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 Vayeitzei (5769)
This week's Torah portion tells us how Jacob, the last of the three founders of Judaism, was tricked repeatedly by his father-in-law Lavan into marrying a woman he didn't want and working over ten years without pay.
This is definitely not so clear.
The Torah is a book of G-dly instruction, every letter, word and sentence holds hundreds of lessons in life. What is the purpose of telling us how Jacob was tricked so severely and 'wasted' so many years of his life?
To understand this here is a story that was told by the keynote speaker; Rabbi Moshe Bryski, in this year's massively successful 'Chabad Shliach' Convention in New York.
A 'Chabad Shliach' is an emissary of a great man called 'the Lubavitcher Rebbe' or as he is often referred to 'The Rebbe'. The Rebbe took upon himself to make sure that every Jew in the world, without exception, learns and takes to heart what Torah, G-d and Judaism really are.
In order to accomplish this he personally sent thousands of his pupils or 'Shluchim' throughout the world to do the job and Rabbi Bryski is one of them,
He gave a good example of how G-d helps Shluchim to do their job and told the following story.
One of the holiest holidays in Judaism is the two day holiday of Rosh HaShanna (Jewish New Year). Jews spend much time in Synagogue asking G-d to make the world into a good, blessed, happy place and the peak of the holiday is when the Ram's Horn (called a Shofar) is sounded.
This commandment of 'Blowing the Shofar' is perhaps the most 'Jewish' commandment in the Bible. There are many heart- rending stories of Jews risking their lives throughout the generations to perform this commandment; smuggling shofars into concentration camps etc.
On Rabbi Bryski's first Rosh HaShanna in his then brand-new Chabad House in California some fifty people attended services. He was overjoyed with the success and happily announced that after the meal and afternoon services, anyone that wanted could accompany him in the ritual of 'Tashlich' (which consists of walking to the nearest river or lake and saying a short prayer).
About half of his new congregation agreed to go with him, some from nostalgia (perhaps they remembered grandpa doing it) others from curiosity and several hours later they met at the Rabbi's house and set off.
It was about an hour's walk but it was a pleasant day and half way there one of the group claimed he knew of a 'shortcut' they could take through a housing development.
It ended up not being a shortcut at all and as they were trying to find their way out they noticed an old woman on crutches standing in the street waving and saying something to them.
As they approached her feeble voice became audible. "Ahhh! Thank G-d!! Thank G-d!! You are a miracle!! Just what I prayed for!! Boruch HaShem (Hebrew for Thank G-d)."
They all greeted here with a happy holiday and she related that she had just undergone an operation on her legs and it was the first Rosh HaShanna in her life that she had been unable to walk to Synagogue to hear the blowing of the Shofar. So she prayed to G-d for a miracle and ….. "Here you are!! G-d sent me a Rabbi so I could hear Shofar!
But Rabbi Bryski didn't have a shofar! He didn't think he would need it and …. He had left it in the synagogue!!
He began to feel bad. He should have thought of this! What type of 'Shliach' was he?! Emissaries of the Rebbe all over the world take to the streets with Shofars on Rosh HaShanna and give hundred's of thousands of Jews a chance to hear the G-dly sound. And he …. Forgot!
But what could he do? It was too late to walk back to get a Shofar in time to do the commandment (which is only done in the day). He wouldn't make it.
So he apologized profusely, gave the woman all sorts of blessings; for a speedy recovery, for a good, happy, healthy new year, for much good news etc. etc. and explained that really she is exempt from the commandment anyway because it's impossible for her to attend services etc. etc.
The woman understood, blessed the Rabbi in return and they bade each other a happy new year and parted ways.
But Rabbi Bryski felt really bad. He had failed! It was like a soldier forgetting his gun! He had to make it up.
The next day after morning services instead of going home to eat the holiday meal he told his wife what he had to do, took a Shofar and went back to the housing project to find the woman.
It wasn't easy. He didn't know her name, he forgot to ask her, and it was the first day she had been out of the house since her operation so saying she was on crutches wasn't much of an identifying sign but after almost an hour of asking and searching he was directed to her door.
But he was in for a very unpleasant surprise.
An old man with a scowling face opened the door, took one look at him and almost yelled "Whad-ya-want!"
