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 Bereshit (5769)
This week we begin reading the Bible anew and are introduced to its author and main character; G-d, the Creator of the universe.
We learn how G-d created the world in six days and 'rested' on the seventh but as we read we sense that the whole thing was not so simple.
First of all we notice that the Biblical day begins with night, as it says 'and it was evening and it was morning one day". (1:5)
Why didn't G-d begin the day with…..day?
Then, a few sentences later we read that the sun was only created on the fourth day, so the first three 'days' must have been without sunlight!
What type of days were they? How can there be day without the sun?
And, finally; why did it take G-d so long? According to the Bible before creation there was nothing; no space, no vacuum, no spirit, no time …. Nothing. So there was nothing stopping G-d from creating everything in one instant. In fact, before He began creating there was no such thing as an instant. If so why did it take Him six days, or even six seconds to do it? Certainly it was no 'harder' for Him to create everything than to create just one thing.
Perhaps this story will help us to understand.
Gershon Ber Jacobson was a well known journalist, according to some he was the journalist's journalist. He wrote for several major newspapers around the world, was fluent in many languages including French, English, Yiddish, Russian, Georgian and Hebrew, had a fluent, often stirring style, an eye for often uncomfortable detail and an unquenchable drive for often life-threatening scoops.
But in addition to all this, or perhaps we should say foremost, he was a totally observant Jew and a devoted Chassid (follower) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, perhaps the greatest, most erudite Jewish leader in history who teaches his followers to do everything possible to improve mankind.
And it saved his life at least once.
The scene was immediately after the Six-Day war. Israel had decimated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and the other Arab nations surrounding them and the idea popped into the mind of Gershon Ber, who at the time was the chief correspondent in New York for the Israeli newspaper 'Yediot Achronot' the biggest daily in Israel, to get a really hot story.
He decided that the scoop of scoops would be to get into Egypt and get an interview with none other than the Prime Minister himself; Abdul Nasser!
He began to go about getting the necessary papers, when he got a phone call from another important personage from the 'other side' of the coin; 'Isar HarAil' the head of the Israeli Secret Service the 'Mosad'. "Jacobson are you insane?" he screamed, "Listen, we have information that if you go through with this you'll never come back. Why, they'll arrest you as a spy and you'll never get out of jail! And we won't be in a position to help you! Do you understand? Don't go! And if you do we will take no responsibility!"
Jacobson thanked HarAil, hung up the phone and called the headquarters of the Lubabvither Rebbe. It wasn't long before he got a reply.
The Rebbe said he definitely should go but he should do the following things 1) Take several pairs of new Tefillin 2) Take a new 'sh'chita' knife for slaughtering birds 3) check into the best room in the most expensive hotel 4) before leaving write short letters to all his friends and important acquaintances telling them he is in Egypt and mail them as soon as you arrive 5) as soon as he enters the hotel call all the foreign ambassadors living in Egypt and 5) at the first opportunity visit the Jewish community there.
Gershon Ber did exactly what the Rebbe told him and a week or two landed in Cairo. He told the driver to take him to the finest hotel and on the way he stopped at the post office and mailed the letters he had written.
Then he checked in to his room and immediately set about calling all the foreign representatives in Egypt as the Rebbe said.
And the response was fantastic! In fact one of the ambassadors was so impressed (he claimed that in the fifteen years he was in Egypt no one had ever called him) he insisted on coming to see him and when he arrived insisted on being Jacobson's personal driver!
"Very well!" he answered. "Then let's go visit the Jewish community here." With the ambassador (I heard it was the representative from Canada) as his driver they pulled up at the home of the head of the Jewish community. Jacobson brought greetings from the Rebbe and began asking journalist questions; how was life in Egypt, Was there anti-Semitism, was anything affected by the Six Day War? etc. etc.
The community leader answered that although there was not overt anti-Semitism it was nevertheless very difficult for them to get around and impossible for them to contact the outside world. For instance what they really needed were a few pairs of tefillin (phylacteries) because several had become disqualified for use and a sh'chita knife for slaughtering chickens because the one they had somehow broke and was irreparable. But they couldn't get out of Egypt to get these things replaced.
You can imagine his joy and amazement when he produced exactly these items and told him how the Lubavitcher Rebbe somehow sensed their need.
Jacobson got the interview with Nasser and when he arrived safely back in New York he got another call from …. Issur HarAil. "Listen Jacobson. We know for SURE that they were planning to arrest you for spying. But when you got there and made such a storm with those letters and phone calls they didn't want to arouse adverse public opinion. Tell me, where did you get the idea to do those letters and phone calls?"
