This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech (5771)
This week's Torah portion has one of the most powerful prophesies in the Torah (30:1-6) (loosely translated):
"And when you, in the nations where G-d has scattered you, experience and take to heart all the blessings and curses I put before you. And you and your children return to G-d and follow the commandments He gives you today with all your heart and soul. G-d will return your exiles and gather you from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you are scattered to the ends of the heavens from there He will gather you and from there he will take you. And G-d will bring you to the land that your forefathers inherited and benefit and multiply you more than your forefathers. And G-d will circumcise your and your children's hearts to love G-d with all your heart and all your soul for your life's sake."
According to Rambam (Hilchos M'lachim 11:1), Moses is speaking here of Moshiach and promising that he will gather the Jews, bring them to Israel and change their hearts. This is very beautiful and promising.
First, because it relates to now; before the destruction of the Second Temple the Jews had never been scattered among the nations.
Second, because it clearly declares that Israel is the home of the Jews and G-d, through Moshiach, will return us there. And not only that, Moshiach will end all our worries by bringing us to love G-d with all our heart and soul.
But at first glance it's not so clear exactly how Moshiach will accomplish these things. It would be almost impossible to force even the wandering Israelis back into Israel no less all the Jews! And how can he FORCE them (or anyone) to actually love G-d? Love is an emotion. Perhaps people can be forced to ACT like they love, but true love has to come from within.
But the Torah assures us it will happen. How?
To answer this here are two emails I recently received. The first is a letter (26 Teves 5725)from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to an observant Jew about anxiety (sent to me by the Avner Institute) [with my comments in square parentheses] and the second is a story about Ben Gurion and Israel(sent to me by Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf).
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with the enclosure, in which you write about your problem of acute anxiety, and ask my advice.
The best and most effective thing to do in a situation such as yours, is to study thoroughly those sections and chapters in our sacred books where the matter of Divine Providence and trusting G-d (bitachon) are discussed, such as Chovos Halvovos, Shaar Habitachon, and similar.
Similarly it is advisable to keep in mind those chapters and verses in the Psalms (Tehillim) which speak of these subjects as well as the Midrashim and interpretations of our Sages on them. These things should be studied with such depth that they should become a part of one’s thinking. In this way there will be no room left for any kind of anxiety or worry, and as King David [whose life was beset by genuine difficulties and dangers] said in the Tehillim (Ps. 118:6) “G-d is with me, I shall not fear. What can man do unto me?!”
As you well know, the matter of "hashgocho protis" [that G-d creates, and directs every detail and occurrence in creation and He does so for our benefit] is the basis of true monotheism, a concept which to us means not only that G-d is One, but that there is oneness in the whole of nature. In other words, the whole universe has one Supreme Being, Who not only is the Creator of everything, but also is the Master, continually supervising every detail of his handiwork. The corollary of this is that there cannot be a single point in the whole order of the world which is separated from the Supreme Being, or in any way not subject to His control. At the same time it is obvious that the Supreme Being is also the Essence of Perfection and Goodness.
And although many things in the world seem imperfect, and require completion or perfection, there can be no doubt that there is a perfect order in the world, and even the lowest in the scale of Creation, namely the inanimate things, display wonderful perfection and symmetry, as can be seen from the atoms and molecules of inorganic matter.
Hence, the conclusion must be that even those things which require completion are also part of the perfect order and necessary for the fulfillment of the good, as all this is explained at length in the teachings of Chassidus. [See your local Chabad House for details; seven generations of the writings of the great leaders of the Chabad Chassidim beginning with the holy book 'Tanya'.]
It is explained there that in order for a man to attain perfection, it is necessary that he should have the feeling that he is not only on the receiving end, but also a contributor, and according to the expression of our Sages of blessed memory that he is, “A partner in the Creation.”
This is why things have been left in the world for him to improve and perfect.
I also want to make the further observation, and this is also essential, that there is really no basis for anxiety at any time, and as you yourself mentioned in your letter, that you find no reason for it.
Even in such cases where you think you know the reason for your anxiety, the reason is undoubtedly imaginary, or at any rate, not the real cause. For the real cause is that one’s daily life is not in complete harmony with the true essence of a Jew. In such a case it is impossible not to have an awkward feeling that things do not seem to fit somehow, and it is this disharmony which is at the bottom of the anxiety, and it is in proportion to the discrepancy between his way of life and his true natural self.