"Hi! Happy Rosh HaShanna!" the Rabbi said, forcing a smile. "I'm Rabbi Bryski and I met your wife on the street yesterday. She's on crutches, right?"
"WHADAYAWANT!" the old man yelled.
"Well" The Rabbi answered timidly pulling out the small ram's horn from his pocket. "I just wanted to sound the Shofar for ….. "
"Go home!!" He mumbled and slammed the door in the Rabbi's face!
Rabbi Bryski couldn't understand what happened but with no alternative he hung his head and turned around to leave. He had failed again!
Suddenly he heard a window slide open and a old woman's voice creaked. "Rabbi! Ohhh! Am I glad to see you!! Did you come to blow the Shofar for me?"
The Rabbi walked to the window and almost whispered.
"Yes… but someone, I think it was your husband, just told me to leave! He even slammed the door in my face. Maybe I should just…"
"Ahhh! That's my husband Max. I'll talk to him. Just don't go away. Max is angry but I'll talk to him."
Sure enough, a minute or two later the door opened and Rabbi Bryski entered. He tried to be as pleasant as possible to Max, who was standing there looking to a side. As soon as the Rabbi was completely in Max just went into the kitchen and closed the door.
The Rabbi took out his shofar, the woman covered her head, said the blessings and the ancient sounds of the Ram's horn filled the room.
The old woman dried her eyes, thanked him profusely and explained.
"Listen Rabbi, please don't be angry with my husband. He's very mad at you religious people and, well, I don't know but maybe he's right. You see, we have a son. A handsome boy, brilliant! He's the apple of our eye! Max is crazy about him. But a year ago our son got religious.
"That's right, he started getting really serious about being Jewish and…. Well…. now he won't even come to eat by us! He says we aren't kosher for him and now we never see him anymore. We tried to talk to him, to his friends, to his Rabbis but they don't want to talk. So Max got really mad. That's why he didn't let you in!"
Rabbi Bryski got a brainstorm. He asked the woman to call her husband out. Max came out of the kitchen and the Rabbi asked him,
"Listen, if your son brings his own dishes and his own food and eats with you… is that okay?" Max shook his head yes. "Listen, Max. I promise that tonight immediately after the holiday I'll talk to your son and convince him to come here. What do you say?"
Max was happy. He almost cried as he pumped the Rabbi's hand in gratitude.
"Now" Rabbi Bryski said "I'll blow the shofar for you too, good?"
Max thought a few seconds, pulled his car keys out of his pocket and said. "Listen Rabbi, I got a brother that lives a few blocks down the street. He didn't hear Shofar either. Let's go to his house. If you want, you can drive" and tried to hand him the keys.
But the Rabbi explained that it is forbidden to drive a car on the Jewish holidays, convinced Max to walk and twenty minutes later they arrived at his brother's home.
When his brother heard what had happened and how the Rabbi promised to fix things up he excused himself, left the house and returned ten minutes later with some twenty Jewish neighbors none of which had heard the Shofar!
If the Rabbi had 'remembered' his Shofar the day before none of these people would have participated in this wonderful commandment. That year was one of the best Rosh HaShanna's in a lot of people's lives.
This answers our question.
G-d created (and creates constantly) this beautiful, complicated, miraculous world and all the people in it for a purpose; that all mankind realize how good G-d is, how close He is to us and how much He loves and cares for EACH and ALL of His creations.
And this is what the Jews were 'chosen' for; to realize this themselves and to teach it to the world. Or, in the language of 'Chabad' teachings; 'To Elevate the Creation'.
But it isn't so simple; as Jacob in this week's Torah portion and Rabbi Bryski almost 4,000 years later, discovered.
Sometimes the only way to fix the world up is to let G-d take over. And often this takes time.
Indeed… time itself is one of the aspects of creation that must be elevated.
And this is why Jacob's mission took so long. Indeed, because of his patience he gave birth to the twelve Tribes that were to become the nation of Israel.
This is very relevant to us today.
Ours is the generation of Moshiach.
Moshiach will be a Jewish leader exactly like the Lubavitcher Rebbe; he will bring all the Jews back to Judaism and 'elevate' the entire world. Including 'time'.
And the Lubavitcher Rebbe said repeatedly … The 'Time' has arrived! Now even one good deed, word or even thought can tip the scales.
It is up to us to do all we can, or even one thing more, to make the world a better, more holy place and reveal…
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.