This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Devarim (5769)
This Shabbat we read the first Torah Portion in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). This fifth and last book of the Five Books of Moses is different than the previous four; it is G-d's directions to a generation that was about to enter the Land of Israel and, for the most part, had not experienced the 'Face to Face' (Deut. 5:4) revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai; they were LOWER than the previous generation.
This Shabbat also falls in the 'Nine days of Mourning' and precedes the saddest day in the Jewish calendar; Tisha B'Av - the Ninth day of the Month of Av when both the First and Second Holy Temples were destroyed some 2,500 and 2,000 years ago.
But because it is forbidden to mourn on Shabbat we must demonstrate on this Shabbat (Shabbat Chazon) that we are happy. It seems that Shabbat Chazon is the highest and happiest Shabbat of the year and holds the opposite message from this week's Torah portion when the Jews were at their lowest.
To understand this, here is a story. (HaGeula weekly page #467)
The year was 1990 somewhere in the north of Israel. Ariel Chadad, a middle aged, hard working Jew heard the bell ring in his electronic appliance store. Customers! He put down the newspaper he was reading and looked up to see seven, well dressed men enter together.
But for some reason it didn't look good. 'Can't be a stickup' he thought to himself, 'it's the middle of the afternoon!' But they didn't look like customers.
He tried to force a smile and asked them if he could help but they just stood there, straight as statues and one of them presented him with a small calling card upon which was written; "Income Tax" and said, "Your business has been randomly chosen to undergo inspection. Your books please. We want to see all your books".
Ariel's smile faded, he scanned their faces to see if it was a joke. It wasn't. They closed the store, cleared off a few tables, opened the books he brought and went to work. He knew it was going to be bad; no one ever came out of such investigations clean. But he had no idea how bad.
Several hours later they closed the books, gathered all their papers, put the books in a large cardboard box, sealed it, took it outside to one of their cars and solemnly presented him with an official piece of paper with all sorts of headings and seals on it.
He owed the government THREE MILLION Shekels!
He sat down, opened his shirt collar and counted the zeros. There were six of them all right. First a three with a comma after it, then three zeros with another comma after them and then three more zeros. Three million!!
"Three million??" he almost whispered. "There must be some mistake." He looked up at the officials, but they were already heading out the door. One of them turned to him and said. "If you want to clarify anything there's a phone number on the card or one of the numbers on the paper. Have a good day!"
He wiped his forehead and called an accountant and a lawyer. The next few weeks were a nightmare chain of frustrating meetings, desperate telephone calls, pleas for mercy and.....disappointments.
It was hard but it was reality. In the twenty years that he owned his store he had done his own accounting and it seems he had missed a lot of important details. He never dreamed his little store was important enough for an investigation. But after all it was no mistake; after reckoning the mistakes, fines, penalties and compound interest there was no way that even a penny could be deducted. He owed the government three million.
He was finished for LIFE!! Even if he sold his business, house and spread the remainder of the debt over the next hundred years he would never be able to pay it off! And he had a family to support!
But then, precisely when things looked helpless a faint ray of light shone through the darkness.
Ariel kept his store open. It at least kept him occupied; it took his mind off his troubles a few hours of the day and kept him from going insane. And it paid off! One day, one of his customers, a religious Jew, happened to notice the miserable look on his face and asked what was wrong. When he heard the reply he told him not to worry. There was a solution. In another month he and a group of other Jews were going to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe on a subsidized charter flight that had been arranged by Rabbi Tzitlin from Tzfat. Chadad had heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe before but he never took the name too seriously. Until now.
He got the phone number, called, asked to be included, was told that the list was closed, begged to be included, called friends to influence Rabbi Tzitlin, prayed and a week later got his wish; a few places opened up and he was IN!!
The trip was just what he needed. Not only did it take his mind off his troubles, it awakened some part of him that he never knew existed; his Jewish soul. The prayers, the Chassidim, the Torah learning, the Farbrengans (Chassidic get-togethers) with the Chassidim and the massive ones with the Rebbe put him in another world.
But every once in awhile the number popped up before him; 3,000,000! He would go to prison! And he COULDN'T pay!!
He asked Rabbi Tzitlin what to do and was told not to worry. Every Sunday the Rebbe gave dollar bills to thousands of people to encourage the giving of charity (each recipient was to give at least its equivalent to the needy) and with each dollar he also gave advice and blessings.
Sunday arrived. Thousands were standing in line ahead of him and thousands more behind him; all sorts of Jews in all sorts of garb and hairstyle. As he got closer to the Rebbe he saw that each person got to stand still not more than a second or two; long enough to get the dollar and hear a short blessing, before being pushed on by the Rebbe's secretaries.
But for some reason when his turn came they didn't push him. They let him talk. "Rebbe!" he almost cried "I owe three million in taxes on my business and can't pay!"
The Rebbe took two dollar bills, handed them to him and said. "Here is one for your old company, and here is one for your new one;
Blessing and success!"
Ariel Chadad suddenly found himself outside totally confused. 'What type of blessing what that?' he said to himself. "What did the Rebbe mean? Did he understand what I said? What old company? What new one? Why didn't he talk about my debts?!"
A week later he returned to Israel an empty man. His old world was destroyed and his only hope for a new one was also destroyed. He had nowhere to run, nowhere to turn but the Rebbe's blessing, although he didn't understand a word, somehow spelled hope, he had no idea how, but some new type of hope.
A week later his phone rang, on the other end was one of the stone-hearted officials whose voice he recognized all too well. He had spoken to this man tens of times, begging, pleading, trying to be calm with no success. Now the official was calling him.
"Chadad? Listen. You have to come down to the office now! Do you hear? Come down now! You just won the lottery!! Hear me
Chadad? This has never happened before!"
"Lottery?" he replied. "What lottery? What are you talking about? I didn't buy any lottery ticket? Who is this? Is this a joke?"
"No!" the voice on the other end said. "It's for real! Listen! The head of the entire department had a look at your case and decided to drop two million, eight hundred and fifty thousands shekels from your debt! You only owe one hundred and fifty thousand! You hear me Chadad?!"
He was shocked. Two million....gone!? But as overjoyed as he should have been, he wasn't. The fact is that the remainder; one hundred and fifty thousand shekel was also an impossible amount for him to pay.
But the Rebbe's blessing had only begun to work; in the next few weeks the officials found ways to cut away an additional sixty thousand and spread the remaining ninety thousand over the course of several years.
The Rebbe's first dollar did its job.
A few months later he got an offer from a good friend to open a hardware store together. He sold his 'old' place and used the money to open it up and immediately succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. This was the new company the Rebbe was talking about.
But the main profit was not the money. It was the soul awakening that accompanied the dollars. Ariel Chadan became one of the thousands that realized that success and money is not the goal of life but rather a means to the goal.
The goal is to be interested in the same thing as the Rebbe; to make the world a perfect place.
This answers our questions.
Really this week's Torah portion where the Jews are on a low level and this week's Shabbat which is a high level have the same point.
As we saw in our story, it is precisely by being 'helpless' and 'low' that we leave our selfish, limited world and begin living in The Creator's world where there are no limitations, no selfishness and no suffering.
Only then can we want what the Rebbe wants and transform all these days of sadness and mourning to joy and blessing by doing even one more deed to bring....
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