This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech (5767)
This week's section always precedes Rosh HaShanna and contains perhaps the most potent prophesies in the Torah:
"And you (The Jewish people) will return to G-d your G-d and obey His voice........and G-d your G-d will gather you from all the nations where He dispersed you. Even if you are scattered to the ends of the heavens G-d your G-d will gather you. G-d your G-d will bring you to the land of your fathers etc. and G-d your G-d will circumcise your heart to love G-d your G-d.” (30: 2-6)
Mimonadies brings these sentences as proof that Moshiach; a wise and brave Jew from the seed of David, will bring all the Jews to the observance of the Torah in the land of Israel and eventually bring peace and prosperity to all mankind. (Hil. Melachim 11:1)
But at first glance these sentences are problematic.
1) What does it mean G-d YOUR G-d? Has everyone got their own G-d? Doesn't Judaism believe in ONE G-d?"
2) Why is G-d your G-d so many times (seven to be exact)?
3) Why are they proof of Moshiach? Can't people return to G-d on their own?
4) Why does the Torah say G-d will 'circumcise our hearts'? It means He will make us sensitive to the true holiness of His Torah but why use metaphors?
5) The paragraph opens by saying that everyone will return to G-d and only afterward does it say that G-d will circumcise our hearts. Isn't a 'circumcised heart a prerequisite for 'return'?
6) What has all this got to do with Rosh HaShanna?
To understand this, here is a story.
A young doctor living in New York by the name of Zev Zelinko told me this personal story.
He had been born in Russia and brought up in a typical non-religious environment which continued even after his parents moved the family to the U.S.A.
He excelled in school and decided to become a doctor but while in medical school he attended a few Shabbat meals at the local Chabad House and it wasn't long before his Jewish soul woke up. He learned for a while in a Yeshiva for 'Baali Tshuva' in New York and then traveled to Israel where he enrolled in our Yeshiva; Ohr Tmimim located in a town called Kfar Chabad.
In addition to teaching a lot of Torah they also encouraged their pupils to go out every Friday and encourage other Jews to practice True Judaism.
So after learning there for a year or so and then returning to New York and receiving his degree and license to practice medicine, he married a girl that had the same ideals as himself and every Friday they drove to a place in New York called Brighton Beach and talked Judaism to the Russian Jews that sat there on the boardwalk.
Our story begins as one day they approached an elderly lady, asked her if she was Jewish and when she replied yes offered her Shabbat candles to light at home before the onset of Shabbat.
She told them she had been lighting candles for about twenty years 'since the miracle' but she took them anyway and looked inside the packet. The Zelinkos were a bit puzzled why an eighty year old woman would begin lighting candles at the age of sixty and what she meant by 'since the miracle' but they soon got their answer.
In the packet were two candles and a small card with a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on one side and the blessing for lighting candles on the other.
"Oh, this is the Rebbe" She said, holding up the picture, "I know him. He is the Moshiach! (Messiah)"
Dr. Zev and his wife looked at each other in surprise then at the woman incredulously; was she being sarcastic?
"Sure, he's the Moshiach all right" she continued. "No doubt about it! I'll tell you how I know. He did the miracle!"
Zev and his wife sat down next to her and she began:
"When I came here from Russia some twenty years ago I was alone. I had to leave my daughter and her family behind because they didn't get visa permits from the communists. So it wasn't easy for me; I didn't speak English and had no friends or family here.
"But G-d is good. I got a job cleaning a house for this really nice religious Jewish family in Crown Heights in Brooklyn that spoke Russian and I felt at home there. In fact we got along so well that after a year or so, they even asked me to spend the Shabbat at their home.
"At first I refused. I was ashamed. I was never religious or kept the Sabbath or any commandments all my life and I didn't want them to see how stupid I was. But they were so nice and they even said they didn't care if I knew nothing. So after a while I agreed.
"The Shabbat I had with them was delightful but then after Shabbat was over the lady of the house had an idea. She said that tomorrow would be Sunday and the Lubavitcher Rebbe gives out dollars.
"She explained that the Rebbe is a very wise and holy Jew something like King Solomon and in order to encourage people to give charity he stands for hours in front of his office every Sunday and hands out single dollar bills to thousands of people.
