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 Eikev (5769)
This week's Torah portion, as part of the book of Deuteronomy, repeats many incidents that were mentioned in the previous books. Two of them are; the breaking of the Tablets (after the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf) and immediately afterward, the death of Aaron, Moses' brother. (10:6)
The Talmud (Yeruhalmi, Yuma 1:1) explains: This teaches us that when a Holy Jew (Tzadik) passes away it is as terrible a tragedy to G-d as the breaking of the Tablets.
At first glance this is not understood. First, there were only one set of tablets and breaking them was a one-time catastrophe for all time whereas Tzadikim die and are born all the time. Secondly, why does it say 'Tragedy to G-d" what does this mean? Finally, Moses broke the Tablets because the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf, but Tzadikim die because they naturally gets old and die! So what is the connection?
To understand this, here is a story (Sichot HaShavoa #1,178).
The city of Mezibuz in the Ukraine was the home of one of the holiest Jews ever to walk the face of the earth; Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem or as he was known, the Baal Shem Tov (Besh't for short).
But not everyone appreciated his holiness. There were many Talmudic scholars who simply assumed that he was a fake and it was forbidden to come close to him but there were others that simply had no time.
Examples of the second type were Rabbi Moshe of Kitzes and his prize pupil Shimon the Masmid (diligent one); they spent every waking moment plumbing the depths of the Talmud and had no time for Mystics or Miracles or anything else - ONLY Torah!
But one night all this changed.
One day, Shimon came across a difficult passage in the Talmud and the more he tried to understand it the deeper an more elusive it became. He asked his teacher Rabbi Moshe for help but it only made things worse; every answer they found brought more questions and every time they seemed to be on the right track, they discovered they were further than ever from the truth.
Then, one Shabbat night, Shimon had a dream. He dreamt that the Baal Shem Tov was sitting before him learning aloud, the same difficult page of Talmud. But he explained it in such a simple and brilliant way that it all made sense!
Shimon woke in a cold sweat; he remembered the explanation! Or did he? He stood up from his bed, washed his hands and repeated it over and over to himself. Afraid that he would forget it, he took up his Gemora (Talmud) opened it to the page and repeated it again and again until the dawn (he would have written it down but on Shabbat it is forbidden to write).
A few hours later he decided to visit the Baal Shem Tov'sSynagogue. He'd never been there before but the dream had confused him. He entered and saw the place filled with some two hundred Jews, many of them simple, unlettered folk. The Besh't was seated before them on a simple chair and as soon as he noticed Shimon he began talking about the Talmud and repeated the same explanation he gave in the dream, finishing with the words: "Sometimes wasting time brings to true fulfillment of the Torah."
Shimon realized the Besh't was sending him a message: learning Torah must be accompanied with connection to a true Tzadik.
But, although he brought the Besh't into his life Shimon still remained the pupil of Rabbi Moshe Kitzes and still wanted to make his own decisions in life.
A short time thereafter a rich Jewish businessman came to the Besh't looking for a match for his daughter, the Besh't contacted Rabbi Moshe of Kitzes who naturally suggested Shimon but on the condition that he would be allowed to learn uninterruptedly for his entire life.
The bride's father agreed, they all met, a wedding was arranged and held a few months later with great pomp and festivity and shortly thereafter Shimon returned to his diligent learning.
Shimon's new wife had every intention of keeping her promise but it wasn't easy. Being of a rich family she was naturally drawn to friends who bragged about their husbands' business acumen and successes until she couldn't take it any longer. She began working on her husband to be like them. Anyone can learn Torah, but business....that's real accomplishment!
At first she threw a hint or two but eventually it was the only thing she talked about. She simply didn't give him a moment of silence until he agreed to take some money her father had given her and go with two servants to the giant Market in Balta to try his hand at making money.
Poor Shimon! He so wanted to learn Torah but now he was wasting his precious time, for nothing!
