This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayishlach (5767)
The title of this week's Torah portion means "And he sent" and it precedes the holiday of "Yud Tes Kislev" (the 19th day of the Jewish month of Kislev) when Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement and the author of the book 'Tanya', was released (sent) from prison.
And Yud Tes Kislev is one of the most important dates in the history of the world.
It is the date that began the teachings of 'Chassidut Chabad'. And the teachings of Chassidut Chabad made the secret essence of Judaism; the secret of eternal life, liberty and happiness, accessible to each man woman and even child in the entire world.
And this week's Torah portion explains it all:
'VaYishlach' means that we have all been 'sent' to this world with a 'mission possible'.
It begins with the Patriarch Yaakov expressing fear when the angels he sent to meet his murderous brother Aisav return with the news that his murderous brother Aisav is approaching with 400 men!!
At first glance this makes no sense!
Two weeks ago we read how Yaakov received his father's blessings (27:28-9) promising him victory and supremacy over his enemies. So why was he afraid? Didn't he believe in the blessings?
Not only that but here we see that Yaakov himself battles and defeats an angel!
So why did he have to send angels at all, he could have gone himself?
To understand this, here is a story about Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Laidi nicknamed the 'Alter (elder) Rebbe' (Sipurim Noraim pg. 130).
The Alter Rebbe was truly a holy person. When he was only a child he had already mastered all the wisdom of the Torah and by the age of twenty he knew all the secrets of the heavens and the earth.
So it was no wonder that he aroused jealousy. Many considered him a threat to their existence and even sought to kill him; much like the biblical story of Yosef and his brothers.
And like Yosef when the Rebbe was released from prison, it brought blessing and salvation to all mankind.
Thousands sought the Rebbe's help whether in spiritual or in mundane matters and here is a story of one of them.
One religious Jew, who we will call Reb Yona, had a son who was clearly mentally ill. Shortly before his Bar Mitzvah the boy suddenly stopped eating and drinking and began wandering aimlessly around the house, mumbling incoherently to himself like a madman.
He spared no money or time searching for a cure. But after all his savings were gone and he had exhausted all sources of charity with no results he, like all the best doctors and professors he had seen, gave up.
Then he heard about the Alter Rebbe. At first he would have no part of it - who ever heard of asking a human being for a blessing!? G-d is the one that cures!!
But his wife pointed out to him that if it's permissible to ask doctors for help and throw away hundreds of rubles on them to boot, then why should it be forbidden to ask the help of a Tzadik?
Not only that, but there are myriads of stories in Judaism about people requesting blessings from Moses, Elijah and even from the holy scholars of the Talmud.
Reb Yona tried to protest, but he finally gave in and decided to travel to Laidi.
A few days later he was standing with his son before the Rebbe looking into the Rebbe's infinitely deep eyes.
"Your son will be healthy, G-d willing" the Rebbe said, "Just one small treatment. You have to mix a small potion of two grams of silver nitrate in a tablespoon of olive oil and give it to him. This will heal him completely."
Reb Yona was overjoyed!! The Rebbe was a completely different type of person from anything he had ever seen! There was truth and certainty in his eyes that he never dreamed existed in this world! Finally there was hope!! He immediately set out to find someone to fill the prescription.
Now it so happened that in the town of Liadi also lived a very great doctor and when our hero began asking around for someone to make this concoction he was directed to his house.
But when he asked the doctor for help he in for a surprise.
"What!? Silver Nitrate?" he almost screamed. "What in the world would anyone need that for? Who told you to take this?"
Reb Yona explained it all but it didn't help.
"Demented son!?" the doctor exclaimed shrugging his shoulders in disbelief. "What has silver nitrate got to do with dementia!? Exactly the opposite! It could be dangerous!"
But nevertheless Reb Yona insisted. He put money on the table, told the doctor that he trusted the Rebbe and in moments was exiting with the elixir in hand.
He gave it to his son full of hope and anticipation....but nothing happened. True, nothing bad happened. But nothing good happened either. Perhaps he misunderstood what the Rebbe said. He decided to ask again.
The next day he was again standing before the Rebbe explaining what happened and the Rebbe simply replied.
"Ahh, whoever mixed the medicine must have made a mistake in measuring. Go back and ask him if he measured exactly as I told you. It has to be exact!"
"Mistake?" the doctor replied a few moments later, "I didn't make any mistake. In fact I didn't measure at all! I just put in the smallest amount possible. Why waste time measuring something that is useless?!"
But Reb Yona pleaded and finally the doctor agreed and even measured and mixed it all before him.
And sure enough, this time when he administered the mixture to his son the boy's entire complexion and composure changed almost immediately. And though he had just woken from a dream he began to ask for food to eat and books to learn.
Reb Yona returned to the doctor with his son and the doctor could not believe his eyes. "It simply makes no sense!" he exclaimed. What happened here was a miracle, but if it was a miracle then why did the measure have to be exact? I mean....silver nitrate has nothing to do with mental illness! I simply can't understand it!"
This answers our questions.
Yaakov did not want to destroy or defeat his brother; rather he wanted to transform him, and with him the entire world to good; like the Rebbe transformed sickness to health.
That is why Yaakov was afraid. Because he realized that he was facing an almost impossible task; to transform someone bent on killing him - a situation that Jews have found themselves in for the last two thousand years!
That is also why Yaakov sent angels. Just as the Alter Rebbe included Reb Yona and the doctor to cure the boy's condition: The only solution for the world's problems is to get the entire creation involved in the healing process.
All mankind have a mission and have been 'sent' to fix the world.
This is the message begun by Yaakov in our Torah portion and continued by the first Rebbe of Chabad when he was released from prison.
But in our generation it has been finalized by the last (and seventh) Rebbe who announced that the work of Yaakov has been completed and the time of redemption has arrived!
True it is all happening miraculously (like in our story), and there will be even greater miracles, but it all depends on our involvement and willingness to live in a perfect world.
We must learn Chassidut Chabad, especially the last years of the Rebbe's speeches. Then we will all see....
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