This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bereshit (5768)
This week’s we begin the Torah with the story of how G-d created the world (5768 years ago) and....last but most importantly, man.
Interestingly the Jewish New Year’s Day, Rosh HaShanna, celebrates this day (unlike the other religions that neither know nor care when it happened) to stress that just as Adam was created by G-d to take care of the world (1:28) so the welfare of the entire world is in our hands.
(That is why the Pentateuch doesn’t mention Heaven or Hell as our goals even though such reward and punishment certainly exists, because man’s main concern is this fixing this physical world)
But it’s easier read than done. The Torah tells us that Adam sinned! He actually failed in his task only hours after he was created!!
The word Torah means ‘teaching’. It was given by G-d to the Jews at Mount Sinai to teach us how to do this job of fixing the world that we were chosen for. So why does it bring us this depressing message?
If Adam, in addition to being G-d’s personal handiwork, sinned experienced and was commanded by G-d first-hand, nevertheless sinned...... then what chance have we got?!
Even more.... why did he sin? He only had one commandment; not to eat from the tree. Why was it so hard to keep?
To answer this here is a story.
Rabbi Dovid of Tolna was a great Tzadik; a holy Jew that was connected every instant to the Creator of the Universe with all his heart, soul, talents, mind and energy.
But our story begins some two hundred years ago on a dusty road in Poland.
Shlomo Goldfarb, a businessman from Berlin, was on the way to a big business deal in Krakow. It was getting dark and night travel in those days was impossible. He looked for a Jewish inn where he could spend the evening.... and he found one.
It was an old, run-down-looking place but when he got inside he saw it wasn’t so bad. Here and there the plaster was falling off and the paint was peeling but that was par for course.
When the owner saw a businessman enter he grabbed the opportunity and showed him the ‘best’ room which was out of the price range of his usual customers; no cracked walls, no peeling paint etc.
Goldfarb, of course, agreed and took the room but about a half-hour later as he was just settling down for the night there was a light knock at his door and someone pushed it open. It was the owner and he looked desperate. He closed the door behind him and spoke quickly almost in a whisper.
‘Excuse me... please Mr. Goldman err.... Goldfarb. Mr. Goldfarb.
Listen.... err... I’m very sorry to ask you this... but you see a very important guest has arrived. Very important! It’s .... Reb Dovid of Tolna.the great Tzadik!!” He was pleading and his wife silently appeared behind him as well as he continued. “Please.... I apologize but it is very important to me, to us. He is a very holy Tzadik!! Could you please... that is..... move to the next room. It isn’t as nice as this one but it is clean and... I won’t even take money if you want.”
Goldfarb said he had no problem moving and would pay for the other room whatever it was worth. But in his heart he didn’t understand what the urgency was. Holy people are supposed to be removed from the world; holy people are supposed to only care about G-d. If this Rabbi Dovid was such a holy person then what did he care where he slept? He could understand if he was a great scholar or an important person... but a tzdik?
In Germany, Goldfarb had heard that there are such things as Tzadikim in Poland and Russia but he couldn’t really figure what that meant. Now he would have a chance to see one.
He peeked out the door and saw the Holy Jew come up the stairs and, to tell the truth, he didn’t look so impressive. But then he entered the room took a chair and the hotel owner and his wife stood before him and asked for a blessing for success and children Goldfarb moved to the side of the slightly opened door and listened.
The Tzadik spoke in a loud voice so it was unmistakable that he said. “You want success and children? Five hundred Guilder! Cash!”
“Five hundred?!” Whispered Goldfarb to himself... “Why that is a fortune....a life’s earnings!! Where....?”
Suddenly the owner’s wife said to the Tzadik. “Five hundred Guilder? What that is a fortune! It’s all we have!! Can’t we give less? Honorable Rabbi, what about one hundred?”
“No!” answered the Tzadik firmly. “Five hundred and not a penny less!”
And so the arguing continued for several minutes until the woman finally agreed to give what he asked. Her husband rushed from the room and moments later he returned and counted out the money.
