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Parshat Eikev (5767)

In this week's Torah portion, Moses continues his final message to the Jews just before they enter Israel without him.

He reminds them of how their fault of bloated egotism brought them to the Golden Calf idolatry and caused the first Tablets to be broken: "I grabbed the Tablets and broke them (9:17)".

But the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out something strange here: Why did Moses say I GRABBED the Tablets? Obviously if he was bringing them down from Mt. Sinai he was already grabbing them. What exactly did he mean by 'grabbing' them again before breaking them?

To understand this, here is a story.

A week ago I attended the celebration of the circumcision of the eight day old son of a good friend; Tamir Goodman.

Close to a hundred friends and family were there but suddenly in the middle of the festive meal a well dressed, perhaps sixty year old woman stood up, asked for silence and began to speak.

She introduced herself as the widow of the departed Knesset member Professor Avner Shaki, of blessed memory. She then went on to explain the reason for her being there. About a year ago Tamir called her home, asked for her husband, and when he heard that he had passed away, heasked if he could speak to her. He introduced himself and began thanking her profusely saying repeatedly, "You and your husband saved my life!!"

At first she thought it was a prank from some old political enemy or from a madman until she calmed him down and heard his story.

Tamir Goodman, an observant Jew, had been quite a celebrity in Israel a few years ago. In High School and University in the U.S.A he had been such an excellent basketball player that all the games his team played were re-scheduled so as to not fall on the Sabbath; an unheard of precedent in America.

Then, when he graduated college and the best team in Israel drafted him for a long contract it was in all the papers. He became the darling of the Israeli media and was interviewed countless times in all the newspapers and on television.

But suddenly his luck changed. He began having troubles with his knee. It was giving him such pain and discomfort that the team doctors were pessimistic. He had to sit out many games. The team that brought him over traded him off and the future looked dim.

There was no other recourse than to operate. But the experts told him that the chances for success were very small… maybe five percent. And the Israeli media that once adored him began attacking him like crows. Every week someone had a vicious remark to make about him which made his life almost unbearable.

So, being a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he decided he needed the Rebbe's advice and blessing.

He went to the Ohel (the place in Montifiore Cemetery where the grave is) wrote a letter asking for helpand read the letter aloud. He poured his heart out asking for some sign as to whether he should make the operation or not.

Then, exhausted, he left the Ohelandwent to the Chabad House which is located just outside the cemetery. He sat down to rest in the reception room, where a screen shows thousands of hours of videos of the Rebbe speaking, often to individuals, and blankly watched.

Mrs. Shaki continued, "This is why he called to thank me. But I have to first give you some background.

"Some forty five years ago in 1963 the Israeli government passed a horrendous law that could have been low point in the history of Judaism and, indeed, threatens to this day the entire world. The law of 'Who is a Jew'.

"A certain officer in the Israeli Navy married a gentile woman from Ireland who underwent a fake conversion and bore him several children. He then brought them all to Israel and wanted the government to register them as Jews to make them eligible for government benefits. (Israel is, ostensibly, a haven for Jews. The only question is…who exactly is a Jew. Previous to this awful episode, the Torah definition i.e. one whose mother was Jewish or who converted to Judaism according to Jewish law, was law). But the Israeli 'High Court' agreed to change it!

"They decided five to four that the Torah was no longer a factor! Rather anyone that wanted to could declare himself a Rabbi and make Jews.

"True their pitiful decision had to be ratified by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, but it was controlled by a 'leftist', coalition of one hundred members that were all for the change;.

"This is where my husband of blessed memory, Professor Avner Shaki came in. His party, the National 'Religious' Party, was officially part of this 'coalition'. And their orders were to abstain, which meant to support the change. So although he, personally, was abhorred by and totally opposed all this he was obligated to keep his opposition to himself.

"We discussed it and decided he had no recourse other than to bite the bullet. In any case his one vote would have no real value anyway and if he disobeyed we would lose everything.

"But then, the night before the vote that would be the next morning we received a long distance telephone call from New York….

"It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself!

"The Rebbe asked for my husband and when he answered the Rebbe introduced himself and actually begged my husband to stand up and vote 'no'!

"My husband explained that it would mean the end of his political career. The leftist media would make mincemeat from him… he would almost certainly get expelled from his party. And in any case his vote wouldn't really count… one hundred votes were against him and the law would go through in any case!

"But the Rebbe replied as only the Rebbe could. He said SOMEONE had to be willing to sacrifice themselves for the truth, to M'kadish Shaim Sh'maim (advertise G-d's Name).

"Well, it was hard to believe and, well after all, we are not Chabad Chassidim. But the next day my husband did it!! He actually stood up, raised his hand and voted ...against!! I don't know if any such thing every happened in Israeli politics.

"The Israeli newspapers and television ridiculed him; his fellow party members were blazing mad! They despised him. He made hundreds, if not thousands of political enemies. We were suddenly alone. But we refused to sell out.

"Shortly thereafter we went to New York to visit the Rebbe. When my husband entered the huge auditorium where the Rebbe was speaking to thousands of Chassidim the Rebbe actually stood for him. Then afterwards we had a private audience with the Rebbe that was videotaped.

"The Rebbe thanked us for our bravery, especially thanked me for supporting my husband. But then when my husband complained of how he was fired from his party position and the media was descending on him the Rebbe replied.

"Pay no attention to the media. And regarding your job; you are like a professional athlete; you are just taking a step back in order to jump ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success."

"And Sure enough it was just like the Rebbe said. Several years later my husband, Professor Avner Chai Shaki was asked by his party to return but this time as its leader. He truly jumped to redoubled success. But we never understood why the Rebbe talked about athletes. After all, my husband was certainly no professional athlete

"Well, about a half a year ago; twenty five years after the Rebbe said those words to us we found out.

"Tamir Goodman was sittingin the Chabad House near the Ohel wondering about his operation, when suddenly our video appeared on the screen before him and the Rebbe said the words he was waiting to hear:

"'Pay no attention to the media. You are like a professional athlete; taking a step back in order to jump ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success.'

"The words perfectly fit his predicament! The Rebbe was encouraging him. He returned to Israel, made the operation… despite the reservations of the Professor that operated and it was, thank G-d, a complete and miraculous success! That is why he called to thank us and that is why I'm here at this meal today!"

Now we can understand the above question.

True, Moses broke the Tablets to save the Jewish people; (see Rashi on Ex. 34:1) so they wouldn't be accused of infidelity to G-d.

But he also knew that by doing this it would be an indelible blemish on their record: The Jews caused G-d's Holy tablets to be broken!

And that is why he 'grabbed' them. He took 'possession' of them so he wouldn't be breaking G-d's tablets ….. but his OWN. True, it was a difficult and unpopular decision to make; to take the entire battle on himself, but in the end it saved them all.

Similarly the Rebbe took the unpopular war of 'who is a Jew' on himself although Chabad and all those who touched it, like Professor Shaki in our story, lost a lot of popularity and support.

But in the end it too will pay off; it is another step to bringing Moshiach who will do the same thing: completely strengthen Jewish identity and bring ALL the Jews to Israel.

But just as in our story, it requires a bit of self-sacrifice on our parts. We have to do ALL we can to improve the world and bring Moshiach. And we can be sure that whatever we apparently lose because of this will result in our "jumping ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success."

With Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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