This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Behaalotecha (5767)
This week features a statement traditionally said in Synagogues all over the world each time the Torah scroll is taken from the ark to be read publicly.
"And it was when the ark (containing the Tablets) traveled (in the desert) that Moses said, 'Rise up, G-d, and scatter Your enemies, and those who hate You will flee before You'." (10:35)
This statement was first made by Moses each time the Jews began one of their 42 journeys in the desert; Rashi explains that the ark would float ahead of them three days journey, hence Mose's call to 'Rise up'.
But upon closer examination it doesn't seem to make much sense.
First, why did Moses say 'Rise up G-D" when the ark moved? He should have said something like, "Rise up Holy Ark."
And what does it mean that G-d should 'rise up'? Isn't G-d infinite and fills all existence? Where is there for Him to rise TO?
Next, why does it say "Scatter Your enemies", it should say "OUR enemies" .i.e. the Enemies of Israel.
Also, what is the difference between 'Your Enemies' and 'Those who hate You'? Why was it necessary to mention both?
And finally, why was this sentence said only by Moses? All the Jews should have said it as is the custom today!
Here is a story that might help us to understand. (Y'dion HaKfar 25.1.07)
Rabbi Drizen, the Chabad representative in Berkley University, California, was getting ready for Shabbat when the phone rang in his office. It was still early Friday the morning but he had plenty to do; get the Chabad House ready for the tens of Shabbat guests, help his wife at home and more.
He answered and a man's voice on the other end said nervously.
"Hello! Hello? Is this Chabad? Is this the Rabbi?"
When Rabbi Drizen answered yes the man almost began crying.
"Ahh, Thank G-d. Listen Rabbi you have to...that is...please...Please excuse me but my name is George Freidman. I'm not a religious Jew but well, please. Ehhh...I have a problem. It's my daughter..." he stopped for a few seconds caught his breath and resumed.
"She got involved with missionaries. Oy! Rabbi! I never would dream this would happen. Missionaries! Oy a nightmare! My daughter!" he whimpered and continued. "She ran away with one of them, a boyfriend, she calls him. Left home…. Now she's in a place called Imgrenten Gap. It's not far from Berkley where you are Rabbi. But she said she's flying on Saturday night to Hawaii to get baptized! Rabbi, you can make it there, it's not so far away. You have to do something. What can we do? Please!"
Rabbi Drizen looked at his watch. He asked a few questions until he was sure the man was serious. It would mean a two hour drive. He could feasibly make it there, talk to the girl for an hour and make it back before Shabbat began. It was crazy, but if he was normal he would have never begun a Chabad House in the first place with endless self-sacrifice trying to wake Jews up to Judaism.
He got some more details about the girl; her name was Adina she was almost totally ignorant of Judaism, she had a degree in something, she'd been involved with them for over a year. He called his wife to tell her where he was going and that he might not make it home for Shabbat, made a few more calls to arrange the Chabad House for Shabbat, jumped in his car and took off.
Four hours later he reached his destination; Four hours!! Twice the time he thought it would take! There was no way he would make it home for Shabbat even if he turned around and raced back immediately.
He stopped at a store, bought the only kosher products there; a couple of tins of sardines, some fruit and a bottle of soda, and set off on his search.
It took him some time to find the house where she was staying and when he finally found it and knocked on the door it was just minutes before Shabbat.
The man that answered looked as though he could be one of the leaders of the group. Needless to say he was surprised to see a bearded Rabbi and, perhaps because he thought it would be a chance to catch a really big fish or maybe the Rabbi's optimism was contagious, he shook his hand.
The Rabbi explained that in another few moments it would be Shabbat, he would be stuck here for the next 24 hours and he explained,
"I'm looking for a girl called Adina. Her father asked me to make sure she wasn't kidnapped and that she knows what she's doing changing her religion."
The man, completely certain of himself, invited the Rabbi in and called the girl. In just seconds she appeared with her boyfriend and when she saw what was going on did not look pleased. The Rabbi introduced himself, shook hands with her boyfriend, explained why he was here and asked if there was a corner of the house he could pray in.
Both men actually looked glad to see the Rabbi but Adina was blazing furious! How could this 'alien' have the audacity to butt in to her private affairs!
After he prayed the Shabbat evening prayers and ate his Shabbat 'meal' he began to get to the point. Adina just ignored him but the men responded.
They began to argue, bringing every 'proof' they had that their interpretation of the Bible was true while the Rabbi very calmly kept asking them why they rejected the explanations of the sages and why they feel compelled to attack Judaism although they didn't really understand it at all.
