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 Chayei Sarah (5769)
This week we read of the drawn out and seemingly pointless story of how Abraham found a match for his favorite son Yitzchak. At first glance it is not understood why the Torah devotes so much space to this.
First of all, what is so important about searching for a wife?
Secondly, the Torah goes into great detail here about what happened?
And finally why does the Torah repeat all the details of this searching three times! First when Abraham's faithful servant Eliezer makes a condition that if a girl offers him and his camel to drink it is a sign that she's the one. Then, again when it actually happens; a girl called Rivka appears and offers him and his camel to drink etc. And finally when Eliezer meets Rivka's father and brother he repeats the story a third time.
There must be some hidden message here. What is it?
To explain this here is a story. (HaGeula issue 357)
The story began some twenty five years ago in Boston. Mr. M., a successful 'middle class' modern orthodox Jew had a son, a religious boy, who was a promising student in Boston University.
The boy was everything a Jewish father could hope for; brilliant, handsome, good natured and, most important, Torah observant. He prayed each morning in Tefillin (phylacteries), and ate all his meals in the Kosher cafeteria of the University. (There were then enough observant students to warrant such a thing).
Then one day the boy called home and gave his father the news. "Listen dad, no reason for you to pay for the kosher kitchen any more."
His father didn't understand. "Why, son? Are you cooking your own food? Or have you decided to go vegetarian?"
"No dad" was the reply. "I haven't been keeping kosher or anything for a few months now. I decided that I'm taking a break from Judaism for a while."
The news fell on Mr. M. like an atom bomb. As they spoke it all came out; the last time his son did anything Jewish was months ago... he decided there was simply no reason for him to be different.
His father tried to talk some sense into him but it was like talking to a wall but he didn't give up. First he tried to get to him through his religious friends, then through a few religious professors. He even brought a Rabbi or two. But it was all futile.
The boy had become cold and dead to anything that had a G-d tag on it. He wanted to live his life his own way and felt that Judaism was 'overweight' baggage.
His father got depressed. He blamed himself; he shouldn't have sent his son to University in the first place. He never dreamed this would happen. The boy had been so happy, so free! He found so much meaning! What could have made him do it!?
Then he got angry. His son was an ingrate! After all I did for him!! He knows how much Judaism means to his mother and I and he doesn't even care!
Even worse, as time went on he couldn't bear to see his son's face. It was like seeing his own failure flapping before his eyes.
He just wanted to tell him to get lost, that he never wanted to see him again.
He felt he was going mad.
One of his good friends noticed it and asked him if everything was all right and it wasn't long before he poured out his aching heart. He was at his wit's end, he had tried everything and nothing worked. He didn't believe it was happening to him!
His friend thought for a minute and said. "Listen, I know this might sound weird but I think I might have the solution."
Mr M.looked at him to see if he was serious. "Solution? What solution? I've tried everything. The boy isn't stupid! He's made up his mind. It's over! Do you hear me? I’m not stupid either. I mean.. I'll keep praying for him but frankly I can't stand to see him anymore. I'm blazing mad and I can't keep it in much longer and you have solutions? Nu…. What's your 'solution'?"
"You know me," His friend said. "I'm not a superstitious person, right? But I'm telling you your only chance is to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
Mr. M. looked at his friend like he just fell from the moon, shrugged his shoulders and began to cry at the true hopelessness of the situation.
"Listen M." his friend continued. "You have nothing to lose. It won't cost you any money and they say he knows the entire Torah and has done a lot of miracles… no strings attached."
Mr. M. realized there was no point in resisting and a few days later he found himself standing in line with his wife at two in the morning waiting to get an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
His turn came at 3 a.m. the thick wooden door to the Rebbe's room opened, someone came out with red eyes as though he had been crying and Mr M. and his wife entered.
The Rebbe seemed very friendly. Shook his hand, read the short letter that Mr M. had given to the his secretary a few hours ago, cleared his throat and said.
"You must have patience. Do not cut off relations with your son. You must accept him as he is and have a positive connection with him. In the end he will return." The Rebbe read the note again and added, "It might take eighteen years, perhaps twenty years, perhaps twenty two years but he will certainly return to Judaism."
Mr. M. left the Rebbe's office like a new man; the Rebbi's words calmed him. Up to now he felt that he had to control his son… to control everything around him. But now he realized that he had to leave the future up to the Creator; to calm down and let the King of the Universe take over.
So he waited. His son left home but when he retuned home from time to time, they both just heaped love upon him and left the rest up to G-d.
Time passed. In the course of the years his son became successful and even was chosen by then president Clinton to part of his board of advisors. But most of his time he spent in Washington D.C. far from home.
But his parents kept calling him every Friday to wish him a good Shabbat and Good Yom Tov before each holiday.
Then, eighteen years after he left he called home before Rosh HaShanna (Jewish New Year's Day) and asked if he could spend the holiday at home.
His parents were overjoyed and the holiday they spent together was like heaven on earth. But afterwards he bade them farewell and disappeared for another two years only answering the phone and politely refusing their invitations to spend a Shabbat or a holiday at home.
Then, two years later, he again called home on his own initiative and asked if he could spend the holiday of Passover with them.
Again they happily agreed and, sure enough, he did what he promised. For the first few days of Passover he stayed at home and slept in his old room. But then, after the second 'Seder' night he got in his car and drove off to be with himself again.
Again two years passed until he made contact with his parents again. But they had already learned patience from the Rebbe.
This phone call was the one they had been waiting for. He called to invite them to his house.
"Don't worry." He assured them. "You can eat in my house. It's completely kosher."
He had met up with the Chabad representative in Washington D.C. Rabbi Levi Shemtov and all his Judaism returned to him in a flash; even the Torah that he had learned as a child.
It wasn't long before their son married a Jewish girl, had children and fulfilled all his and his parent's dreams… a family that was true to the legacy of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Suddenly they understood what the Rebbe meant when he said 18, 20, 22 years; these were the exact periods that his son made the changes that he prayed for. After 18 years he returned for New Year's, after 20 years for Passover and after 22 years for good.
This answers our questions.
The essence of Judaism is to 'marry' the Creator with His creation. In the language of our prayers; to unify G-d with His name.
This is, in essence, what was accomplished in the marriage of Yitzchak.
According to Kabbalistic teachings the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka hints at the arrival of Moshiach who will 'unify' G-d and the world (i.e. reveal that there is nothing other than G-d) through convincing all the Jews to learn Torah and do its commandments.
And every detail is important. Just as the Rebbe taught Mr. M. in our story.
In order to really unite G-d with His world it is necessary to put our selfish desires, plans and values aside and let G-d take over every detail. Just as Mr. M. did; if he would have had his way he would have driven his son from his home and the boy would never have returned and 'unified' with his family.
And just as the story of finding Yitzchak's wife was repeated three times so also the story of Jews finding their true Jewish souls is repeated over and over… until finally they all will do what they were 'chosen' to do; follow the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and bring blessing, meaning and joy to the world.
It all depends of each of us to do just a bit more. Even one good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scale and bring…
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.