This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Noach (5770)
This week's Torah portion tells the story of a man in a box that saved the world.
G-d made a flood to destroy all the creations because they perverted their 'ways' but put Noach and family in a floating Ark-box for about a year to raise them above the flood and eventually re-start the world.
At first glance this is totally not understood. If G-d wanted to kill everyone why didn't He just do it quietly when they were asleep and leave Noach and family over? Then Noach could re-start the world immediately and wouldn't need the ark? Why a flood? What type of a punishment is that? And why an ark?
To understand this, here is a story I read from my friend Dr. Dovid Shalom Pape
In 1992 an 85 year old woman dressed elegantly and looking youthful and energetic with a smile on her face, entered the office of Rabbi Jacob Biederman, the Rebbe’s shaliach to Austria.
She introduced herself as Margareta Chayos, a retired opera singer, and the first emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Vienna! “I know you think you are the Rebbe's first one here," she quipped, "but in fact I am! Way before you!”
She sat down and began her amazing story. Before the war her family name had been Hager. Her ancestors had been the great Holy Rebbes of the Vishnitz Chassidim. But because their lifestyle and belief system did not fit the 'spirit of the times' she, like so many other confused Jews in those days, left home, travelled to Vienna, the cultural center of the world, and jumped into 'real life'. She became a successful opera singer.
Margareta performed during the 1930’s in the Salzburger Festspiele (pronounced: Fest Shpile), a prominent festival of music and drama held each summer in the Austrian town of Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
When on 12 March 1938 German troops marched Austria and the Anschluss – the annexation of Austria by Germany – was complete, Nazi ideology took effect. All Jewish artists were banned and the leading Jewish conductors and composers were “deleted.” But miraculously she was overlooked to the point that in the Festspiele of August 1939 she actually performed in two Mozart operas for the devil Hitler himself! (Of course he had no idea he was listening to a Jew) But on September 1st of that year when the German army invaded Poland, the Second World War began and her career in Austria ended.
Gentile friends smuggled her out to Italy and from there she made it on the last boat to the U.S.A. Eventually she settled in Detroit, where she married a Jewish young man (a grandson of one of the famous 19th century Polish Rabbi and Talmudic commentator, the Maharatz Chayos), and they gave birth to a beautiful daughter.
Meanwhile the Germans wiped out her family and murdered her friends. Eventually the war ended, Judaism rebuilt itself in Europe and Margareta Chayos' daughter grew up and married a prominent Jewish doctor. Time passed and as 'fate' would have it, he was one of those being honored at a fundraising dinner for Chabad institutions in New York. Margareta, as his mother-in-law, not only attended, but a private audience was arranged for her with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
“I walked into the Rebbe’s room,” Margareta related to Rabbi Biederman, “I cannot explain why, but suddenly, for the first time since the Holocaust, I felt that I could cry. Like so many others who have lost entire families and communities – I had never cried before. We knew that if we would start crying, we might never stop, or that in order to survive we can’t express our emotions. But at that moment, it was as though the dam obstructing my inner waterfall of tears was removed. I began sobbing like a baby. I shared with the Rebbe my entire story: Innocent childhood; leaving home; becoming a star in Vienna; performing in front of Hitler; escaping to the US; learning of the death of my closest kin and friends.
"The Rebbe listened with his eyes, with his heart, with his soul, and he took it all in. I shared everything and he absorbed everything. That night I felt like I was given a second father. I felt that the Rebbe adopted me as his daughter.
"At the end of our meeting I expressed my strong desire to go back and visit Vienna and the Rebbe requested that before I make the trip, I visit him again.
"So a few months later on my way to Vienna , I again visited the Rebbe. He asked me to do him two favors and visit two people during my stay in the city to give them his regards. The first was Viennese Chief Rabbi Akiva Eisenberg and the second was a certain Jewish professor at the University of Vienna. The Rebbe spoke in German, so I would understand.
“'His name is Dr. Frankl. Send him my regards and tell him in my name that he should not give up. He must remain strong and continue his work with vigor and passion. If he continues to remain strong, he will prevail'. And he spoke for a while in this vein.
"This was totally strange to me. Who was this Doctor and why was the Rebbe sending him this message through me? I did not have an answer to any of these questions, but I obeyed.”
"Once in Vienna, finding Rabbi Eisenberg was simple, but meeting the professor proved far more difficult. When I arrived at the University they informed me that he had not shown up in two weeks and refused to give more details. I tried a few more times and almost gave up.
"But feeling guilty at not having fulfilled the Rebbe’s request, I decided to violate Austrian protocol; look up the professor’s private home address, travel there and knock at the door.
"A woman opened the door and I saw behind her a room filled with crosses, It was obvious that this must be a mistake; this can’t be the home of the person whom the Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted me to encourage but nevertheless I asked if the professor is at home.”
“Yes, please wait."
"Moments later a middle aged man came to the door, He was extremely tense, and frankly looked quite uninterested. I felt very awkward.”
“I have regards from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn , New York ,” I told him.
"Who is this?" he asked impatiently.
“Rabbi Schneerson asked me to tell you in his name that you must not give up. You ought to remain strong and continue your work with unflinching determination and you will prevail. Do not fall into despair. If you march on with confidence, he promised that you will achieve great success.”
"The professor changed. He looked at me like he had seen a ghost, his eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped in disblelief. After a minute of this his body began to shake, he put his face in his hands and broke down sobbing like a baby. He could not calm down. I did not understand what was going on. I just saw him weeping uncontrollably.
