This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bo (5767)
This week begins with G-d mysteriously telling Moshe to 'come' with Him to Pharaoh. The mystical book the Zohar explains that Pharaoh was the source of all evil in the world and had such a frighteningly high and powerful source that Moses was afraid to approach him without G-d's personal escort.
But this doesn't seem to make sense. In last week's Torah portion we read how Moses met with Pharaoh seven times before each of the first seven plagues. Why wasn't Moses afraid then?
Even more, what does it mean that G-d accompanied him? Isn't G-d infinitely near? Only idolaters believe that G-d is so far away that we need go-betweens or helper 'gods'. Judaism teaches that G-d accompanies all of us.
So what was so special about Him accompanying Moses?
Also, this coming week is 'Yud Shvat' (the tenth day of the eleventh Jewish month) the date of the passing of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson (nicknamed the Rebbe Rayat'z) the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1950, and the date that his son-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel took over the leadership a year later.
To understand this, here is a story. (Rabotainu N'siainu pg. 74)
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe lived in perhaps the worst period in history for the Jewish people: Stalin's rule in Russia.
Estimates have it that Stalin killed over twenty million of his own people and nevertheless was so revered by his brainwashed citizens that children regularly turned their own parents in to the police for counterrevolutionary crimes.
And public enemy number one was the 'Shneersinki' movement, especially its leader Rabbi Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. So it was a miracle that the Rebbe could stay alive.
But the Rebbe Rayat'z paid no attention to the danger to his own self. His only thought was for Judaism.
While everyone else was afraid to even 'think' against Stalin, he established a huge network of secret Torah schools and Rabbi's (to provide kosher education, food, weddings, mikvas, circumcisions and more) throughout the U.S.S.R.. And even more amazingly, he inspired thousands, even tens of thousands, of Jews to risk their lives to send their children to these schools and observe the commandments. (Something like how Moses stood up to Pharaoh)
He was eventually imprisoned in 1927, beaten, tortured and even sentenced to death only to be miraculously released just weeks later. He was eventually actually helped by the Russian Government to leave the country together with his entire massive library, spent the next ten years in Latvia and Poland and, at the outbreak of WWII, moved to the U.S.A where, in the last ten years of his life he began the 'outreach' movement that is saving Judaism and the entire world today.
Of course all this self-sacrifice began with Abraham the first Jew but we can see it clearly in the following story.
Before Communism, in the days of the Czarist regime (until 1917), there were also ample problems for the Jews one of the worst of which was in the person of an evil anti-Semitic minister called Stolypin.
At that time Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak's father, Rebbe Shalom Dov Ber was Rebbe and once it was necessary for him to send Yosef Yitzchak to Petersburg to try to avert one of Stolypin's terrible decrees. The Rayat'z went there, met people, tried to get in to offices and make connections but with no success. All avenues were closed and all ears were deaf to his pleas.
But when he returned to his father and told him that there was no recourse but prayer, his father told him to return and try again. And when he asked his father how much should he be willing to risk… his father answered;
"To the point of self-sacrifice; even your life."
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak immediately returned to Petersburg and began to ask if there was anyone in the government that didn't hate Jews and after several days of asking he got what he wanted.
He discovered that there was one particular minister that was a devoutly religious man and, according to rumor, respected other genuinely religious people. But it was no easy matter to get to meet him and although he spared no time and energy it was only after many disappointments and much effort that an appointment was arranged.
And that was only the beginning. This minister lived outside of Petersburg where Jews were forbidden to live and the only time he had free was … on the Shabbat in the morning which made things almost totally impossible.
It was too far to walk from the city (it is forbidden to walk more than a mile or so from a populated area on Shabbat) and there was no where nearby the Rebbe could spend the Shabbat. And even if there was a house to stay in he couldn't set foot there; all the houses were filled with religious icons, statues and idols. No place for a religious Jew.
The only option was the barroom.
Not far from this minister's house was a tavern. It would mean that the Rebbe would have to sit there for the entire Shabbat night, walk to the minister early in the morning and then walk back there and spend the rest of the Holy Day until the sun set. It was a wild idea but it was his only chance.
The only problem was that on the weekends all the local ruffians and riffraff came there to get drunk, make trouble, have fist fights and pursue other such uncivilized activities; the place was packed with drunken maniacs.
So the odds were a thousand to one that he would succeed: Even if he lasted the entire Shabbat with the illiterate, anti-Semites who knows if he would succeed in convincing the minister, and even so… who knows if the minister could convince Stolypin.
But there was no other choice. It was the only way to avert a terrible decree.
First obstacle was …… the bar.
The Rebbe suddenly had a brainstorm. As soon as he entered the bar everyone's eyebrows raised. But he calmly sat down and immediately set about making interesting comments and impressing everyone there with his bravery, wisdom, wit and genuine friendliness until everyone relaxed and even the drunkards felt good to have him around.
The entire night he managed to stay awake, early the next morning he found a quiet corner in the tavern to pray the Shabbat prayers and then he set out in the cold winter to the house of the minister.
It is not recorded what exactly happened there but it is recorded that he succeeded in convincing him, returned to the bar for the remainder of Shabbat and not only survived but a few days later the decree was canceled.
This explains why Moses was afraid.
G-d strangely sent Moses to Pharaoh with a very confusing message: that the G-d of Israel wants to free his 'sons' and 'chosen' people from Egypt and nothing can stop Him; He is the King and ruler of the Universe… but … He ' needs' Pharaoh's okay!! So-to-speak, G-d 'couldn't free the Jews without Pharaoh.
It was a mission impossible! Never in the history of the world had such a thing happened: that evil actually agreed to help the good.
So Moshe was afraid. Something like how the Rebbe gave up at first on convincing Stolypin.
But G-d told Moshe not to worry: in the end truth would prevail and he was just beginning an amazing process.
Not only will Pharaoh be humbled by the truth and help the Jews of his own free will (as we will see in next week's section) but eventually Moshiach will bring all mankind to follow suit. (Moses is called the 'first redeemer' and Moshiach will be the 'last' and final redeemer.)
Something like how the drunkards, the minister, even Stolypin and finally the Communist Government helped the Rebbe.
In fact this is goal of Creation: that even the evil people will see and realize there is a Creator and His Torah is true. (as we say in the Alenu prayer thrice daily).
This is what happened on Yud Shvat fifty six years ago when Rebbe Menachem Mendel, the final and seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, took over.
He is the one that will bring Moshiach and manifest the complete redemption of the world through the teachings of Chassidut (ask your local Chabad House about Chassidut).
Then all mankind will see and feel how close G-d is to us and how He is accompanying each and every one of us to transform darkness and evil into light and blessing.
All we have to is think, talk and do all we can to bring....
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