This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Va'etchanan (5769)
This week's Torah portion contains 12 commandments. One of them is saying 'Shma Yisrael', another is to believe that G-d is 'one', and another is to love G-d with all your heart, soul and might.
At first glance this is not understood. How can we be commanded to love? It's possible to command someone to do, say or even think something, but how can one be commanded to have a personal emotion?
For instance, if someone is invited to a game of golf by their golf-loving boss they can PRETEND to love it; smile, act, talk and even think like they love it but, if they don't love it, they hate every boring moment.
So it make no sense to command us to love an abstract entity as G-d (who many people say does not even exist!).
To understand this… here are three stories.
1)A man once came into the office of a great Rabbi and declared; 'I do not believe in G-d! And I don't believe you can prove it to me! But I challenge you to try!"
The Rabbi took up the challenge but asked him to first explain the reasons he doesn't believe. This was exactly what the challenger was waiting for and began pouring out all his frustrations: 'No one has ever perceived G-d, the stories of the Bible are all invented, the world created itself, there is no order, no plan, no good, no purpose, no reward, no punishment, no miracles, no soul etc.'
The Rabbi listened patiently and when the man was finished, shook his head in agreement and said 'You know what? You're right!'
The man was shocked; ehh? The Rabbi just gave up!? He actually convinced him that Judaism is wrong!?! and his entire life is down the drain?!
"I'm right?" He said in amazement. You mean you're just going to drop all your faith? I thought you believe that millions of Jews gave their lives for G-d … you mean to tell me I just convinced you that Abraham and Moses and all those saints were wrong??!"
"Oh certainly not! G-d forbid!! The Rabbi explained; "What I meant is that if I was as ignorant as you and defined G-d like you do, I wouldn't believe in Him either! That is why I learn the Torah and Chassidut… so I won't think like you."
2) Once the fifth Rebbe of Chabad; Rebbe Shalom Dovber was in a museum where there were many beautiful, large paintings.
There were several other people standing and admiring three of them so the Rebbe approached and afterward related to his Chassidim (followers) what he saw.
"The first picture was a large fresco depicting an awesome and frightening battle scene. There were thousands of soldiers engaged in mortal combat and hundreds of wounded and dead strewn about, many missing limbs or bleeding profusely, which gave a frightening feeling.
The second picture was a large pastoral landscape of a huge wheat field, glimmering in the summer sun, stretching as far as the eye can see. This picture drew remarks of admiration from the spectators who praised the preciseness and depth of the work. But a simple farmer that happened to be standing there pointed out that there was a telling flaw; on one of the stalks of wheat, the artist drew a small bird whose weight should have bent the stalk slightly… but it didn't. The stalk stood straight and, although it was beautiful, was not accurate.
The third picture was a courtroom scene depicting the last moments of a trial involving capital punishment.
The prosecutor was speaking, hand majestically raised in his final speech while a young boy, obviously the son of the accused, was entering the courtroom to plead for his father's life. The artist had expertly depicted on the face of the accused both deep fear from death and deep pleasure and relief at seeing his son trying to save his life.
The Rebbe explained: The first picture represents the terrible and often frightening internal soul-battle that each of us must fight against our own selfish and destructive impulses.
The picture of the wheat field teaches that it's possible for a person to be beautiful, impressive and successful but if he refuses to bend his will to that of the Creator he will be missing truth. Sometimes we must be willing to bend our ego.
And the last 'courtroom' picture teaches that just one good deed can tilt the value and worth of one's entire life; just as the small boy aroused deep and true pleasure in his father's eyes.
3) The last story is that of Shamil; a fearless and clever leader of the Georgian freedom fighters hundreds of years ago in their, (as now), attempt at independence from Russia.
Somehow the Russian generals convinced the Georgian forces that they were willing to give them what they wanted. But when Shamil came to the peace table the Russians captured and imprisoned him for life.
The story goes that every day he would find a way to pull himself up to a small window high in the wall of his cell, gaze out longingly at the mountains where he once ran free and sing a song of yearning and hope from the depth of his broken heart for freedom.
This song somehow got publicized and the Chabad Chassisim adopted it as one of their own. Indeed the final Lubavitcher Rebbe liked it so much that he even explained it. He explained that it is a song sung by the Jewish soul after 'descending' from heaven where it was 'free' and aware of the Creator, to be 'imprisoned' in the body and it's selfish, confusing urges. The soul yearns for the truth.
These three stories answer our question; how can we be commanded to love G-d?
The first story about the Rabbi saying 'You're right' shows that if we want to actually 'love' G-d we have to change our perspectives, think differently and learn a lot of Chassidut. (see your local Chabad House for explanation).
The second one (three paintings) teaches that to love to G-d we must 1) fight our natural impulses 2) bend ourselves and be humble 3) remember that even one simple good deed can tip the scale.
And finally, the story about Shamil shows that loving G-d is a natural aspect of the Jewish soul. In other words each of us already HAS a love and awareness of how good G-d is. We just have to reveal it.
All this is rolled into the Commandment of saying "Shma Yisroel….. G-d is ONE".
The word 'Shma' means to think deeply.
In other words; when we 'think deeply' that G-d is ONE; namely that He alone creates, provides for and enlivens all being constantly, we will come to "Love Him with all our heart, soul and might".
This, as Rashi explains (Deut 6:4) will bring Moshiach who will educate the entire world so that not just we will love the Creator (G-d is OUR G-d) but the entire world; all mankind will come to love Him (G-d is ONE).
As the prophets Zephaniah (3:9) and Zechariah (14:9) said.
But it all depends on us to do just ONE more good deed and bring...
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