This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Va'eira (5770)
This week we read about the first seven of the ten plagues that decimated Egypt and brought about the Exodus and birth of the Jewish nation.
But at first glance it is totally not understood why there had to be so many plagues. Why couldn't G-d just make one nasty plague; for instance smite the Egyptians with depression and the Jews could leave quietly?
Even more… we see that the plagues didn't work!
After they were over the Egyptians pursued the Jews to the 'Red' Sea and the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf!
So what was the point of making Ten Plagues?
To understand this, here is a story (Tzfat Meron weekly #3)
Rebbe Avraham Yhoshua of Apta (a.k.a the Apta Rebbe) was known for his all-encompassing knowledge of the Torah, his ability to do miracles and his unlimited kindness.
He personally was penniless but he often received large sums of charity that he immediately gave to those who needed it more than himself.
Usually his Chassidim (followers) cared as little about money as he did and only desired knowledge and inspiration from him, but there were occasional exceptions - and one was Reb Chaikel.
Reb Chaikel had an engaged daughter that couldn't get married because of...money. He had promised to provide a dowry and pay for at least half of the wedding expenses but in fact he had… nothing.
"No problem" Answered the Rebbe. "How much do you need?"
Reb Chaikel was ashamed to the bone. Asking the Rebbe for money?! He would rather die! But his wife didn't agree. She wanted him alive! Where else could she get the money to marry off their daughter?
But the Rebbe's answer broke into his thoughts. "How much?" He repeated the Rebbe's question and stammered. "Ehhhh… about .. well… that is… around five hundred gulden (some 50,000 dollars)".
The Rebbe took out a sheet of paper, wrote something on it, took out an envelope, addressed it, put the letter in and said, "Take this to this address in the next city. It's a Chassid of mine that has done very well in business. Just show him this and he'll give you the money. Then come back here and tell me what happened."
Chaikel almost burst out crying from gratitude and he thanked the Rebbe over and over again as he backed out of the room firmly clutching the letter.
The next morning he was on his way and a few hours later was sitting in the rich Chassid's plush dining room watching him read the Rebbe's letter.
"Just wait right here" he said to Chaikel as he handed him back the letter and left the room. Chaikel sat there nervously alone for almost a half an hour until finally his host returned and said, "This is all I can afford right now. Perhaps in a few months I can give some more." Then he mumbled something about debts, investments tied up in new deals, put fifty gulden on the table and shook Chaikel's hand.
"But the Rebbe said five hundred?" Protested Chaikel. "I need…. "
But his host cut him off in the middle of his sentence. "I'm sure this is more than others will give. Why should I get the entire mitzvah? You should ask the Rebbe for other names, more names, so they get some merits too!" This he said as he patted him on the back and escorted him to the front door. "And, oh yes! Mazal Tov on your daughter's wedding! Mazal Tov! Send me an invitation!"
Chaikel returned broken hearted to the Rebbe, could it be that he wasn't worthy for the blessing? Or maybe there was some mistake. He was confused.
But when the Rebbe heard what happened he didn't seem surprised at all. He just took the same letter, put it in another envelope upon which he wrote another name and address, blessed Chaikel with success and gave him the envelope.
Early the next morning Chaikel set off on his second journey but a few hours later when he approached his destination he began to have serious doubts that he was in the right place.
It was a small house, a bit run down, certainly not like the first one he went to. He checked the address ten times before he knocked on the door and a simple Jew answered. Chaikel introduced himself and when the Jew saw his name on the envelope and heard it was a letter from the Rebbe he almost fainted.
He invited Chaikel in, asked him to sit down, brought him something to eat, went into the next room and came out dressed in his best Shabbat garments. He washed his hands and then with awe and trepidation opened the letter.
He mumbled to himself, "Five hundred guilder, Hmmm! It will take a few days."
He looked up at Chaikel and repeated. "With G-d's help I can get you the money but it will take a few days, maybe only one or two. You can stay here with me till I get it if it's all right with you."
Sure enough in two days time he gave Chaikel the money and Chaikel was back on the road with wings on his feet to the Apta Rebbe, his daughter could get married! It was like a hundred pound weight around his neck had been suddenly removed.
But shortly afterward the rich Chassid that didn't head the Rebbe's letter noticed that he was making bad business decisions and was losing money. He tried to change his luck, change partners, invest in more stable ventures but nothing worked. In just months he became a debtor, had to sell his house and furniture and beg on the streets.
It didn't take much for him to realize that somehow the not heeding the Rebbe's letter something to do with this. So he gave his last money to his wife and began the walk to Apta to ask the Rebbe's for his money back.
It was a long walk; almost a week later he dragged into the town and then had to wait another week to get an audience with the Rebbe. Not like the good old days when he was treated like a VIP.
Finally he entered the Rebbe's room and spread his complaint before him. Why did he loose all his money? It wasn't fair! If he deserved a punishment it should be to lose the remainder of the 500 he didn't give… why everything?
The Rebbe answered.
"The fact is that you were really meant to be a pauper … the money you had was mine! You see, before I was born it was decreed from heaven that I should be fantastically rich. But my soul protested that it wouldn't be able to stand the test. It was sure that money would distract me from serving G-d and once it touched my hand I wouldn't want to part with it so easily.
"But my complaints didn't help; the heavenly decree had already been made. But I did manage to get the money entrusted into the hands of others; in other words the money would still be mine but others would hold it till I asked for it. And you were one of those 'others'.
"So you see," The Rebbe concluded "Your money was really not yours, it was mine, you were just holding for me. So when you refused to let it go it was simply taken from you and given to the most worthy; the Chassid that managed to get together the 500 guilder to give Chaikel. The best I can do is bless you that you earn the money back on your own."
And so it was.
This answers our question. According to Kabala (Jewish Mysticism) the ten plagues corresponded to the 'Ten Sfirot' (ten facets of the human soul) and the ten utterances used to create the world.
This teaches us that even if G-d miraculously purifies every aspect of our being as well as every aspect of the entire world around us, nevertheless it means nothing if we don't work on ourselves! Just as the rich Chassid had everything as a gift but lost it because he refused to work on and change himself.
But it also teaches that if we do try to refine ourselves, as the second Chassid did, then even if we have nothing, G-d can make us rich in every way.
It all depends on us! We shouldn't wait for G-d to make the miracles and bring Moshiach. Rather it's up to us to refine the world and bring blessing and joy into our surroundings. In the language of the Lubavitcher Rebbe 'We must turn over the world' to bring ….
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