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Parshat Re'eh (5769)

This week's Torah portion contains fifty four commandments and one of them is one of the most important in the Torah; to go to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem three times a year at each of the three major holidays and bring sacrifices.

The Holy Temple expressed the essence of Judaism. In it was revealed the Creator of the Universe; the G-d of the Jews. Therefore the goal of the true Jewish Messiah will be to build the Temple and reveal G-d; the source of all being, life, joy, meaning and blessing, there again.

But at first glance this is not understood.

First; why did they have to bring sacrifices? What has this got to do with the Creator and joy?

Second; how can the infinite Creator be revealed in a finite Temple?

Third: Now we have no Temple and no sacrifices, what does this mean to us today.

To understand this, here is a story I just heard from a dear friend Rabbi Y.Y. Gurevitz which he heard some twenty five years ago from the man it happened to.

Mr. Alkebetz was a direct descendent of the holy, gifted Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz of over four hundred years ago who wrote the beautiful and mysterious poem 'Lecha Dodi' found in every 'Siddur' beginning the Shabbat evening prayers.

But a lot had changed in those four hundred years and now, except for the name, Mr. Alkebetz bore little similarity to his ancestor.

Shlomo Alkebetz had been totally devoted to the Creator and His Torah while our hero had no time for such impracticalities. He was a bank manager, one of the best in Israel perhaps in the world and, except for a vague occasional emotion, he and his wife had no visible connection to Judaism.

The change came when he got a golden opportunity to travel to New York for three months to assume the management of a bank (I think it was Bank HaPoalim) in Manhattan with an option to stay if he liked it.

The pay was good, the accommodations were excellent, the opportunity was fantastic. His wife encouraged him to try it out and off he went.

But, although he succeeded in his mission and put the bank back on its feet, after two months he decided that New York was not for him. He talked it over with his wife and they both decided that he would return to Israel.

So three weeks before his return date he began to prepare for the return in true Israeli fashion; to load up on electrical appliances which used to be half the Israeli price! Buy! Buy! But where?

Being a practical man he decided to both save time and aggravation by going to the Israeli consulate in New York and get direction to the cheapest and most dependable place to buy. They told him, what he wanted was in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn.

Some two hours later Mr. Alkebetz had found the store and was almost finished with his purchases; mix-masters, toasters, wireless phones, cameras; gifts for his house, his wife, friends etc.

Then, as he was paying he looked around and noticed several pictures of the Lubavitcher Rebbe hanging on the walls. He had seen the Rebbe's picture before in the Israeli newspapers; almost every day there was a small picture that someone must have put there but he knew nothing about the man. His curiosity was aroused.

So he asked the salesman if the Lubavitcher Rebbe was nearby and the reply was; just walk out the front door take a right, walk for five minutes, take a left and you are at the Chabad World Headquarters; and the Rebbe is inside that building!

Alkebetz couldn't believe his ears. So close? Something told him to do it. He asked if he could leave his packages while he went to have a look and five minutes later he was entering the large building at 770 Eastern Parkway. People were friendly, especially the Yeshiva boys. They explained a bit about what was going on and told him that the Rebbe would be coming out of his room in a few minutes to pray the afternoon prayer (mincha) and if he waited he would see him.

They gave him a prayer book (siddur) which he looked at for a few minutes until suddenly a door knob turned, everyone became silent the Rebbe's door opened and he came out.

Alkebetz was instantly transformed. Suddenly he saw majesty, wisdom, power, blessing all in one. He said to himself 'to this man belongs everything I have' and decided right then and there to give him the most precious thing he had; a Megilla (Scroll read on Purim) written by his ancestor Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz that was so dear to him he took with him to New York.

But how to do it? He asked around till someone suggested he find the Rebbe's secretary Rabbi Groner. He located him, introduced himself, told him what he wanted to do and Rabbi Groner told him to write the Rebbe a letter and ask him if it was a good idea.

Often replies took months but surprisingly fifteen minutes later an answer come out. The Rebbe thanked him for the offer but gave three reasons why he could not accept the scroll. First, one who rejects gifts lives longer. Second, one should never give away an inheritance. Finally, it would be fine if he just gave him a photocopy of the Megilla.

Mr. Alkebetz went to the nearby Chabad Library to make the copies and there had a chance to ask a lot of question and get a lot of explanations. He had a hundred questions. He knew very little about Judaism and nothing what so ever about the Rebbe. But, for some reason, it didn't surprise him that the Rebbe had such an effect on him.

A few days later Alkebetz heard a knock on his hotel room door and opened it to a pleasant surprise; his wife! She took a week off of her job, got permission from his bank, and decided to join him and see New York together.

It didn't take long for her to hear about her husband's impression from the Rebbe. He simply could talk about nothing else. At first she tried to calm him down and finally she decided that she wanted to judge for herself. She never saw her husband like this; he had always been so logical and practical. They would begin their tour at 770.

Mr. Alkebetz called Rabbi Groner and the next day he and his wife were crowded together with another hundred people (women on one side of the room, men on the other), waiting for the Rebbe to leave the small synagogue where he prayed with some one hundred of his Chassidim.

The knob turned, the door opened and the Rebbe exited. Mrs. Alkebetz wasn't expecting it but as he passed her she suddenly burst out crying; weeping like a baby! When her husband heard it he also began sobbing as well.

The Rebbe stopped for a moment, looked at both of them bawling uncontrollably, then at his secretary Rabbi Groner and shrugged his shoulders in wonder. Rabbi Groner explained that this was Mr. Alkebetz, the manager of the Bank HaPoalim, together with his wife, who wanted to give the Rebbe his Megilla. The Rebbe looked at them, smiled, nodded slightly wished them good news and continued to his room.

Mr. Alkebetz later said that when they left the Rebbe's headquarters he looked at his wife and asked her what happened? She had been a non-religious, normal person that had no love for the orthodox and especially not their Rabbis. What made her burst out crying?! She answered. "I don't know what happened but looking at the Rebbe made me feel like someone who saw his father for the first time in thirty years!"

Then, a few minutes later as they were in the taxi back to the hotel she turned to him and said. "Listen, I don't know what happened there by the Rebbe, but one thing for sure; our lives from now on can't be the same as before."

At that moment they both decided to keep Shabbat, eat only kosher food and a third thing that Rabbi Gurevitz (the one telling me the story) couldn't remember.

One second transformed their lives.

This answers our questions.

The idea behind the 'sacrifices' is that G-d wants us to be partners with Him. That we have to also do our part. Indeed, the word for sacrifice (Korbon) is similar to the word for coming close (Korov). As we saw in our story; the Alkebetzes decided to be 'active' Jews.

This is how G-d could be revealed in a 'Temple' (which was our second question). G-d set up the world in such a way that He 'reacts' and 'comes close' to our limited physical deeds, and the best example of this was the Temple. Something like what the couple in our story saw in the Rebbe; an infinite revelation in a limited place.

And that is what the commandment of going to the Temple means to us today. True we have no Temple but each of us has an obligation to make OURSELVES into a Holy Temple as the heroes of our story realized when they saw the Rebbe.

And all this is a preparation for Moshiach who will teach all the Jews Torah and inspire them to 'come close' to the Creator. Then, with this positive energy, he will build the Third Temple, gather all the Jews to Jerusalem and finally fill the world with peace and blessing.

It's up to us to do even ONE more good deed and bring the building of the Third Temple and...

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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