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 Shemot (5768)
The Torah is much more than a religion book. Rather, it is the blueprint and instruction manual of creation and if learned properly (according to Kabala and Chassidut) we can discover how and why the world was made and what we can do to make it better.
This week we begin to read the second book of the Pentateuch; Exodus where we learn how over 3,300 years ago the Creator of the universe personally took an entire nation; millions of people, out of Egyptian slavery and publicly gave them His Torah at Mount Sinai.
This story debunks not only atheism but all the other religions as well; G-d exists, He alone creates all being and answers all prayers. He cares about and is involved in His creation and wants us to believe in Him and ONLY in Him (second of the Ten Commandments).
But in this week's Torah section we see that G-d actually discouraged and confused the Jews from believing!!
He put them in slavery and made them suffer terribly for hundreds of years for no apparent reason and then, instead of taking freeing them Himself. He sent Moses to do it!
We can learn a connection between this, and the upcoming 195th anniversary this week, of the passing of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shneur Zalman who wrote the book 'Tanya'.
Fifty years ago the last Lubavitcher Rebbe told a story and learned a lesson from it.
When Napoleon attacked Russia some sixty wagons of Chabad Chassidim fled before him with Rebbe Shneur Zalman at their head.
It so happened that one day the Rebbe's son, Dov Ber, (who would become the next Rebbe), was fasting and had not eaten the entire day because he had a troublesome dream the night before. (It is accepted that fasting can nullify bad dreams).
When the Rebbe found out about this he called him, asked him what he had dreamt and he replied.
"I dreamt that I saw a wide, turbulent river with two people standing on one side about to cross it. One was you and the other your teacher, 'The Maggid of Mezeritz' (the successor of the Baal Shem Tov who taught the leaders of all the various Chassidic movements after him)
"The Maggid stood on a board and began to float over, but the board was shaking and wobbling and it was quite frightening to see. But you stood on the board and despite the turbulent water you passed over easily."
His father calmed him down. '"The reason that the Maggid's board wobbled was because he only dealt with righteous people (Tzadikim) and raised them higher. But I take sinners and transform them (Baali Tshuva). And that is much higher. That is why my board was sturdy."
"This," concluded the Lubavitcher Rebbe "Is the job of our generation as well; we must be devoted to taking the Jews who are furthest from Judaism and 'bring them back' to their Jewish senses." (Kfar Chabad Mag. #1263 pg. 6)
Here is a story to illustrate: (Beis Moshiach #623 pg.18)
Rabbi Ben Tzion Raider, a Chabad Chassid who is a businessman from England once flew to Detroit Michigan for several business appointments.
After a long tiring day he took a taxi to the home of a friend of his that always hosted him when he came to Detroit, to eat something and go to sleep. But he was in for a surprise.
His friend, besides preparing a nice warm meal and comfortable room for him also invited some of his acquaintances, most of whom were non-observant Jews, for a pleasant evening with his Rabbi friend.
The evening was pleasant, despite the fact that much of it was on the verge of religious debate.
One fellow in particular seemed like he was trying to make trouble. He asked question after question about Tefillin (phylacteries); why we put them on, why must they be square, why black, why only in the day, why the left arm etc. etc.
Time really flew and before they knew it the discussion ended at two in the morning. Rabbi Raider decided to go against his feelings and judge the fellow that had been asking questions favorably. So he took him aside and simply asked him if he was interested in putting on Tefillin. And the answer surprised him.
"You see all these people that were here tonight?" The fellow answered rhetorically, "They are all going home to sleep. Right? But not me! I'm going to work! I own a bakery and I have to start baking in a half hour. So if you want to put Tefillin on me come there in four hours, at six thirty a.m. That's when we take a half-hour break in the baking and I can put them on."
Rabbi Raider, after an international journey and a full day of work was definitely not looking forward to waking up at six in the morning but he again put his feelings aside, and he did it!
