This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Eikev (5768)
This week's Torah portion continues the many important instructions from
Moses to the Jews as they are about to enter Israel which is the topic of
this last book of the Torah.
One of the most interesting seems to be a joke of sorts.
Moses says: "Now Israel, what does G-d your L-rd want from you: Only to
fear G-d your L-rd, to walk in His ways and to love Him and to serve G-d
your L-rd with all your heart and all your soul". (10:12)
Is Moses really serious? He starts as though he's making things simple but
ends up piling up a list of almost impossible demands.
Even the Talmud wonders at this and asks; "Only to fear G-d? Is the fear
of G-d such a small and easy thing?" and answers "Yes - for Moses it's
easy!" (Brachot 33b)
Which also seems to make no sense (as the Tanya chapt 42 points out); the
sentence in the Torah is saying what is demanded from EVERY Jew! Who cares
if it was easy for Moses?
And what about the other things like serving G-d with all your heart and
soul… why doesn't the Talmud ask about them?
To understand this here is a story. (Chozrim BaTshuva Klapholtz, pg. 134)
In a small town near the city of Lezinzk, Poland some 200 years ago lived
a young, intelligent, gifted, religious young man of a wealthy family who,
at the tender age of 15, decided to take the example of the great Tzadikim
(holy men) and devote his life totally to learning Torah and getting close
He filled all the bookcases in his room with holy books, informed his
parents of his plans and closed the door only exiting for the Shabbat meals
or rare necessities.
At first everyone in the town wondered at his strange decision but after a
few weeks accepted it as part of the scenery and life went on.
Twenty two years later, after he had delved into the depths of every
Jewish book available including the Kaballa and knew almost all of it by
heart he realized it was time to leave his confinement and spread his
knowledge to others. 'After all', he reasoned to himself, 'what good is the
Torah if I just keep it to myself? Does it not say in the Talmud (Sanhedrin
99a) One who learns Torah and doesn't teach it is disgracing the word of
Once outside, a new world opened to him. A fresh array of colors, sounds,
movements and life that he had almost forgotten about filled his senses and
aroused his wonder and awe of the Creator. Every wind, every flower and
tree, the falling rain, the sunrise, the animals were like miracles to
But after a few days when he accustomed himself to all this and set about
implementing his goal of spreading Torah he met with difficulties. In fact
he was totally disappointed. He approached the working men but they had no
time in the day and no energy at night for deep Torah ideas. Then he tried
those that weren't working but they were either to lazy or unintelligent to
listen to him.
So he went to the synagogue only to find that it was pretty much the same.
The young people didn't really understand the deep ideas he was telling
them and the really old ones wanted to learn simple things that wouldn't
tax their minds.
He went to the Bait HaMedrash; the house of learning where men were
involved in studying Torah all day and most of the night. Here, he figured,
at least he would be appreciated. But after a while, although he was
treated with honor, after a while he realized that his knowledge was so
superior to theirs that he felt he was wasting his time explaining simple
things over and over again that any 'fool' should know.
Being a deep thinker he began to realize that perhaps he was one of a kind
in his generation. Even when he spoke to the rabbi of the town he couldn't
hide his amazement at his own greatness. So he ventured out of his town
into the city of Lezinzk to discuss Torah ideas with the scholars there.
But it he simply knew and understood more than anyone there and his
patience was wearing thin. Who would he teach Torah to if everyone was so
thick? It wasn't long before he began to find fault with everything; no
one prayed properly, no one gave enough charity, no one was really serious,
intelligent, sincere etc.
But somehow he got wind of a Rebbe in Lezinzk by the name of Rebbe
Elimelech who was purported to be a great miracle worker and Torah genius.
It was even said that thousands rushed to him for advice and help.
"Aha!" our hero thought to himself. "Finally someone of my caliber." But
deep down inside he could not understand why no one was rushing to him…
why only to this Rebbe Elimelech? What could he possibly have that I don't
He even asked people what was so special about this Rebbe but could not
understand their answers. He concluded that perhaps the man was a faker.
This could be an example of fooling some of the people all of the time. He
had to go and find out for himself.
He meant to go immediately but for various reasons the first chance he got
was on the last day of the holiday of Succot (Tabernacles) called 'Hoshana
On this holiday it was the custom to remain awake the entire night reading
Psalms and the book of Dvorim (Deuteronomy). In fact, it was the custom of
this Rebbe Elimelech to take out a Torah Scroll and read the entire book of
D'vorim aloud, stopping occasionally to explain a sentence or make a point
while his followers listened intently.