"I didn't really understand what she meant but I had nothing better to do so I agreed. I stayed the night.
"The next morning we were standing in this huge, long, winding line of thousands of people in front of this big reddish building and as I got closer to the end I began to get nervous. But my hostess told me that the Rebbe is very friendly; he would just give me a dollar and a blessing and I don't have to say anything. So I shouldn't worry. But I did.
Then suddenly I was standing in front of him face to face. It felt like I stepped in some sort of empty vacuum where there was no time or anything, just him and me. I wondered what he would say. He just looked at me with the kindest eyes and said in Russian "What's wrong?"
"I just looked at him and said, also in Russian, 'I am here and my family is' … and I pointed with my thumb back over my shoulder 'there'.
"The Rebbe suddenly became very serious, took several dollars from the stack he had on the table before him and began handing them to me one at a time;
"'This is for your daughter' he said. 'And this is for your son-in- law. This is for your granddaughter. This for your other granddaughter, this is for your grandson and this is for your aunt. G-d willing you will be able to give this to them before Shabbat."
"I thanked him and walked away in a total daze. How did he know my relatives in Russia? And how could they possibly get out? And how could he be so sure? It was almost impossible to leave Russia!!
"And he said it with such certainly like he was some different type of human being that knows everything. I felt like I was in a dream.
"In any case, that Tuesday, two days later, I get a call from my daughter. She was in Vienna! She got out of Russia!!
"She explained that the day before, on Monday, she got a phone call from the Russian Visa office that the papers for her and her family were ready! For her, her husband, their three children and even for aunt Zlota!
"It was just like the Rebbe said! Allsix got out!
"Then she said that wanted my advice. She didn't know where to go from Vienna. Should they go to Israel or to America? I told her that I am alone in America, they should come here first and then we'll talk about Israel. And that is what they did.
"Two days later, that Thursday, they arrived in New York and I went to meet them at the airport. We were so happy! Especially when I told them the whole amazing story about the Rebbe's prophesy and gave them the dollars."
That is why I say the Rebbe is Moshiach!"
This answers our questions.
Moshiach is the goal of Judaism.
Only he will completely manifest our G-d given motto: "Listen Jewish G-d is OUR G-d, G-d is ONE. (Deut. 6:4. See Rashi there) Namely; he will convince all mankind how close G-d is and teach them how easy it is to repay Him for creating us.
But he'll do it in a way that each individual can understand and relate to in his/her own personal life.
That is the meaning of 'G-d OUR G-d'.
It's not enough to just believe that G-d exists in the heavens… rather we must feel he OUR personal provider and He cares about each of us personally - like the Rebbe did with the woman in our story.
That is why she said he is Moshiach.
And that is why our sentences say it so many times; for different people (the seven repetitions refer to seven kabalistic 'midot' and seven basic types of people. See Tanya chapter 3 and Lekuti Torah-Bhaalotcha).
And it is referred to as 'Circumcising the Heart' to teach us that just as the foreskin is natural and is G-d's creation but must be removed… so also there are some natural traits that G-d created but wants us to remove; In our case the natural tendency to ignore the Creator and cling rather to His creations, (whether spiritual or physical).
But there is circumcision that we can do on our own and circumcision that only G-d can do.
Here is referring to the latter type; AFTER we have repented and returned to Him …. because it is referring to a new type of sensitivity to G-d that has never existed in the history of man; A sensitivity that only Moshiach will bring.
When the world will be filled with the knowledge, meaning and blessing of G-d like water fills the ocean (Isaiah 11:9) and all mankind will recognize the truth of the Torah (i.e. for the gentiles7 Noahide laws).
And this is what we Jews pray for on Rosh HaShanna:
"Prepare the light of Moshiach speedily etc. All creation will bow to You (G-d). Everything made will know that You made it and every formation will recognize that You formed it etc. Every living thing will say 'the G-d of Israel rules all'"
Rosh HaShanna is the date that G-d created man and finished the creation of the universe.
And the Jews are the only religion, race or nationality that celebrates it (or even knows or cares when it happened); because G-d put the welfare of the entire creation in their hands.
And the job of Moshiach is to awaken the Jews to this fact.
Then the 'Great Shofar' will be sounded. All hearts will be circumcised and all mankind will truly celebrate Rosh HaShanna with....
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