This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Lech-Lecha (5769)
This weeks Torah portion begins with G-d telling Avraham to leave home and ends with G-d commanding him to circumcise himself.
Abraham was the first Jew and the first man to enter the covenant (Brit) of circumcision with G-d.
Although there were holy men, righteous men and spiritual men before him they weren't the founders of the Jewish religion. But Abraham was, because he had something different.
It wasn't his spiritual prowess or his military successes; The Torah doesn't tell us that Abraham did any miracles, conquered any lands, had many followers, promised heaven instructed the way to spiritual peace or even preached a new religion.
That something different that he had is found in the title Lech Lecha; "Go to yourself" and in the commandment of circumcision.
To understand this here are four stories (Niflaot HaMoshiach pg 61- 68)
The first three are personal stories from Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan's plane ride.
He got on the plane in New York to return to his home in Israel. As usual, the El Al flight to Israel was full and overbooked and the loudspeakers requested volunteers to give up their seats for a free ticket.
His seat was between a Chassidic Jew dressed in a long black coat face turned to the window and an elderly woman in the aisle seat reading one of the newspapers that were handed out who did not look religious at all.
Rabbi Chazan said a cordial hello to both of them as he took his seat and buckled his safety belt and after take off opened up one of the Chabad weekly publications he brought with him and began to read.
It didn't take long before the woman noticed the Rebbe's picture prominently displayed on the front cover and, as though replying to his cordial hello of a half-hour ago said in Hebrew. "Ahh, that is the Lubavitcher Rebbe. My husband had a big miracle with him. Are you a Lubavitcher?"
Rabbi Chazan answered yes and she told him the following story.
She and her husband, who had passed away just months earlier, were doctors and had their own private clinic. She had some connection to Judaism and in fact was now on her way to Israel to give a large donation to some religious organization. But her husband was about as far from Judaism as possible; he had a totally atheistic upbringing and never had even attended synagogue. But somehow one of his friends convinced him to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
She wasn't sure how it happened but he did make the visit and returned home a different man; bubbling with happiness. He said that the Rebbe had spoken to him and had given him three dollar bills together with three blessings; one for himself, one for his family and one for the clinic.
Then, several years later the dollars went missing. They searched the entire house until their nine year old daughter asked what they were looking for and said that she saw the three dollars in the drawer and, thinking that they were nothing special, bought some candies with them.
Her husband was broken. True he was not at all religious, but he felt that these dollars somehow were connected to the Rebbe's blessings and the Rebbe was the most positive person he had ever met.
He never really was happy after that but he was too embarrassed to return to the Rebbe to ask for more dollars since he felt that these had been lost due to his negligence.
But finally some five years later after she pressured him he did return. He stood in line one Sunday with thousands of others (Every Sunday for several years the Rebbe used to give out single dollar bills to encourage the giving of charity, blessings and advice) and when his turn came the Rebbe looked at him in a way that was obvious that he remembered him, smiled, said 'Blessings and Success' and gave him, instead of the usual dollar that he gave to everyone else…. three crisp dollars
This impressed her husband till his dying day and brought her to also write letters and receive many answers from the Rebbe.
When the Chassid sitting on his other side heard the conversation he waited till she finished and said.
"I also have a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In fact, I teach young children and although I am a Skverer Chassid I just told my students the story.
"A good friend of mine went to the Rebbe almost twenty years ago and also stood in line to get a dollar and a blessing. The Rebbe gave him the dollar and he kept it in his wallet wherever he went.
"Anyway, one day he lost it, and it made him feel really bad. Years passed, but he couldn't get the loss out of his mind. He even thought about returning to the Rebbe to get another dollar but then the Rebbe had a stroke and two years afterwards in 1994 he heard the terrible news that the Rebbe passed away.
"Well, he didn't give up. About ten years after that he decided he would simply go to the Rebbe's headquarters in Crown Heights where he got the dollar and just ask for another dollar.
"Maybe it seems foolish but… it worked!
"You know how? A few hours later he went into a grocery store to by a bottle of soda but all he had was a ten dollar bill. So he gave his ten dollar bill and in the change he got back was a dollar bill that had something written on one of its corners! So he held it up to the light and saw written:
'Dollar from the Rebbe' followed by a Hebrew date! The Rebbe gave him a dollar!
