This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Haazinu (5767)
This Shabbat is called 'the Shabbat of Return' because it precedes and is a preparation for Yom Kippur - The Day of Forgiveness when G-d 'returns' every Jew's soul to its pristine source - above all sins.
In it we appropriately read a Torah portion called Haazinu, which is an epic poem or 'song' designed to inspire the Jews in future generations to return to G-d ".
Maimonides explains that this song was divided into six portions and sung, a portion per week, by the Levites in the Temple when the 'Musaf' (additional) offering was made each Shabbat. (Hil. Tamidim Umusafim 6;9)
But this is not understood.
Haazinu contains many very disparaging remarks about the Jewish people. For instance "You have rejected the G-d who conceived you, worshiped idols, angered me, etc. I will send evil on them, hide my face, wipe them out, diseases, sword, fear, etc.
While the songs accompanying the sacrifices, especially those of Shabbat, were supposed to be joyous songs of thanks.
From a Chassidic point of view it also doesn't seem to be a good preparation for Yom Kippur either.
The Baal Shem Tov and his successors taught that "The Day of Forgiveness" is the day that every Jew enters the innermost sanctum of his/her soul where there is no sin or evil, only the Oneness of G-d; just as the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies.
That is why Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year and why it has the power to eliminate punishment and sin, because it is above all blemish.
So why sing the song of Haazinu which reminds us of the opposite; namely how all the Jews will sin and will need to be punished until they repent?
To understand this here is a story.
It was told by Rabbi Y. Ritzes who heard it from Rabbi Rabbi Gurkof of Montreal who was personally involved (Beis Moshiach vol. 596 pg. 16)
Some thirty years ago Mr. Gold (made up name) was a businessman. True he wasn't a big businessman but he wanted to be.
And his chance came.
It required a big investment on his part. He would have to liquidate most of his assets and borrow huge sums of money - but it was a chance to really make it big. But, on the other hand, if it didn't work it could make him a pauper for the rest of his life.
He asked friends and associates for advice and one of them suggested that he write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He told him a few stories of the Rebbe's uncanny ability to give advice and, although Mr. Gold never held much respect for the advice of Rabbis, especially in matters of business, he made a big exception and wrote.
But a week passed and then another and he received no letter.
Unable to wait any longer he took the chance, borrowed the money, made the investment and it succeeded. Within a few months huge profits began rolling in and he was elevated to a higher level in the business world.
Then, several months later, when he was already well on his way to becoming a millionaire, the Rebbe's letter arrived.
"Disgusting!" he said to himself. "When I needed this Rebbe's advice he wasn't there, but now, after he sees that I succeeded, he probably wants to ask for a donation! Who needs him!"
He didn't even bother reading the letter, but for some reason he didn't throw it away either. He just tossed it on his desk where it got pushed into a drawer with a lot of other papers and he forgot about it.
The years passed and his success increased until a strange 'tragedy' struck.
Shortly after he became rich his wife gave birth to a daughter. She grew into a beautiful, intelligent and charming young woman but when she reached marriageable age for some reason none of the fellows she met found favor in her eyes; either too tall or too short, to witty or too dull, too talkative or too quiet etc.
Until she met Shlomo (not real name). He was, intelligent, handsome and successful but there was one 'problem'; he was of Sfardic descent. (Jews born in Arabic, countries are called Sfardic while European Jews are called Ashkenazic).
She didn't give it much importance; in fact she enjoyed his warm, alert personality. And, indeed, there was no importance; some of the greatest scholars and 'Tzadikim' in the history of Judaism were and are Sfardic.
The problem was her father. When he heard it he exploded!
"Sephardic?!! No way!! My family came from a long line of Ashkenazic Jews! They all married Ashkenazic Jews and my daughter will not be an exception!! She will not marry a Sfardic Jew and that is FINAL!!"
But it wasn't so final as he thought.
His daughter had as strong a will as he did. She announced that, although she loved her father and wanted to honor him… she loved her fiancé as well. It was her life, she was a grown woman and she had the right to marry whoever she wanted….. without parental permission. And if necessary she would exercise her right!
This infuriated her father even more. He would show her!!
He gave an ultimatum: If she did so… if she married this fellow, he would totally disown her! He would never support her in any way! And he would not even attend the wedding!!
Whereupon she calmly replied that although it would pain her very much to lose her father she could not live her life under such intimidation. She wanted to marry and if he wanted to disown her for such a ridiculous 'crime' it was up to him.
Poor Mr. Gold was in big trouble; the whole argument had escalated into a war that was beyond his control. His pride and principles would not allow him to give in, but on the other hand he was losing his daughter!
And not just his daughter.
He began to worry, loose sleep, not eat properly and talk to himself. He couldn't think, he couldn't work, his life became gray and meaningless and to make matters worse, his wife was beginning to side with …. 'them'!
He was losing everything!
Then one day as he was sitting lethargically in his study aimlessly opening the drawers of his desk and closing them, he noticed something strange. An unopened letter! He took it out and adjusted his eyes. It was the one that he had never opened twenty one years earlier from the Lubavitcher Rebbe!
Sensing that somehow it contained something vital he opened it with trembling hands and it read (approximately) as follows:
"Dear Mr. Gold,
"Shalom and Blessings!
"May you have much blessing and success in your financial endeavors and may you use the riches in a proper way for charity to the poor, to support Torah institutions and Torah scholars. Wishing you much Nachat (satisfaction) from your family and self and may you increase in Judaism from strength to strength.
"P.S. It is known that there is no reason to give much attention to family background regarding marriage if the both bride and groom to be are both G-d fearing people. There have already been many marriages between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews which, thank G-d, have succeeded in building an eternal home based on Torah and its commandments."
Mr. Gold took the Rebbe's advice, made peace with his daughter and her fiancé and the joy of the wedding was above all limits. Today he has several grandchildren living lives based on Torah and its commandments thanks to the 'delayed' blessing of the Rebbe.
This answers our questions.
The letter Haazinu is a timeless letter to the Jewish people. True it has some sour notes but its end is fantastic: how ALL the Jews will inevitably return to G-d, and bring blessing and meaning to the entire world: "Behold nations, here are My (G-d's) people, I will avenge their spilled blood" etc.
And we be sure that this will happen because the Torah is telling us here that the source of the Jewish people is 'pristine' and above even the possibility to sin.
Indeed the Jews are a 'portion' of G-d Himself (our portion 32:9)!
And just as the Rebbe's letter revealed that Mr. Gold's 'problem' was imaginary so Haazinu and Yom Kippur it prepares us for reveal that the faults of the Jews are similarly so; imaginary.
As Maimonides writes in the Laws of Tshuva 7:5 "The Torah promises that all the Jews will certainly return to G-d at the end of their exile. And immediately they will be 'redeemed'.
It depends on us to do all we can, even one more good deed to bring...
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