Our hero arrived to find hundreds of Jews crowded into a modest synagogue.
The place was so packed it was almost impossible to move but it was so
silent you could hear every word the Rebbe read or said.
It was like being in another world, perhaps it was the power of the crowd,
maybe it really was the power of the Rebbe but he felt it was impossible to
leave. Suddenly the Rebbe raised his voice and read;
"Now Israel, what does G-d your L-rd want from you: Only to fear G-d your
The Rebbe stopped, looked around and began to moan. He looked up, then
down, then surveyed the crown and again sighed and said 'oy! Oy!' several
times until the entire crowd was wide eyed in anticipation and trepidation.
The Rebbe's voice again pierced the silence this time like thunder,
"Only to fear your L-rd! Rabbis, friends, where do you think this fear is?
The fear of G-d isn't rolling around in the streets or marketplaces. But
it's also not found in the heavens. If you want it you don't have to lock
yourself away in a room. Even if you seclude yourself for years and look
for it in books you won't find it. Where is it found? Where!!?"
At this point the entire crowd was on the point of tears. They realized
that this was very serious.
"It's found in the heart of every Jew!"
With these words everyone in the room burst out in tears some fell to the
ground and many almost passed out.
It took a few minutes for them to come back to themselves.
And when they did the Rebbe concluded, "Fear means awe and trembling. It
should only be that you fear G-d as much as you fear people!! Look in your
heart! There you will find the fear of HaShem!"
He continued reading from the Torah as though nothing had happened until a
few hours later he finished and everyone returned to saying Psalms.
With all the confusion no one noticed our hero unconscious under a table.
The Rebbe's words entered his heart and touched him in a place he thought
was the foundation of his very being… but in fact it was the foundation
of his false egotism.
Only after everyone left the room was he discovered and brought to one of
the side rooms to 'sleep it off'. But the next morning when he didn't wake
up the Chassidim realized it was much more serious than they thought. They
called the Rebbe's son, Elezar, and begged him to go ask his father what to
do. Perhaps they should call a doctor?
But when he did Rebbe Elimelech just handed his walking stick to his son
and told him to not speak to anyone but go immediately to the unconscious
fellow and place it on his chest for a minute and as soon as he did so the
fellow immediately regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water.
It took a few hours but when he began to return to himself and thought
what had happened, he realized that up to now although he, on the face of
things, was rich spiritually and physically but without humility and fear
of G-d he was like a massive ornate palace with no foundation.
The next day he entered the Rebbe's office and began to weep and beg for
help. "Only you can help yourself" the Rebbe answered. "You are a scholar
and a genius and lack nothing…. and that is exactly your fault;
"You lack the awareness that you are really NOTHING.
"You forgot that everything you are everything you have including your
soul and body is a gift from HaShem, everything! This is fear of G-d and
the way to feel it is by learning Torah and loving every creation …
especially each and every Jew. If you look at every one as the Creator does
you will lose your false ego."
He left the Rebbe a different man, married, raised a family and devoted
himself totally to sharing all his wisdom and talents with as many people
This answers our questions.
The essence of Judaism, indeed, of life is to fear G-d and to do His
commandments (Ecc. 12:13)
But this fear is much more than just fearing punishment. It is more akin
to the fear of putting one's hand in fire or harming a loved one; the
feeling that there is something more alive and real than just our selves.
Fearing G-d means to feel that G-d creates us constantly and does so in
order that we bring blessing and meaning into the world by obeying His
And the only way we can feel this is by association with a 'Tzadik' i.e.
someone like Moses (in every generation there must be at least one such
Jew) who truly feels this and can pass it on to others as Rebbe Elimelech
did in our story.
And once this feeling of 'fear' is there, all the rest: walking in His
ways, serving Him, loving Him etc. come almost automatically.
That is why the Talmud says that for Moses it was an easy thing. In the
language of Kabala it is called the 'Yechida' or 'Moses' or 'Moshiach' in
each of us. And it is precisely this is revealed in the teachings of
Chassidut - especially Chabad Chassidut today.
Namely that anyone connected to the Moses of every generation has easier
accesses to the treasure of love and fear in our hearts.
We must learn Chassidut, be close to the Tzadikim and do all we can to
reveal the Moshiach within us in order to be soon dancing with...
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