This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shemot (5769)
This week we begin the second book of the Pentateuch; the book of Exodus (Shmot) where we are introduced to three concepts found only in Judaism: Exile, Redemption and most important....Moses.
Other religions or nations may make similar claims but never in history has an entire nation been enslaved or freed or had a leader even vaguely similar to Moses.
Moses brought millions from slavery, provided their sustenance and protection for 40 years in the desert, brought them revelation of the Creator at Mount Sinai and every letter he spoke was exactly the word of G-d.
But at first glance this is not understood.
It is known that the Torah is eternal and every word and idea is vital and relevant. But here seems to be an exception.
Today there is no slavery: Jews are free, living wherever and however they want with no apparent need for redemption and certainly not for a Moses.
So what do these ideas mean to us today?
To understand this, here is a story about the first Rebbe of the Chabad Chassidim, Rebbe Shneur Zalman. (Otzar Sipuri Chabad vol. 15 pg. 59) (Who passed away on 24th of Teves, which will be next week, 196 years ago)
One of the greatest humans that ever lived was Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi; the first Rebbe of the Chabad Chassidim. He was expert in all sciences, had memorized all the books of Judaism including the Kaballa and was a known healer and miracle worker.
One day a desperate looking man came knocking at the Rebbe's door and was granted an audience. He had to wait for a day or two but finally entered and poured out his aching heart. He had no children. He and his wife had been to the greatest experts but nothing worked and now he needed the Rebbe's blessing.
The Rebbe put his head down on his hands that were on the desk before him and after a minute looked up and said 'If you are willing to have a son that is blind I can help you.'
The man closed his eyes, thought for only seconds and agreed.
Sure enough shortly thereafter his wife became pregnant and that very year was born a beautiful, intelligent, healthy child but… as the Rebbe had warned… completely blind.
Of course he returned to the Rebbe to thank him but several years later he returned again with a worried look on his face.
"I know that I agreed to have a son that couldn't see but, Rebbe, after all, if you could do such a great miracle as convince G-d to give us a child with a soul and an entire, complicated body surely you can convince the Almighty to just give him two eyes."
The Rebbe reminded him that this was the condition and that nothing could be done but the poor fellow insisted. He very politely but stubbornly insisted that the Rebbe could, should and must do another miracle.
The Rebbe refused repeatedly but after the fellow broke down weeping the Rebbe changed his tone and said, "Take your son, go to the city of Metz, look for a road that descends steeply, count seven houses and knock on the door and ask the owner if you can lodge at his house. If he agrees then put your bags down and start wandering the town. Spend as much time as possible wandering the streets till you find someone to help you."
The next day the man packed his and his son's bags and set off for the distant city of Metz. After a journey of several days they arrived, found the house they were looking for, got permission from the owner to stay there and, after putting their suitcases down, began wandering.
One morning as they were about to leave and asked them to sit down for a chat. "I don't mind you staying by my house," he said "Thank G-d, as you see I have plenty of room (the owner was obviously a wealthy man and his house was very large) but tell me, exactly what are you doing here? You've been here for more than a week and people tell me that you just wander the streets. Perhaps I can help?"
The visitor poured out his heart and told him why the Rebbe, Shneur Zalman, sent him.
"All the way to Metz?" The owner said. "Why that's a journey of several days. How could he know what is in Metz? And what could there be here in Metz for you?"
They sat in silence for several minutes, shrugging their shoulders and turning up the palms of their hands in bewilderment.
Finally the owner said. "Listen, I have an idea. My wife and I took an orphan girl into our home that was a distant relative of ours. We brought her up gave her an education and everything. There is also a Yeshiva (Torah Academy) in Metz and every day they would send a boy to eat by us (In those days there were no lunch rooms and pupils would be distributed to private homes for meals). Well it so happened, this was years ago, that the gentile that worked guarding my orchards decided to quit and I offered this boy to take his place, for pay of course.
"Anyway, he took the offer but insisted that he not sleep in our house but rather we make him a small hut where he could live and guard at the same time. So the point of the story is that once, in fact it was the first night he worked here, my wife woke up in the middle of the night and saw fire burning inside his hut. But when I ran out to see what it was, the fire disappeared. And so it happened for several nights until I decided that this young fellow must have special powers. But neither I nor my wife ever mentioned it to anyone
"It wasn't long before we decided to ask him if he was interested in marrying and if so if he would consider our orphan girl. He agreed on the condition that she would agree and that they would not live near us but rather in a concealed place in the woods and that he would bake bread and she would sell it in the market.
"She agreed to all this. They married and moved and since then they seem to be living a happy quiet life. But I'm sure that if you find their house and ask for a blessing you will get it. Probably this is the reason the Rebbe sent you here. And probably he told you to wander around because if the young man saw me escorting you he would certainly not want me to know of his powers. Now I'll tell you where he lives."
The Chassid took his son, found the place, knocked on the door and a young Jewish man that showed no sign of being anything but average answered and invited them in.
As soon as they entered the Chassid looked the young man in the eyes and said, half beseeching half commanding, "The Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shneur Zalman, sent me. I want a blessing for my blind son."
The young man looked with wide, unbelieving eyes and exclaimed almost in anger, "What, you mean to tell me that even here he was able to find me!? Is there no place I can hide from him!?"
Sure enough, the 'young man' was on of the "36 Hidden Tzadikim" found in every generation and somehow the Rebbe knew. He blessed the boy, gave his father advice on how to cure him and in just a short time he was able to see like a normal person.
This explains our questions.
Exile and Exodus are very relevant today; just as the boy in our story was physically blind so today many of us are 'blind' to the Creator. We are plagued by loneliness, fear and depression; totally unaware that really we are never alone; G-d creates, provides for and protects us constantly.
This is called 'exile' (G'ola). Our bodies are free but our souls are trapped in an intangible, meaningless present between an uncertain future and a dead past.
That is why we need Moses. Indeed, the Zohar teaches that in every generation there must be a Moses; a potential Moshiach (Messiah) like the Rebbe in our story, who will bring mankind to its senses and free us from our 'blindness'.
This is called Redemption or 'Geola'.
The last Chabad Rebbe pointed out that this Geula is much closer than we think; it just requires ADDING one letter (Alef) to G'ola.
In other words; one more good deed, word or even thought can transform the entire world.
Hard to believe, but this is how Judaism began, what it is based on and what has been keeping it not just alive but vital for over 3,000 years. Miracles!
And just as G-d took us from Egypt with great miracles for SURE if we listen to the Moses of our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we will see them again!
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