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 Naso (5768)
This week's Torah portion, called Naso (Elevate), precedes the Holiday of Shavuot which celebrates the giving of the Torah 3,320 years ago by G-d to the Jewish people.
The Talmud tells us that at Mt. Sinai the Jews not only received the Bible but the Creator actually revealed Himself to all (about 3 million) of them and .... the dead were raised. The revelation was so unbearably intense that they all died and had to be miraculously revived with the 'dew' that will raise all the dead (in the End of Days).
So the Jews actually received three things at Sinai: 1) The Torah 2) Experiencing (seeing etc.) the Creator of the Universe and 3) The 'dew' that will enliven the dead. .
But at first glance this doesn't make much sense.
First of all … was it really necessary? The other religions in the world don't even claim to have had such a revelation and they have billions of followers that believe in the experiences of one man (or a small group). Why did G-d have to reveal Himself and why to ALL the Jews?
Second; what does it mean G-d 'revealed Himself'? What exactly did they see? And why did G-d have to enliven them?
To understand all this… here is a story. (Otzar Sipuri Chabad #17 pg. 19)
Some 150 years ago in Russia lived a rich Chassidic Jew we will call Moshe who ran a thriving dairy. He had over a hundred cows, tens of workers to milk them and make all sorts of dairy products and loads of success. He was generous, G-d fearing, gentle and friendly to everyone. So he was completely taken by surprise when, one sunny day, a large, fancy carriage drawn by six horses pulled up before his house and the Poritz (local land baron) got out and stormed up the path to Moshe's door.
He ran to meet him but from afar it was obvious that the Poritz was not happy and before Moshe could utter a word he began shout.
"You're stealing my money Jew! Look what you've got here! All at my expense! Get out!! Do you hear me?! I'm giving you three weeks to leave or I'll have you evicted and kill all your cows as well."
At first Moshe thought he was joking. He always paid on time! For years, almost twenty years, they had been on the best terms… even attended each other's weddings and things.
"It must be a joke! Heh heh!! You're joking! Right? Heh heh heh!!" Moshe tried to lighten up the situation but he only succeeded in stoking the fire.
"Joke?!! I joke??!" screamed the Poritz. "You steal my money and you want me to joke!!? You dirty thief!! Now it's two weeks!! That's right! Two to get out of here! Do you hear me?! Two weeks!!! And I want rent for the entire month!!"
The Poritz did an about face, fumed back to his carriage and in moments was gone.
Was it a bad dream? Did it really happen? Unfortunately it did but Moshe although he was shaken up knew just what to do. He ran to his carriage and set off to the nearby city to talk to the Poritz's Jewish treasurer. It was known that the Poritz valued his opinion and Moshe was on excellent terms with him. If anyone could change the Poritz's mind it was the treasurer.
But as soon as the treasurer heard the story he wanted no part of it. "Talk to the Poritz?" he said with fear in his eyes. "Listen Moshe, we're friends but… well… maybe . maybe he'd get mad at me too!! I know how he is when he gets mad. And… well nothing personal but… err. how do I know he's not right!? Listen Moshe, I'd like to help but… I can't. It's too dangerous."
Moshe walked out of the treasurer's house a broken man and he almost started to cry but suddenly it occurred to him. The Rebbe! (The third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel nicknamed 'Tzemach Tzedik'). If the Rebbe wrote a letter to the treasurer for sure he would listen!
So Moshe jumped back in his wagon and drove to Lubavitch, to the Rebbe's house and, when he was told the Rebbe was very busy, wrote a letter explaining his desperate situation requesting a letter to the treasurer.
And it worked! A few moments later the Rebbe's secretary emerged from the Rebbe's study with an addressed envelope.
Moshe ran his wagon, raced to the treasurer's home with wings on his feet and was about to knock on his door when he took a look at the envelope and almost fainted. GEVALT!! It was addressed to the wrong person!! The mayor of the Jewish quarter of Tshernigov.
He raced back to the Rebbe's home and poured his heart out to the secretary. Probably the Rebbe gave a letter that was intended for someone else. The one you gave me is addressed to …"Moshe looked at the address again and read…"The mayor of the Jewish quarter of … see!?"
The secretary didn't even look, "Sorry" was the answer, "nothing I can do. The Rebbe never makes mistakes."
It was already dark when Moshe dragged himself home and showed his wife the terrible mistake. But she also didn't support his misery. "I think the secretary is right. Tomorrow morning go to Tshernigov and G-d will help."
So the next day, after a nervous two hour ride, Moshe arrived in Tshernigov, went to the Jewish section, found the house of the mayor and knocked on the door. The mayor, a respectable-looking bearded Jew, invited him in, sat him down, offered him a cup of tea and heard what he had to say.
"What? From the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ME?" he responded when he saw the envelope. "This is insane! I don't know this man. How did he get my name?"