“What a highway robber!” Goldfarb thought to himself in disgust. “Incredible! Simply incredible! He took the food out of their mouths!!”
He went outside to smoke a cigar and contemplate what just happened.
Moments after he took the first puffs … who came out but the ‘Tzadik’ Reb Dovid accompanied by an assistant that must have been waiting in the lounge for him. He began walking slowly, hands behind his back, eyeing the hotel from outside and talking aloud.
“Look at this place we’re staying in; what a dump! The architects that made it were really fools. Look!” he pointed up, “There should be at least another three floors and the place should be wider with bigger rooms. And here there should be a stable for horses so the noblemen would come here for vacations. And look at the grounds, like a garbage dump. There should be a picnic area over there.”
“Why,” Thought Goldfarb, “This man is no Tzadik! He’s a businessman. Look how he’s talking! Disgusting!!”
The next morning Goldfarb paid for his room and left, but the experience left a bad taste in his mouth. Now he understood; all the so-called Tzadikim were charlatans! Each and every one!!!
Ten years passed. Mr. Goldfarb succeeded in business and became a rich man and one day on a business trip happened to pass through the same town again. But this time he noticed the place had changed. For one thing the little hotel was gone and in its place stood a few many-storied buildings. Suddenly the door of one of the buildings opened and out comes the hotel owner, his wife and several small children all well dressed and smiling from ear to ear.
The owner immediately recognized him and approached him calling, “Hello! Don’t I know you? Weren’t you here a long time ago? I remember you! Goldfinkel, right? No no! It was Goldfarb! I think it was the same day that Rab Dovid was here, right? I asked you to leave the room, right? Am I right? See, I remembered! Well, all this is from that day’s blessing he gave me! What a Tzaddik.”
Goldfarb realized he had made a big mistake. He asked the owner if this Reb Dovid was still alive and when the answer was positive, he got his address.
Several days later Goldfarb was standing before the Tzadik to request forgiveness and to give him a big donation for charity. The Tzadik smiled, assured him that he was justified in having doubts, thanked him for the money and added.
“But you probably still are wondering why I had to take so much money from that couple, tight?
“Yes!” Goldfarb answered “I mean, after all, it was all their life’s savings. Couldn’t you have given the same blessing for less? Or for free? Why did you have to take everything they had?”
“Certainly!” Replied Reb Dovid. “I could have blessed them for free. But it wouldn’t have worked. You see, they saved it up and thought of it every day of their lives and it became their hope, trust and soul. They really believed ‘This money will save us. This money will help us, provide for us, comfort us and give us life! Those 500 guilder were their god.
“I could have given them the blessing but they couldn’t have received it! They were too imprisoned by that 500 guilder.”
This answers our question.
True Adam was G-d’s personal handiwork. According to Jewish teaching in Medrash and Kabbala he possessed spiritual qualities and awareness of G-d that no human to date has ever had.
And that precisely was his difficulty; like the five hundred guilder in our story... he couldn’t get passed his own ‘possessions’.
Even more; the Midrash teaches that if Adam would have controlled himself for just a few hours... till the sixth day was over and Shabbat entered, the ‘Forbidden fruit’ would have been permissible!
But he couldn’t get outside of himself and concentrate on what G-d requested....like in our story he was too limited to receive the blessing.
This is the lesson to us. G-d wants to give us the greatest blessing of all; true Joy, meaning and awareness of the G-dliness in the Torah and its commandments. This is what the world has been waiting for since its creation. As the Midrash interprets the sentence “And the spirit of G-d hovered on the water” (Gen. 1:2)
‘This is the spirit of Moshiach.’
But we just have to want this true change; the change that the Rambam writes about and that the books of Chassidut explain that Moshiach will bring.
“The world will be filled with the awareness of G-d... there will be no famine, war, lacking, only peace and prosperity etc.
But the message of this weeks Torah portion is that like Adam.... it all depends on us. Each and every one of us to go above and beyond our past achievements and learn about, talk about and do ALL we can to bring a totally NEW world through....
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