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 Tzav (5768)
This week's Torah portion continues the laws of the Temple sacrifices and is followed by the holiday of Purim. Both represent happiness: In the Temple Jews would to rejoice three times a year and the essence of Purim is happiness.
But it is a bit difficult to understand why.
First of all, they are antiquated: The Temple and its sacrifices ceased 2,000 years ago and the miracle of Purim occurred over 400 years before that!
Second; the sacrifices were associated with blood and death and Purim was the day the Jews spilled the blood of their enemies …hardly causes to rejoice.
But nevertheless the Zohar tells us that Purim is the HIGHEST of Jewish holidays even higher than Yom Kippurim… (KIpurim can mean 'similar to' Purim). And in almost every Jewish prayer we express longing to resume the sacrifices in the Third Temple.
Does this make sense? Why would we rational, civilized Jews praise and rejoice in Purim and in the Sacrifices?
To understand this here is a story. (Ateret Chaya magazine, Tevet 5768)
Ayelet was a very nervous type and was always worried or overly anxious about something. So when her seven year old daughter complained about a loss of appetite and pains in her jaw she imagined the worst and rushed her to the doctor.
And it was lucky she did. A routine checkup, revealed that what seemed to be some sort of growth the size of a large bean on the inside of her daughter's jaw.
Ayelet was thrown into panic and became hysterical.
The doctor tried to calm her down and even considered giving her an injection. She was swooning; it was getting hard to breathe. But then she grabbed a hold of herself.
The doctor convinced her that she had to be calm and think straight. She took a deep breath and when the doctor saw she had calmed down told her as matter-of-factly as possible that his secretary would make an appointment with the hospital for further testing and she should think positively.
Moments later she walked out of the doctor's office, appointment slip in hand and her daughter's hand firmly clutched in the other. It was a nightmare. She couldn't take it.
But suddenly she had an idea; there was a Chabad House in the area and her friends told her that when they had problems they wrote them down, inserted them in one of the twenty some books of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's 'answers' ('Igrot Kodesh' he had written to people) and miraculously got good advice.
She entered the Chabad house. Wrote a long and detailed letter explaining the severity of the situation, the upcoming examination and her fear, said a prayer, picked out a book (volume 18), inserted her letter and hoped for the best.
It came to letter # 6,752 written in the month of Adar almost 50 years earlier to someone with ……. a sick child.
The Rebbe wrote:
"May your health continue to improve… especially as we are in the month when we must increase in joy; joy of the Torah. And as Maimonides writes, that a healthy body is necessary for serving G-d properly. And seeing as we are in the month of Adar when even negative things totally transform (Nahafoch Hu) for the good, may your situation also totally transform. Wishing you good news and a happy Purim."
It was as though the letter was written to her directly!
It gave her strength and next day when she took her daughter to the hospital for the examination; the Rebbe's words "totally transform" danced before her eyes.
The technician told them to sit in the waiting room and a few moments later came out with a large piece of paper in his hand and a serious look on his face.
He pulled up a chair, sat down opposite Ayelet and her daughter, pointed to a dark spot about one and a half centimeters big on the paper and said quietly. "It's a tumor, right here under the jaw. But don't worry. It might be benign. You'll have to get a biopsy done to see. If you want we will make the appointment here in the hospital."
Ayelet began trembling. All her fears came back magnified a thousand times. She thought it was supposed to be a turnover from sadness to joy… like in the month of Adar… like Purim! Like the Rebbe said! But it was even worse!
All this was simply too much for her to handle. Too much! But she held back her tears; she didn't want to scare her daughter. She signed some papers and the biopsy was set for the next day. What would she do until then! She felt as though she was going mad. Now it seemed that even the Rebbe had let her down!
She rushed to the Chabad House, told the Rabbi there what happened and, with no alternative, again went to 'Igrot Kodesh' for some sort of explanation.
The book she randomly opened turned out to be again volume 18 and the page 93. It read as follows:
"First of all, your problem comes from nervousness. It is proper for you to consult a doctor who is an expert and follow his instructions. But it goes without saying that the more you strengthen your faith in the Creator and Director of the universe Who cares for each of us individually, you will feel there is no room for worry and anxiety. For G-d stands over and protects each of us and He is the essence of good whose nature is to only do good. This will lessen your negative emotions and fear etc. I also advise that you observe the custom of saying the daily portion of Psalms as it is divided into the days of the month. And every day … give a few coins to charity. Wishing you blessings and good news."
It took her a few minutes to realize that the Rebbe's letter wasn't what she was looking for; it was advice to her, not to her daughter. What about her daughter? That was the real problem!
So she inserted her letter into another spot in the book and opened. The Rebbe's answer was to the point. (letter 6,866)
"I'm surprised that you repeat the same request time after time when I have already replied previously. It is proper that you trust in G-d who heals all flesh and does miracles. …. May it be G-d's will that the medical treatment be successful and may you have good news and a happy frame of mind in all matters of your life."
That night and the next day before the biopsy the entire family said Psalms and made resolutions to give more charity, learn more Torah and do more good deeds and … not to worry.
Ayelet, her husband and her daughter all entered the hospital with trust in the Rebbe's promise of 'transformation' remembering his words "G-d stands over and protects and He is the essence of good whose nature is to only do good."
Ayelet prayed for a miracle but when the nurse came into the room with the huge needle used for the biopsy she almost fainted.
Her husband revived her, she and her daughter entered the doctor's office while he resumed saying Psalms with tears in his eyes.
After just a few minutes the door of the doctor's office opened and his wife and daughter came out smiling with tears in their eyes.
"What happened?" he asked "Why so fast? Did he do the test?"
"It was a miracle, just like the Rebbe said!" She answered. "The doctor tried to locate the growth according to the ultrasound picture and he couldn't find it. So he made another type of x-ray and announced that the tumor was not benign or malignant. The tumor was…. Gone."
That night over a hundred people filled Ayelet's home for a thanksgiving meal.
Not only did the disappear but the Rebbe's words were fulfilled; Ayelet herself became a 'totally transformed' person. She made a firm decision that instead of chronic worry and nervousness she would trust the Creator and enjoy helping others. She carried out her decision and is now one of the more active members of the community. .
This answers our question; why do we rejoice in Purim and the Sacrifices.
The Sacrifices and the holiday of Purim both demonstrated 'total transformation'. Just as occurred to Ayelet and her daughter in our story.
The sacrifices transformed animals into commandments. And Purim transformed the Jews from an ordinary nation at King Achashverosh's feast to 'Jews' ('Yehudim'; totally devoted to G-d).
In fact, the first book of the Bible to use the name 'Jews' (Yehudim) is the Book of Esther read on Purim and the Talmud explains says it was because of their self-sacrifice and self-transformation. Indeed it was the first time they really got the 'point' of the Torah since Mt. Sinai a thousand years earlier.
And that is why we rejoice.
The secret of happiness is total devotion to the creator; using all the talents He gives us to transform the world around us according to the Torah.
And just as Moses built the Tabernacle for the joyous sacrifices, Mordechai inspired the Jews to joyously oppose Haman in Purim and the Rebbe encouraged Ayelet and ten's of thousands like her to joyously rely on HaShem…. so will Moshiach rebuild the Temple and bring the entire world to realize the nearness, goodness and awesomeness of the Creator with miracles and Joy like that of Purim.
But it all depends on us. One more good deed, word or even thought can transform and heal the entire world.
We just have to do all we can to bring ....
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.