This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Va'etchanan (5768)
This week's Torah portion is named after Moses' unsuccessful beseeching
(Eschanan) of G-d to let him enter the Holy Land.
It always falls on the Shabbat after the saddest 'holiday' in Judaism; the
Ninth of Av commemorating and mourning the destruction of the first and
second Temples and the resultant exile we've been wallowing in for the last
1900 plus years.
Therefore this Shabbat is called "The Shabbat of Comfort" (Shabbat
Nachamu) to tell us that, despite all this we are not only still here,
which is a miracle in its own but G-d still loves us, will send Moshiach to
unite us, build the Third Temple to redeem us and bring us back to Israel.
But if this Shabbat has such positive message, why remind us of Moses'
unanswered prayers (Etchanan)? What has this got to do with comforting and
To understand this here is a story. (HaChozrim BaTshuva, Klapholtz).
Less than a hundred years ago lived a great Tzadik by the name of Rabbi
Yissachar Dov of Belz. He was known for his holiness, leadership and
astounding erudition in Torah. There was virtually no book in Judaism that
he was not familiar with, including the Kaballa.
He had thousands of followers and Jews and gentiles came from far and wide
to hear his wisdom, get advice or receive his blessing.
But he was a pauper. His expenses, the charity he gave, the hundreds of
poor scholars that depended on him and just the upkeep of his projects kept
him constantly dependant on open miracles from G-d to get the money he
The story goes that once a very rich Jew sent him a very large donation to
be distributed to his pupils and institutions.
The Rebbe desperately needed the funds but as soon as they were placed on
his table, he called his faithful secretary Reb Fival and told him that it
might be necessary to either return the money or burn it.
His secretary was used to miracles but he couldn't help but to raise an
eyebrow. The Rebbe continued.
The only chance we have is to find the fellow who gave this money and
bring him here. I can't take this money until he does Tshuva (repents and
returns to his Jewish soul).
Reb Fival searched for almost six hours until he found the man he was
looking for; he was a wealthy farm owner but his dress and appearance were
totally like those of the upper-class gentiles.
He tried to argue his way out of it but when Reb Fival told him what the
Rebbe said about burning the money he came and a half hour later he was
standing before the Rebbe with a head covering that Reb Fival got from one
of the Chassidim.
He looked sheepishly down as the Rebbe stared at him. He knew what was
"My friend," The Rebbe said "Thank you for the donation. May G-d bless you
always for your kindness. But I can't take it as long as you refuse to
observe the Holy Shabbat. I'm sure you know that a Jew that treats the
Shabbat like any other day is separating himself from the Jewish people and
withholding blessing and good from the gentiles as well."
The poor fellow began crying. He had nothing to say in his defense, but on
the other hand he knew that he would never keep the Sabbath. He was too far
gone. But the Rebbe thought differently.
"I know that the Baron who owns the land that your farms and factories are
on is forcing you. But that is no excuse. G-d is greater than the Baron.
How can you give more importance to the Baron than the King of the
The rich man, seeing an opening, began to explain the savageness of the
Baron and how opposing him meant sure death. Not only that but his wife was
also petrified of him and his shadow threw fear into the hearts of all
those under his reign.
"No excuse." Said the Rebbe. You must go to his castle and tell him in my
name that I forbid any Jew under his dominion to work on the Sabbath,
including you and your wife!"
When the donor heard this his knees began knocking together, Reb Fival had
to hold him up with one hand as he pulled up a chair behind him with the
other for him to fall into.
"Rebbe!" he replied "How? How can I say these words? Why, the Baron is an
anti-Semite and will have me thrown to the dogs!! And who knows what will
be with my wife and family?!"
"Do as I said" Answered the Rebbe. "And if he refuses to listen then tell
him that once a simple farmer brought a Baron to my grandfather, the Holy
Rabbi Sar Shalom of Belz.
"This farmer handed my grandfather a letter first praising the Baron and
his kindness to all his subjects, including the Jews and begging mercy for
the Baron's son who had been insane for the past few years with no
professor or expert able to help him.
"My grandfather looked at the Baron for a few moments, turned to the
farmer that brought him, took out a piece of paper and began drawing a map.
After he had finished he told them that in this place there was a large
church and in this church was a priest who was a big Jew hater. He was the
one that could save his son. They must go there and tell the priest in my
grandfather's name that he commanded him to save the boy.
"They did so but when they arrived at the church, found the priest and
told him what they wanted and who sent them he flew into an insane rage. He
began cursing out the Jews screaming and throwing things until he actually
became insane! The spirit of insanity that was in the Baron's son jumped
into him and the boy became healed! Now take your money back and go and
tell your Baron what I said!"
The rich man dutifully left the Rebbe's office and a week later he
returned, together with his wife and children.
"It worked! Thank you Rebbe!! Thank you!!" He exclaimed. "At first when I
told the Baron what you said he became furious but when I told him the
story he sat down and became pale as a sheet. When I finished he said 'That
priest was my grandfather! My father told me that story when I was a boy!'
"He made an announcement that from then on all Jews on his lands had
permission to keep the Shabbat."
This answers our questions.
The prayers of Moses were not answered immediately but they broke through
to the inner recesses of heaven to aid the prayers of all generations,
especially ours, the generation of Moshiach.
Something like how the miracle of Rebbe Sar Shalom waited for that of his
grandson Rabbi Yissacher Dov to be really fulfilled.
This is one of the reasons that Moses did not enter Israel but rather is
buried in the land that was promised to Abraham that Moshiach will receive
from the gentiles to make Israel complete.
G-d promised Abraham the lands of ten nations, Yhoshua conquered seven but
the King Moshiach will take the rest.
Only then will the land of Israel be complete. As will be the Nation of
Israel, the Torah of Israel and (so to speak) the G-d of Israel. As we say
in the Alenu prayer " On that day G-d will be One and His Name one!"
There is certainly no greater comfort or joy than this: the entire world
and all mankind will feel that the Creator (who is creating them every
instant) loves them.
But it all depends on us to do all we can in thought speech and action to
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