greater achievements.
In one of the 'Farbrengens' (Chassidic meetings) some of the elder Chasidim were also present and Rebbe Dov Ber spoke excitedly about the importance of serving G-d with no ulterior or selfish motives, including spiritual rewards whether of this world or the world to come. Rather to learn from the forefathers who had no concern for themselves what-so-ever… to desire only to 'please' the Creator.
He spoke about this with such great excitement and emotion that he almost fainted several times. The Chassidim tried to calm him down and he even tried to calm himself but to no avail; when he began speaking he could not control himself.
Needless to say all this took its toll and afterwards he was bedridden for more than several days. One of the elder Chassidim that had been there went to visit him and asked for an explanation; why did he speak with such emotion when he could have easily controlled himself. He could have said the same thing calmly and not endanger his very life!
The Rebbe replied.
When my father, the Alter Rebbe, gave me the job of guiding the younger Chassidim he said to me,
"It is necessary to look at another Jew as he is in Machshava HaKduma d'Adam Kadmon (i.e. the highest level of G-d's 'thought').
[The Torah begins with G-d creating the world with his speech, which is the topic of much kabalistic explanation (the creative power of each letter etc.) But the Jewish people are united with G-d's 'thought' which is a deeper unity and is explained in length and depth in the 'Tanya' and other works of Chassidut.]
"From this," he continued, "I learned four things.
"First; the soul as it is in G-d's thought is the level of a 'son' and feels its unity with G-d. But when the soul descends to be clothed in a body it is in a level of a 'servant' and feels far from the Creator. Seeing the soul as it is in the original thought it means that every soul can and must reveal the level of 'son' even when it is a 'servant'. Only then will it give G-d true pleasure.
"Second; the soul as it is in 'the original thought' has essential and concentrated powers that can be used to purify the world. When the soul descends to a body these powers are all concealed and can (and must) be brought into revelation. Only then will it give true pleasure to G-d.
"Third; the soul as it is the 'original thought' includes all the souls that are going to issue from it throughout all the generations until the raising of the dead. So by purifying any given soul all its 'offspring' are also receiving certain purification. And although each offspring is a separate individual with its own free will nevertheless the general beginning of each person's relation to G-d is in the first cause: at first the father influences his children and afterwards the child can have more powers than his parents.
"Finally, the soul as it is in the first thought is predetermined in general how it will serve its purpose in the world; what it will receive from above and what it will give and contribute to the world in every detail. In other words, millions of good deeds, words and thoughts are contained in each person, and when this is multiplied by that soul's offspring, pupils and those who are influenced by him the results are almost infinite.
"Not only that but I'm sure that what my father said that I must look at a Jew as he stands in the First thought of G-d' he was referring to how I look at myself as well! Namely that I must constantly see my true potential and to encourage each of those that I speak to, to see their potential so they in turn can influence others to see their potential!
"When I contemplated all this" he concluded "namely the purpose of my soul in all its implications and the purpose of all the souls of the Chassidim and everything that would come from them, how could I possibly control the feelings in my heart!" (Otzer Sipori Chabad vol. 5 pg 161)
This answers our questions.
The purpose of the Jewish soul is to purify even the lowest and most selfish aspects of the world; As the Rambam writes (Laws of Kings chapter 12) "To fill the entire world with the knowledge of the Creator like water fills the ocean".
This is what inspired the 'Middle' Rebbe; the only time the soul reveals its true powers is when it is in this physical world clothed in a body.
Only then can it give 'pleasure' to the Creator Himself!!!
So this is why Yaakov ran from Aisav and worked so long by Lavan; He was beginning the work of the Jews; to reveal the ONEness of the Creator in even the lowest places.
Only then will the Creator have pleasure!
And the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that now the time has arrived!!
After the efforts of all the Tzadikim and all the self-sacrifice of Jews for thousands of years the time for redemption has arrived and the work of Yaakov has succeeded.
All we have to do is open our eyes and treat the world differently: in fact ALL the Jews are ready and willing to 'act Jewish' (they just need a bit of help and encouragement from us) and the gentiles are ready and willing to serve the creator (see http://ohrtmimim.org/Torah_Default.asp?id=939 )
Today......NOW…. the world is truly ready for…..
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