But this second story is the one I'm leading up to.
A few years later he got the idea to do an interview with Nikita Khrushchev the Prime Minister of Russia. This was not a simple task seeing that it was in the height of the Cold War and everyone suspected everyone else. People who were in the know told him it was dangerous and perhaps even pointless to even consider such a feat.
But the Lubavitcher Rebbe thought differently. He told him that he should go, that he certainly will succeed but that he must bring back as many names of Jews as possible. The Rebbe wanted to know what exactly is happening to Russian Jewry. Especially their problems.
Jacobson got his interview and also managed to travel a bit in Russia and secure 350 names or more accurately 350 hardship stories.
There was however one major problem. It was impossible to leave Russia with these names. If he wrote them down the list would certainly be revealed by the border police who checked every item and every suitcase as though it belonged to a spy and everyone on the list, himself included, would certainly suffer imprisonment and perhaps worse.
So Gershon Ber Jacobson actually put 350 names to memory; first names, mother's Jewish names, last names and the stories they told!
Of course he passed the border inspection and as soon as the plane was in the air he took out pen and paper and wrote them all down.
When he arrived in New York the first thing he did was inform the Lubavitcher Rebbe's office that he had arrived and had the names the Rebbe asked for and he figured the Rebbe would want to see him as soon as possible.
But it didn't happen.
The Rebbe's office didn't respond the next day nor the day after that. Only one week later did he get a call that the Rebbe would like to see him.
He entered the Rebbe's office late that night after midnight and the Rebbe greeted him as follows.
"You're probably wondering why I didn't contact you sooner. After all you do have the names I requested and they are very important to me.
"You should know that when I arrived from Europe with my wife (the Previous Rebbe's daughter) I also thought that the Previous Rebbe would call us in immediately to see him. After all we escaped from terrible danger. But he didn't call us for three days. Then when we finally entered he explained that the reason for his delay was that he was so emotional upon our arrival he felt he would not be able to control himself if he did not take a few days to calm himself.
"So it is with me." The Rebbe continued. "The suffering of these Russian Jews is so close to me that I felt I had to calm down before I saw these names. Now, please let us continue."
Rabbi Jacobson began reading and explaining everything he had seen, the Rebbe would not allow him to skip one detail and as he was speaking it was obvious that the Rebbe was very emotional. Often he wept silently, occasionally more audibly when unable to control himself but he was obviously in a storm of emotions.
This went on for over four hours until the sound of birds greeting the morning could be faintly heard outside.
Then, 350 names later, the Rebbe stood, went to the window, opened the drapes a bit, looked at the light shining, illuminating the world and said.
"Ah! A new day!'
This answers our questions.
Day and night don't depend on the sun. In fact the Torah is telling us the opposite; G-d created the sun to let us know WHEN it is day.
Day is life, hope, blessing, meaning, while night implies the opposite. G-d created the world according to certain principles (Mystical if you will) the main of which are concealing (night) and revealing (day) Himself. That is why He created it in six (or seven) days; according to the mystical idea of His 'seven emotions'.
Indeed the entire creation is, in essence, a concealment of G-d. The word for 'world' in Hebrew (H'oLoM) s the same as 'concealment' (HeLeM). But the purpose of this 'night' of concealment is…..day!
Namely that we Jews can cause, through our deeds, words and thoughts according to the Torah, that the Creator will actually be revealed in His entire creation…. DAY.
(This may sound far-fetched but there already was such a thing in history; For the first time, in the beginning before Adam sinned, then even more so at Mount Sinai and in the Holy of Holies of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and finally Moshiach will cause it to happen permanently. As we say in the Alenu prayer thrice daily "G-d will be ONE and His Name One.")
But there is another lesson here as well. If G-d would have created light first then we might think that darkness is the 'end'. In other words that if we ever make mistakes or seem to be in a 'dark' and hopeless situation there is no hope; the day is over.
But He didn't. He rather began with darkness to tell us that no matter how far we have fallen and how totally we seem have failed it is nevertheless only the beginning and light will follow if we allow it to.
Whether on a personal or a world level there is one thing for certain; Soon we will look back at all the pain and suffering in the that has ever been and say:
"Ah! A new day!"
We just have to do one more good deed, say one more good word or even think one more good thought to tilt the scales and bring…
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.