This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Toldot (5769)
This week we read the confusing and complicated story of Jacob receiving the blessings of his father Isaac.
As you know, Isaac had twin boys; Aisav and Jacob. Jacob and his offspring were destined to bring the message of Judaism; joy, meaning, faith and the Creator's blessing to the world while the generations of Aisav were destined to oppose this in every way possible.
So you might think that when it comes to Isaac giving his blessing it's pretty cut and dry who's going to get it.
But it wasn't so.
Isaac wanted to bless… of all people.. his evil son Aisav! And Jacob had to resort to all sorts of disguises, and trickery to set things right. In fact the name 'Jacob' came to imply trickery because of this episode (27:36)
Does this make sense? After all, Jacob was a holy man, a Biblical hero and the founder of Judaism doesn't he deserve better treatment than this from G-d?!Couldn't he get a few miracles to help him? After all… all he wanted was a blessing! If a big tzadik (holy Jew) like Jacob had troubles getting a blessing what chance have we got?
To understand this … here is a story. (Otzar Sipuri Chabad vol. 15 pg 179)
Some 250 years ago in Russia things were very difficult for the Jews. In fact, unlike other nations where there were times of material success and peace for the Jews, in Russia there were always problems; the church was omnipotent and omnipresent and everyone, even the King and the entire Royal family, was fanatically Russian Orthodox….except the Jews.
Of course this was a bone in the throat of the church who regularly plagued the Jews with pogroms, mass inductions in the army, strange taxes andwork and living restrictions but miraculously the Jews survived… and even flourished. In fact, very few Jews abandoned their religion and every so often it happened that a gentile wanted to convert to Judaism.
But when this happened it spelled danger.
If the government got wind of such an 'atrocity' reciprocities were sure to follow.
But it so happened that in one city the Berger Meister, i.e. the man in control of the records and the administration of the city, was a Jew by the name of Ariye. In fact he was a Chassid (follower) of the first Rebbe of Chabad Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Laidi and he found a solution for this conversion problem.
Whenever a gentile would want to convert he would look in the city records, find the name of a Jew of approximately the same age that had passed away, erase his name and write the gentile's name in its place. Then the gentile would assume that name when he convertedthus sort of 'raising the dead' ....... at least on paper.
This worked just fine for several years but somehow it leaked out and Ariye found himself accused of falsifying records and opposing the Church.
He put up a huge amount of money for bail and sped as fast as his carriage would carry him to Rebbe Shneur Zalman.
Although the Rebbe's advice was infallible and many had been saved by his wisdom and intuitionhe was much more than just a wise man; the Rebbe was a miracle worker… just as Moses took the Jews from Egypt and provided forthem in the desert so the Rebbe protected and provided for those who he could help.
Ariye was sure that the Rebbe would just say the word and he would be free. But it wasn't so simple.
The Rebbe accepted him warmly, heard his story with the greatest of seriousness then fell silent for a few seconds and asked him for the date of the trial.Finally, after a few more moments, told Ariye to do what he could to have it postponed and to come see him a week before the new date.
Ariye returned to his city, after considerable effort succeeded in delaying the trial and, as the Rebbe said, one week before the trial returned for an audience.
But, to his dismay, the same thing happened as before; the Rebbe just looked at him silently and told him to push the trial off again and come to him before the new date.
And so it was several more times until finally Ariye appeared before the Rebbe and told him that it was impossible to postpone the trial any more; The judge was tired of his excuses and there was no one left to bribe.
The situation looked helpless. Ariye began to become depressed. Maybe the Rebbe couldn't help after all!He had, in fact, converted a gentile and hid the facts by changing the records both of which were punishable by death.
The Rebbe broke into his thoughts.
"Soon, in the town of Zsh'lubin will be the wedding of my grandson with the granddaughter of the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Braditchev. Go there, get in to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and ask for his blessing, only he can save you."