He took the letter from the envelope, read it, shrugged his shoulders, put it back, handed it to Moshe and said, "Listen my friend, I respect your Rebbe because I hear he's a Talmudic scholar but …. you have the wrong address! I'm a misnaged! I can't stand the Chassidim, I think what you are doing isn't Judaism and I certainly don't believe in your Rebbes!! So go knock on someone else's door! Do you hear?! There's no way I'm going to help you or your Rabbi either." And he pushed his chair back and stood to show the conversation was over.
Moshe reeled backwards and almost fell from his chair. It meant the end of him! Where would he live? What would happen to his family, his business, his life? He'd be ruined! He broke out weeping like a baby.
But salvation came from an unexpected place. When the mayor's wife heard the weeping from the next room, entered and saw what was happening she turned to her husband and told him in no uncertain terms that she wouldn't allow him to leave another Jew suffer like this.
"But his Rebbe or whatever he calls him, wants me to go to some Poritz and convince him to let him stay." He said meekly trying to defend himself. "Why, I don't know this Poritz! It's a mistake. Don't you see? An obvious mistake! How can I possibly help? It will be a waste of time… and energy!"
But it didn't help. The next day he and Moshe, each in their own wagon, were on their way to the Poritz's mansion two hours drive away.
When they arrived and stood at the huge gate wondering what to do they were surprised to see the Poritz come out on his front porch look their way, call to his servants and helpers who began scurrying around and then begin motioning in their direction for them to come.
Of course our heroes had no idea what was going on and didn't move. So one of the Poritz's servants ran to them took the mayor by the hand and brought him to the Poritz who was now grinning from ear to ear with welcoming outstretched arms.
"Ahh! My dear friend!!" The Poritz exclaimed. "The Mayor of Tshernigov!! Correct? Do you remember me? Ahhhh, I see you even forgot how you saved our lives! Do you remember, five years ago…..the big snow storm? My wife and I got caught and you took us in? Remember? You warmed us and fed us? Why you saved our lives!" The Poritz's wife was now standing next to him gleaming with joy.
That's right" she chimed in. "And your wife wouldn't let us go for almost a week until the blizzard stopped." The Poritz resumed, "You even refused to take money. We never really thanked you! It was so wrong of us. Time just flew by! Heh heh! But, thank G-d you're here, what a blessing!! Please come in!"
The Poritz was so busy lavishing thanks and praise that he hardly noticed Moshe at all and it wasn't hard for the mayor to ask for a small favor. He told the Mayor that Moshe was his relative, was a man of impeccable character, always paid his rent on time etc. etc. and asked that he rescind his harsh decree.
Needless to say it worked. The Poritz hugged Moshe, said it was only a joke, he was only teasing him and he could continue living as before.
Moshe jumped for joy! He blessed the Poritz with all his heart, thanked the mayor, shook their hands, ran to his carriage and returned home.
On the spot the Mayor, after seeing such an open miracle decided that he should travel to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and thank him for including him in it.
But when he got to the Tzemach Tzedik he was in for a surprise.
"Miracle?" said the Rebbe "Why we Rebbes don't do miracles! Certainly not! It just so happened that G-d graced me with a very good memory. When Moshe came in a few days ago and told me his problem I suddenly remembered hearing how several years ago the mayor of Tshernigov saved the Poritz and his wife from the snowstorm and …. well, I just put it all together."
The Mayor was impressed to the depth of his soul with the humility of the Rebbe and never again spoke a word against the Chassidim.
This explains our questions. The purpose of the Torah is to change this world… to make this world into heaven on earth. Like it was when G-d put Adam in the Garden of Eden (which in Hebrew also means heaven).
Indeed, had Adam not eaten from the tree not only would he have remained in this blessed state but ….. he would have lived forever. Death is the result of transgressing the will of the Creator.
In other words what happened at Mt. Sinai; the revelation of G-d and the rising of the dead … was not totally new, that's sort of how things were before Adam ate from the tree of knowledge.
The job of the Torah is to make sure it happens.
Every time a Jew learns Torah (and remembers it's G-d's wisdom and will) blessing is 'drawn into the world'. Namely G-d's inner will (found in the Torah) becomes united with His external will (the creation).
That will be the job of Moshiach. To convince all the Jews to learn the Torah do its commandments and change the world so that the Motto of Judaism (that Jews are commanded to say twice a day) "Hear O Israel…. G-d is ONE" will be manifest. (See Rashi on Deut.6:4)
In the language of Kaballa; to elevate (Naso) all creation so that all mankind will see and feel there is a Creator and a plan for each and every creation (and person); this is the connection between 'Naso' and Shavuot.
Just as the Rebbe did in our story; He revealed 'above nature' in nature!
And that is why he denied it was a miracle… because in the days of Moshiach when G-d will be revealed such things will be commonplace. Every Jew, not only the Rebbe, will do them.
We just have to do all we can to hasten all this. In the language of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, treat the world as though Moshiach is here.
May we all 'receive' the Torah this Shavuot with Joy and in all our being!
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.