“I cannot believe this!” Dr. Frankl said repeatedly as he motioned for me to enter. After we sat down and he calmed down a bit he dried his eyes and said, “This Rabbi from Brooklyn knew exactly when to send you here. It is a true miracle! You have saved me!” He began crying again and could not thank me enough. I don't know what effected him so deeply. This allhappened some forty years ago, so you see Rabbi Biederman," she said with a smile, "I was an emissary of the Rebbe to Vienna many years before you arrived here.”
Rabbi Biederman thanked her but was intrigued. What really was behind this story.
After she left he began investigating and discovered that Victor Frankl was still alive, he was 87 years of age (he passed away in 1997, five years later) and was even quite well known. In fact he was a regular donor to the Chabad House in Vienna!.
Biederman recalls, "I phoned him, introduced myself and asked him if he remembered the regards Margarete Chajes gave him from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn some forty years ago?”
“'I don't remember the name Margarate Chajes, but of course I remember that day! I will never forget it. My gratitude to Rabbi Schneerson is eternal.' He answered emotionally.
"I invited myself to his house and he told me the rest of the story,
"He told me that as a young man in Vienna he excelled in the study of neurology and psychiatry and in the early twenties became part of the inner circle of the famous Dr. Sigmund Freud, the "Father of Psychoanalysis".
"But when the Nazis took over, everything turned over; he and his family were sent to concentration camps where his parents, his pregnant wife and everyone else dear to him was killed. But despite it all he did not lose his positive spirit. And that was his problem!
"Already before the war, and even more so during his three years in the Nazi death camps, he had developed ideas which were contrary to the domiating, negative theories of Freud and his followers.
"Freud believed that humans are vulnerable, selfish animals governed by past, subcounscious frustrations and haunted by neruoses, complexes and psychoses. The sole purpose of therapy, according to him, was fredom from these problems and no more. "But Frankl taught that the essense of man is the 'capacity for self-transcendence' – wholesome and deeply spiritual, never defined by life’s circumstances and limitations, but rather responsible to reform them by defining their meaning and message.
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
"But in the universties of the 40’s and 50’s Freud's ideas reigned supreme and Frankl's were dismissed as fanatic religiosity, raising up old, unscientific notions of conscience, faith and obligation. It was unpopular for students to attend his courses.
“'Rabiner Biederman!” Frankl exclaimed. ' I survived the German death camps and retained my spirit there but I could not survive the merciless derision and taunting of my colleagues undermining my every attempt at progress. Finally, after years of it, I was drained, exhausted and depressed. I fell into a melancholy and decided to quit. I had no friends, no supporters, no pupils. I began drafting my resignation papers.
"'And then suddenly, in walks a woman and gives me regards, from a Rabbi Schneerson from Brooklyn, New York! Hope! Inspiration! I could not believe my ears. Somebody in Brooklyn, no less a Chassidic Rebbe, knew about me! Appreciated me! He knew my predicament! He cared. At that time I was a nobody, rejected and alone! This was a miracle! How did he do these things?
“'Indeed,” Frankl continued, “his words came true. I fought! And shortly thereafter, I was given a Chair at the University. My book 'Man's Search for Meaning' was translated into English and suddenly I became one of the most celebrated psychiatrists of the generation.
Finally Frankl added: “A number of years ago Chabad established itself here in Vienna. I became a supporter.”
At last, Rabbi Biederman understood why he was getting a check in the mail before each Yom Kippur.
Frankl's book became a milestone turning point that totally changed moden thought and put psychology and 'self-improvement' on the positive path that it is on today.
He went on to write 32 books which were translated into 30 languages. He became a guest lecturer at 209 universities on all five continents, held 29 honorary doctorates from universities around the world (more than any other man) and received 19 national and international awards and medals for his work and his book “Man's Search for Meaning” sold some ten million copies and became listed by the Library of Congress as one of the most influential books of the century!.
And all this would not have happened were it not for the prophetic vision, genius, and unending love of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
But the story is not over.
In 2003, Dr. Shimon Cown, a Lubavitcher Chassid from Australia, who is also an expert on Frankl, went to visit his non-Jewish widow (in 1947 Frankl married his second wife, a very devout Catholic, Eleonore Katharina Schwindt) in Vienna.
They spoke for hours and at one point she took out a pair of tefilin and tzitzis and showed it to him. “My late husband would put these on each and every day,” she said to him. "He never missed a day!
"When asked in interviews whether he believed in G-d, he would usually not give a direct answer. But a day of tefilin he would not miss!"
It seems the Rebbe elevated the professor in more ways than one.
This answers our questions. The flood and ark are necessary for true change. The flood waters are the confusions and difficulties of life that rid us of our false conceptions and egos and force us to realize that in order to survive we must raise ourselves above our present state and enter an 'ark'.
This is the message of the Lubavitcher Rebbe as he expressed it to Dr. Frankl: don't let ANY situation get you down, rather rise above and fix it. Enter the 'ark' of truth and make a new world.
But the Rebbe also knew that this idea would be much more acceptable to the public coming from a science professor than from a Rabbi like himself. And that was the purpose of the flood.
Just as G-d purified the negative world with the flood so the flood of difficultes Dr. Frankl experienced in his life purified him and the negative views of science that prevailed. Through Dr. Frankl science ITSELF announced that we must raise above and transform nature!
In books of Kabala it says that in the Ark reigned the spirit of Moshiach: total peace, security and awareness of G-d. Noach was beginning a new world in which he hoped all mankind would participate (therefore the Torah plan for gentiles is called the NOAHIDE commandments). So also, somewhat later, Abraham; the spiritual father of all nations, rose above the masses to bring the message of G-d's goodness and omnipresence.
And today it is being done by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and those like him (including Dr. Frankl); informing us that WE can do it!!
It's up to us to enter the ark and do all we can, even one good deed, word or thought, to change the world and bring....
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