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Parshat Behaalotecha (5770)

This week's Torah portion begins with G-d telling Moshe about how Aaron should light the 'Menora' in the Holy Temple.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that every Jew is a Holy Temple and this Menora represents our soul whose purpose is to 'illuminate' the world. Just as in a dark room we are confused and scared, so too one who is unaware of the Creator and His Torah is 'in the dark'. And even a small light can dispel all this darkness.

But at first glance this doesn't seem so. There are a lot of people that don't know about Torah or the Creator and seem to be doing fine while many religions breed (or breed from) hatred and fear.

Also, it says here that Aaron is supposed to light the 'Menora'. What does that correspond to today? Why can't we light our own souls?

To understand this, here is a story (HaGeula weekly page #477)

The year was 1981 in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn New York; the neighborhood of a large group of orthodox Jews called the Lubavitcher (Chabad) Chassidim.

These Chassidim believe that each Jew must continue the job Abraham, the first Jew, began some 4,000 years ago and teach the world (beginning with religiously ignorant Jews) that there is a Creator. One of the ways they do this is by having representatives throughout the world, including Buchara.

Today there are many Chabad Chassidim in that country, but in 1971 there were few. The one's that were there taught the Jews Torah and encouraged the performance of commandments but the communist Government there was always breathing down their necks.

One of those that escaped and himself became a Chabad Chassid was a young man, learning in the main 'Yeshiva' (Torah academy) in Brooklyn by the name of Ruvain Chaimov.

Our story begins one wintry day as Chaimov was walking down the road in front of the Chabad Headquarters and saw an acquaintance he hadn't seen for several years.

It was Shalom (pseudonym), a not-so-religious Jew that had been a member in the communist party in Tashkent (big city in Buchara) but rumors had it that Shalom had moved to Israel and became fabulously rich. What was he doing here in 'Chabad' territory?

Ruvain greeted Shalom warmly but the latter seemed very removed and bothered by something. Ruvain asked what the problem was and Shalom replied that he needed to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe as soon as possible but the Rebbe's secretaries said he'd have to wait for months. That's how long the waiting list was. He pleaded with Ruvain to help.

Ruvain was a very quiet and friendly person but suddenly he got brave, "Listen Shalom, I'll do my best but only on the condition that you'll do whatever the Rebbe says. Okay? Is it a deal?"

Shalom thought for a few seconds and replied, "Okay, but I'm not going back to Israel. No matter what he says...I can't go back there."

Ruvain didn't ask questions. They shook hands, and he told Shalom to follow him into the main building (770 Eastern Parkway), entered the secretary's office and Ruvain began pleading and begging until he secured an audience for Shalom in ten day's time.

The day arrived. But meanwhile Ruvain had used the time to pump up Shalom's Judaism. He let him sleep in his dorm room, bought him a pair of Tefillin, taught him to pray like everyone else, and even taught him Torah several hours each day so Shalom entered the Rebbe's room ready for anything.

Ruvain waited outside for his friend to exit a new man…and he didn't have to wait long. But he was in for a big disappointment.

In just a few moments Shalom came out with a totally blank look on his face. Ruvain took him to a corner and tried to get him to open up and tell him what happened in 'there'. But the only answer he got was "Nothing special."

It was late at night. They returned to the dorm room and went to sleep but after just a few hours Shalom woke his roommate and announced that he wanted to tell him what the Rebbe said.

Ruvain woke, groggily washed his hands and face, came to himself and listened as Shalom spoke.

"You know that I was a member of the party in Russia. And as a card carrying Communist, together with a few bribes I became the manager of a big store and was a big shot in Tashkent. But then one day my father said that he wanted me to bribe some more people and get papers for all of us to leave the U.S.S.R.

"I really didn't want to do it, I had a good position, money, everything! But I had to honor my father. He hated the communists and kept saying so out loud, so I didn't really have much choice. Anyway, I did as he said; I got the papers and we left…. but I smuggled out a lot of money with me; over a half million rubles in cash. It was a fortune! So when I got to Israel I was already rich! And I invested it in diamonds and became even richer.

"But then, suddenly, my luck changed. I made a lot of wrong decisions and one day I found that I not only had nothing… I was a debtor! So I took out a big loan from the diamond exchange, of which I was a member; 350,000 dollars…. and lost that too! So they put a restraining order on me forbidding me to leave the country but I convinced them to let me come here to the USA to collect money. That's why I'm here. But things aren't working out here either … so I can't go back."

"But what did the Rebbe say?" Ruvain asked. "That's what I really what to know."

"Ahh, the Rebbe? Well, it was totally superhuman. You know, before I went in you told me to write him a short letter explaining my problem, right? Well, when I got in I gave him the letter and the Rebbe read it. Then he looked up at me and said, 'Before you left Russia you made a vow to give a tenth of your earnings to charity. But you haven't kept your vow. When you keep your vow your financial state will change for the better.'

"I never told anyone about that vow… never! How he knew such a thing is totally out of nature! But I'll do it! If I make money I'll give a tenth! I promise!"

And so it was, Shalom began giving charity and little by little, opportunities opened. He earned all his wealth back, repaid his debts and today owns a large, successful chain of diamond shops throughout America, Israel and Hong Kong, and his Judaism came alive in the meantime.

That explains our questions. Every Jew has the job of educating the entire world to believe in G-d, but the only way we can do it is by changing ourselves first.

And that what the Torah is hinting at by telling us the Aaron lit the Menorah; we can't do it on our own. Like Shalom in our story. He and we need the Rebbe.

In every generation there must be at least one true Tzadik (totally holy person) that can inspire and direct us to truly change ourselves to desire, neither the heavenly rewards promised by religions nor the earthly ones promised by atheism … but rather to do the truth because it is truth: the will of the Creator.

And when we are connected to this truth in heart mind and soul, we can illuminate and transform this 'dark' creation and make 'Heaven on Earth'.

It just requires learning the teachings of Chassidut (visit your local Chabad House for details) and taking those teachings to mind, heart and soul. Like Shalom did in our story.

Then we will find that even one more good deed, word or even thought can change all destiny and bring…

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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