But it seems that, unknown to him, he was a natural businessman! As soon as he arrived in the bustling, noisy market place he felt at home. He looked around for a few hours, asked for prices, examined different products, purchased a large quantity of some commodity at a low price and sold it for almost twice the amount! He made a fortune in moments!
He gave the profit to the two servants with orders to take it to his wife and tell her that he was going to the grand market in Odessa to make more.
When his wife got the money and the message she was, at first, overjoyed but after she received no word from Shimon for several months, she began to worry. Then, after nothing had been heard for a year her father stepped in. He ordered a scribe to write a 'get' (bill of divorce) and gave it to the two servants with orders to find Shimon, take him to a local Rabbi, have Shimon sign the 'get' in their presence and bring it back at which time they will receive a large reward.
The two trusted servants set off and sure enough, six months later they returned with the bill of divorce signed and sealed by Shimon, and themselves and the famous Rabbi of Kaminitz as witnesses.
It took her a few weeks but his wife, or rather ex-wife, got over it, a month later a new groom was found and the date of the second wedding was set. It wouldn't be like the first wedding with two thousand guests, but there is a saying; "The Second Tablets weren't given with thunder and lighting" but at least it would be a wedding.
But the morning before the wedding Rabbi Moshe of Kitzes got a strange and urgent message; the Baal Shem Tov was waiting in his carriage in front of his house and wanted to see him!
Rabbi Moshe didn't know why, but he agreed. As soon as he entered the Besht's carriage and closed the door he felt as though they were flying through the air and an hour later it stopped. The Besh't opened the door and said "Follow me. We have to move fast!"
A few minutes later they entered a large Synagogue and there sitting with a few young men teaching them Talmud was none other than....Shimon!
"Shimon!" shouted Rabbi Moshe "What are you doing? Why did you divorce your wife?!"
"Divorce?!" Shimon stood and exclaimed. "Why! I didn't. I just felt I had to sit and learn Torah for a while so I found this place and....Divorce!? I just wanted a few months to learn in quiet."
Together they traveled to the Rabbi of Kaminitz, who, when he saw the real Shimon and realized he had been fooled almost fainted. It was then that the Baal Shem Tov understood what had happened. It was all the work of the two servants who had been sent with the 'get'.
After they searched for a few months with no leads or hints they came to the conclusion that Shimon must have been killed somewhere in his wanderings without a trace and, with no way to prove it, they were out of the reward.
So they came up with a simple solution. They found a Jew from another town who was willing, for a price, stand before the Rabbi of Kaminitz, say he was Shimon and sign the bill of divorce!
The Besh't, Rabbi Moshe, Shimon and the Rabbi of Kaminitz made it back to Mezibuz in time to stop the wedding and re-unite Shimon and his wife.
The experience changed everyone.
Shimon's wife learned to let him learn more Torah. Shimon learned to pay more attention to his wife and they all learned to be more connected to the Baal Shem Tov.
This answers our questions. The Rabbis tell us (Avot d'Rav Natan chapt. 2) that the reason Moses broke the Tablets is because the 'Holiness' departed from the letters and they became to heavy to hold.
This is also what happens when a Tzadik (holy Jew) passes away from the world.
The purpose of the Jews is to reveal the Creator in His creation i.e. to make the world 'lighter'. Like the Baal Shem Tov did in our story. Therefore when a Tzadik passes away it makes the world a bit 'heavier' and more meaningless; just like what happened to the Tablets.
That is why the death of Tzadikim is difficult for 'G-d'; because G-d created the world for a reason; in order that the Jews should reveal that 'nature' is really 'above nature'. (Ideally, man was created to never die (Gen. 2:17))
Therefore when the opposite happens, namely, when nature is dominant and Tzadikim die, G-d is 'sad' (See Gen. 6:6).
What we can learn from this is, we must be connected to true Tzadikim; to learn the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (visit your local Chabad House for details) and transform our own personal 'natures' to G-dliness.
Even one more deed, word or thought. Can change the entire world to holiness and bring…
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.