"I just told this to my students to show them how holy people like the Rebbe live forever."
The plane landed in Israel and Rabbi Chazan bade his neighbors goodbye, went down to collect his luggage and got into a taxi to go home. It was early in the morning and the taxi driver, sensing he had a passenger that was willing to hear his troubles began to pour them out. He related how bad his luck had been lately and how although he put on Tefillin every day he was considering stopping because, after all he had to work on Shabbat in order to make ends meet so it was hypocritical to do one commandment and not the other.
Rabbi Chazan explained that each commandment contains its own blessing and he shouldn't stop doing one good thing just because he doesn't do another. Not only that but he doesn't have to work on Shabbat either. G-d is the one that gives livelihood and G-d will bless him with a livelihood from somewhere else. After all if G-d provides for over six billion people daily it should be no problem for him to provide for one more.
"Wow!" Said the driver. "That's really right. That sounds like something the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say (in fact Rabbi Chazan read it in one of the Rebbe's letters)!" And he pulled out a large poster that was rolled up under his seat. "Just now I saw some boys putting up these posters and asked them for one. You know what? You're right! I'm going to put this up in my front room. Maybe I will stop working on Shabbat!"
The last story was told by a Chabad Rabbi in Israel by the name of Rabbi Moshe Antezada who serves the Persian community in the city of Netanya.
One evening, just a few years ago, a man and wife knocked on his door and told a sad story.
The man had been suffering from depression and fits of paranoia for the last several years that, despite the treatments and medicines the best professors had to offer, they were getting worse and worse.
They were at their wit's end and were just about to give up and admit defeat when they heard that it was possible to get advice from the Lubavitcher Rebbe through his books of letters (there are presently 26 books of letters the Rebbe wrote to people in just the first years of his leadership with advice on almost every possible problem that people could have).
Rabbi Antezada wasted no time. Asked the man to write his problem on a piece and then inserted the paper in one of the books at random.
But the answer he received was, to say the least, very disappointing. (vol. 15 pg 343) "In reply to your letter in which you write that you have the possibility to help Mr. __ to have a Brit (circumcision) I don't understand why you delayed it until you gathered the money. Also you write that seeing he is well beyond thirteen years of age he was given general anesthetic before the circumcision; if so a Rabbi should be consulted to see if this is proper."
The Rabbi read the letter out loud. Although he was certain that it had nothing to do with their problem he felt it was his duty to just read what came out and let them decide for themselves what to do.
They asked him for an explanation. He suggested that perhaps something was wrong with the man's circumcision and to his amazement as soon as he said that the couple stood and exclaimed that because his parents thought the traditional way was primitive his 'Brit' had been done by a doctor when he was a baby!
They shook the Rabbis hand and left.
Several months later Rabbi Antezada met Rabbi Yaron Yamit, the head of Brit Yosef Yitzchak, an organization that provides proper circumcisions for older Jews that had never been circumcised (very common among Russian Jews where circumcision was forbidden) and found out that the man underwent a proper circumcision by him and returned a few weeks later with the news that his emotional and psychological problems had completely left him and he felt truly happy for the first time in his life.
These stories answer our questions.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe showed us how to reveal true Jewish identity as Abraham did; by not only improving ourselves but rather 'going out' and sharing what we know with others.
This is the legacy of Abraham who left his own security, fame and fortune to spread the certainty that there is a Creator who cares about each detail of His creation.
Abraham was the first to do this. Just as the Lubavitcher Rebbe did when he, among many other things, gave out dollars and is doing today through his emissaries throughout the world.
And this is also the message of Abraham's 'Brit' Covenant of circumcision.
It implies sacrificing and 'cutting away' our nature i.e. our false ego (man is naturally created with a foreskin and with a selfish ego), even if it is uncomfortable (or even painful) in order to realize and connect to and reveal the truth.
This is essentially the message Abraham, of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and of the Moshiach that we Jews have been awaiting for thousands of years; all mankind must circumcise their hearts, go 'out' of themselves and make a true, new world.
It's all up to us to do all we can, even one more good deed, to tip the scales and bring…
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