The next morning he was there and to his surprise the 'baker' put the Tefillin on with the greatest of ease and expertise and even recited the prayer by memory; with feeling! When he removed them from his arm and head he explained: .
"I used to put them on every day. But the last time I put them on was twenty years ago. I guess I was just too lazy. Still am! But you know what?! If you get me a pair I'll start putting them on again! What do you say to that?"
He explained that he really had no desire to buy a new pair and didn't even know where to go if he wanted to. Rabbi Raider said that he would try to get him a pair.
But it would have to wait. He wouldn't have time to buy them until he returned to England. Then in six weeks he was planning to return to Detroit and would try to bring them then.
"Really Rabbi, if I waited for twenty years I can certainly wait a few weeks." He replied, shook the Rabbi's hand and said good bye.
A few hours later Rabbi Raider was on his flight to England with a few hour stop off in New York. His plan was to pray the Morning Prayer with the Rebbe in his headquarters in 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, then briefly go to Manhattan to buy a few things for his family then return to 770 and pray the afternoon prayer before resuming his flight home.
He arrived in Brooklyn, finished praying, wrote a note to the Rebbe explaining what he was doing and briefly mentioned the fellow he met in Detroit. Then he handed the letter to the Rebbe's secretary and proceeded to Manhattan.
But when he returned in the early afternoon he was in for a surprise. He got a reply from the Rebbe! He opened the letter with trembling hands and it read:
"Do you think it is proper that a Jew who put on Tefillin yesterday for the fist time in twenty years should wait another six weeks until you buy him another pair?
Buy the Tefillin today and if you can arrange it that they reach him in Detroit today so he can put them on today it is good. But if not then you should return yourself to Detroit to give him the Tefillin in order that he can put them on in time, even if it means that you won't make it to England for Shabbat.
And when this Jew sees how much it was important to you that he shouldn't miss even one day of Tefillin it will be a very important commandment for him."
Rabbi Raider was startled. He had a planned family reunion waiting for him in England; for the first time his entire family would be meeting together and spending the entire Shabbat together, he had been looking forward to it for a long time....but the Rebbe was always right.
He had to figure out a way to send them there. But it wasn't so easy. First of all, all of the Judaica stores he tried said that Tefillin had to be ordered.
Then, when he did find a store that had one pair on hand it was only with the greatest difficulty that he convinced them to take an English check because he had almost no cash. Then he had to find an airline to take them and convince his host in Detroit to come to get them and agree to deliver them to the baker.
Miraculously he did it, and he even made his flight to England!
Six weeks later when he returned to Detroit he met the baker who thanked him profusely and told him with great pride and joy that since he received them he didn't miss a day putting them on.
Even one particular freezing-stormy day when he got into a traffic jam and was sure he wouldn't make it home in time to put on Tefillin….he weaved in and out of traffic and drove on the side of the road like a possessed man …. and made it!
"You know why I value this commandment so much?" he explained. "Because when I saw how important it was to you that I shouldn't miss even one day of Tefillin… it became a very important commandment for me."
Exactly the words of the Rebbe.
This answers our questions.
Sometimes G-d makes it hard on the Jewish people in order that they should come to the truth on their own.
As the Rebbe once commented to an art connoisseur "A fine original painting may cost several million dollars but a photograph of that same piece of art, even a precise one, only costs pennies. Because the painting came from the inside of the artist and the photograph is only a copy."
G-d wants that we believe in Him and serve Him not just because it is convenient or practical or we copy someone else. But because we truly recognize and value the truth from the 'inside' and are willing even to suffer (G-d forbid) for it.
And that is why He sent Moses (the kabalistic book 'The Zohar' explains that in every generation there must be such a Moses-like leader) and ultimately MOSHIACH:
To guide us to this truth, like the Rebbe guided Rabbi Raider.
May we all become 'Baali Tshuva'; able to pass over the turbulent waters smoothly and succeed in bringing:
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