The conversation carried on to the wee hours of the night. And although it often got heated the Rabbi made sure it remained friendly, academic and even pleasant. But Adina was boiling mad and would have just left the room but she wanted to show the Rabbi how sure she was of herself, and not brainwashed. So she stayed, but she didn't say a word and barely even looked at the Rabbi's face.
They talked till 2 am. The the Rabbi fell asleep in a sofa and when he woke the next morning, prayed and finished his food, he resumed the discussion with a different approach. He argued that because Adina knew almost nothing about Judaism she wasn't really making a fully conscious choice. In fact it could be that one day she would even be angry at them for withholding all the facts.
He said that they owed it to her to allow her a half a year to learn Judaism so she could make an intelligent decision. Then no one and no thing would ever change her mind.
It took some convincing until finally her boyfriend agreed. But Adina was another story. She angrily insisted that there was nothing to talk about. She was an adult, not a child. She had made up her mind, found the truth, knew what she was doing, didn't care to know more about Judaism or any other religion, etc. etc. and she was even disappointed at her boyfriend for backing down.
Finally night fell. The Shabbat ended and poor Rabbi Drizen knew he had lost the battle. He saw it in her eyes and heard it in her speech; she had been hypnotized, there was no chance she would leave. He began to feel foolish that he ever thought he could convince her. After all, he had no experience in such things. And now he wasted so much time and energy.
He shook hands with the two men who were smiling and shrugging their shoulders as to say, 'we knew it all along', and turned to the door.
"All right." She said resignedly, "A half a year. Where do you want me to learn?"
Rabbi Drizen thought he was dreaming but one look back told him he wasn't. He immediately called the Chabad School for girls in Minnesota, explained the situation and arranged for her to begin learning there the next day.
Early the next morning as Rabbi Drizen drove her to the airport she turned to him and said,
"You know what made me change my mind?"
After a few minutes of silence he shook his head no, a bit afraid that she might change her mind again.
"Well, nothing personal Rabbi, but it wasn't anything you said. In fact, what you said had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. Why, I barely listened! But as you turned to leave I suddenly remembered something that happened to me fifteen years ago when I was seven years old.
"We lived in Brooklyn, my parents and I, and weren't religious. But one day, I think it was a Sunday, my father told me that we were going to visit some Rabbi in Brooklyn called the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
"It was night when we all entered his room. I didn't understand much of what was said but I kept looking at his face; it was so kind and friendly. And then, near the end, the Rabbi looked at me, gave me a blessing to be a 'good Jewish woman' and said a strange thing to my father. He said,
'The day will come when you will need help. When that happens just call us and we will help you… no matter what'.
"Well, just now I remembered all that and realized what was happening. Suddenly I understood why you came from nowhere to waste an entire day for me; a total stranger. You were fulfilling the Rebbe's prophesy! I couldn't say no to that!"
Adina attended Bais Chana in Minnesota and today is an observant Jew with a family of her own.
Now we can understand our questions.
The Jews didn't really have to travel in the desert. G-d could have taken them from Egypt directly to the Holy Land or even given them Egypt for a homeland and given them the Torah there.
The reason they traveled there was to bring the G-dliness of the Torah to even the most uninhabitable of no-man's-lands. That was why Moses said 'Rise up G-d' because the purpose of the Torah is to, so to speak, reveal the Creator in His creation and thereby elevate and give meaning to the entire creation. (As it was at Mount Sinai, in the tabernacle and the Holy Temple,)
But it's not so simple. The world and the people in it oppose this. And, in fact there are two types of opposition; ENEMIES of G-d and those who HATE Him. (klippat Noga and Klippot T'meot)
The first are like the missionaries in our story. They are enemies of Judaism and the G-d of Israel because it disturbs their personal feelings and beliefs; more emotional than intellectual. Basically they are good people who will realize the truth and, as the Rambam writes, (Hil. Melachim 11:4) leave their false ideas and worship only the Creator.
But those who HATE G-d are something totally different. Like the Nazis and the suicide bombers and terrorists today, they hate life and all of creation and take it out on G-d's people; the Jews. But it is really the Creator Himself they hate.
And conversely, the Creator hates them.
And that is why Moses, and not all the Jews said this sentence, because the power to activate the Torah and defeat our (G-d's) enemies and even to scatter those who hate us (Him) is only from Moses.
Just as the Rebbe activated Rabbi Drizen in our story and saved Adina in our story, and how Moshiach will destroy Amelek.
Moshiach will be a Jew just like king David, who will bring all the Jews back to the Torah and its Commandments, defeat all those who hate us and transform our enemies and all the gentiles in the world, to become friends. (ibid 11:1)
It all depends on us to do all we can to bring...
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.