Our hero did as he was told. He arrived the night before the wedding to find that another obstical stood before him;thousands of Chassidim were gathered before the door of Rav Levi Yitzchak, packed like sardines and it was impossible to get close.
But his life was at stake, so he tried a desperate trick. He decided to push through the crowd until he was standing near the Rebbe's door and just stand there until the morning and pray that he would get an audience.
It took him hours but gradually, as it got later and later, the crowd dissipated and miraculously he found himself being whisked into the Rebbe's room with the advice to 'just stand in a corner until the Rebbe notices you'.
He stood as still as possible and was witness to the strangest site; Rebbe Levi Yitzchak was laying in his bed apparently totally asleep while on either side of the head of the bed was sitting a Chassid reading aloud; one was reading Mishnayot (books of Jewish law) while the other was reading Zohar (Jewish mysticism). The strange thing was that occasionally the Rebbe would correct one of them in his sleep!
After an hour or so of this Rebbe Levi Yitzchak sat up, washed his hands in a bowl next to his bed and motioned to our hero to approach.
Ari took a few steps and made his request from the Rebbe.
"Who sent you here?" Asked Rebbe Levi Yitzchak.
"Rebbe Shneur Zalman, your in-law." Was the answer.
"Ahhh! My holy in-law. But tell me… who told you to get involved in such a crazy scheme? I mean, who told you to be the Burger Meister? Is this a job for a Jew? Who gave you permission for such a thing??"
"Rebbe Shneur Zalman, your in-law." was the answer.
"Ahhh! My holy in-law!" But tell me my beloved friend, who told you to convert this fellow?? Isn't it just looking for trouble?"
"Rebbe Shneur Zalman, your in-law." Was the answer.
"Ahhh! My holy in-law!!" Why didn't you say so?
And so it continued. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak asked a few more questions got the same answers and finally said.
"Well well! If my holy in-law, the great genius and tzadik Reb Shneur Zalman sent you to me then for sure there will be problems. Nothing to worry about!"
Reb Ari left the room, ran back to Rebbe Shneur Zalman and told him what had happened.
"See!" the Rebbe responded. "See? I gave you some good advice ehh? Ehhh? What do you say? Good advice… ehh?"
Ari didn't exactly understand what was going on until he returned home for the trial to discover that the day before (just moments after he received Rebbe Levi Yitchak's blessing) there had been a fire in the city hall and all the records of testimony and accusation against him had been…. Totally destroyed!!! The Judge had no choice but to throw the case out of court.
This answers our questions.
G-d created the world in such a way that its true value would be hidden. And this is precisely the job of Judaism; to reveal that this physical, temporal world is really 'higher', 'holier' and more infinite than all the spiritual heavens!
Mystical books such as the Zohar explain this in great depth and length; namely how great and complicated the 'upper' worlds are but how they all are 'nothing' compared to even one commandment of G-d done by a Jew.
Although this will only be revealed totally in the arrival of Moshiach and Raising of the Dead (see Tanya chapt 37) it was begun by Jacob almost 4,000 years ago when he struggled for Isaac's blessing. And this is the subject of this week's Torah portion.
Aisav was the most material, egotistical person imaginable and his father, Isaac, thought by blessing him he could change this.
But he was wrong.
He wasn't aware, as his son Yaakov was, that revealing G-dliness in this physical world would be a long difficult process that would require trickery, cleverness and many surprises as we saw in our story.
But, according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, this is now all behind us. For thousands of years we needed trickery and cleverness… but now all that is required is simplicity and faith that Moshiach is already here!
As the Rebbe said time and time again; each of the Chabad Rebbes is the Moshiach of his generation and their teachings, called 'Chassidut', will bring redemption of the Jewish people and blessing to the entire world.
Just go to your local Chabad House, ask to learn 'Chassidut' and translate what you learn into action.
Then we will fulfill the blessings that Jacob received with worldwide peace and blessing of..
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