Everybody recognizes that anxiety has to do with the psyche. But in the case of a Jew, the so-called psyche is really the neshama [Jewish 'soul' i.e. sensitivity to the existence of G-d and the Holiness of His Torah]. Some Jews have a particularly sensitive soul, in which case the abovementioned disharmony would create a greater anxiety.
In such a case even subtle and “minor” infractions of didukei mitzvoth [a 'minor' detail in performing a commandment] might create anxiety.
But even in the case of an ordinary soul of the average Jew, there must inevitably be created some anxiety if there is a failure to observe the fundamental mitzvoth [commandments i.e. Shabbat, Tefillin, Kosher food].
It is very possible that the above may have a bearing on your situation. If this is so, then all that is necessary is to rectify matters, and bring the daily life and conduct into complete harmony with the essence of the soul, through strict adherence to the Torah and mitzvoth. Then the symptoms will disappear of themselves.
It is necessary to mention also that in your case, where your position gives you a great deal of influence on your environment, your influence is an integral part of your harmonious life, and it is therefore essential that your influence, too, should be in harmony with the Torah and mitzvoth in the fullest measure.
I suggest that you should also have the mezuzoth of your home checked, as also your tefillin (Phylacteries; containing carefully written script that can become old, cracked ect.), and before putting on your tefillin every weekday morning, to put aside a small coin for tzedakah (Charity).
Hoping to hear good news from you in regard to all the matters discussed above.
Here is the story about Ben Gurion:
In 1972, the then Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau met David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel and began the conversation with a question. He wanted to confirm a story that he had heard about something that he heard that Ben Gurion did 35 years earlier in 1937.
David ben Gurion had been a very devoted and strong willed leader but he was also, in the Zionist tradition, very cold (some say very opposed) to Judaism, especially observant Judaism. There are many shocking stories about him on this subject especially his reluctance to save religious Jews from the holocaust and his part in 'normalizing' religious 'Sphardic' Jewish immigrants from Arab states. But here is a story with a surprise twist.
In 1937 the British controlled 'Palestine' and in response to complaints from the Palestinian Arabs for allowing the Jews to settle there, they established the Peel Commission, headed by one Lord Peel, to decide, once and for all, a solution to the conflict. For days Arabs and Jews presented their arguments before a committee that was clearly leaning toward just canceling the British Mandate and kicking the Jews out.
Ben Gurion was the last to speak. He spent over three hours passionately trying to convince the panel of the historical, political, social, economic and emotional linkage between the Jews and the land of Israel, ending with the words, "This is our home!"
Lord Peel sat for several moments in deep thought and then calmly asked Ben Gurion, "Where were you born?"
"Plonsk" came the reply.
"Where is Plonsk?" "Poland."
A deathly silence consumed the room. Finally, Lord Peel said quietly,
"Very strange indeed! All of the Arab leaders who have appeared before me in the last few days were born in Palestine, and they all have proof of it. Whereas most, if not all, of the Jewish leaders that I have heard testify, including you, were born in Eastern Europe! Far from the middle east!"
Lord Peel leaned forward and continued, "Not only that Mr. Ben Gurion, but these Arab witnesses have a Kushan (i.e. an Ottoman land deed) signed and sealed by the Turkish government entitling them to this land. Here it is!" He held it up and waived it. "Do you have any such documentation? My dear Mr. Ben Gurion" He concluded, "except for words you have nothing! You have no proof of ownership and by your own admission you and most of the Jews that live in Palestine weren't even born there! Why should we give you anything?"
The story goes that Ben Gurion suddenly had a stroke of genius. It just so happened that on a marble stand before the judge was a Bible that everyone had to swear upon before they testified. Ben Gurion picked up the Bible with one sweeping move, held it up triumphantly to Peel and exclaimed "Here is your Kushan! Here is your document!
"It is the world's most highly respected book. Indeed, it is the source of truth! That is why we all swore on it! This 3,000 year old document states hundreds of times that G-d Almighty gave Israel to His people, the Jews, not anyone else!"
Peel was stunned, the Arabs had no reply and as a result the committee took the Jewish standpoint into account thereby rendering their final decision unacceptable to the Arabs.
Rabbi Lau asked him if this actually happened. Ben Gurion smiled and confirmed that this story was indeed true.
Then Rabbi Lau asked Ben Gurion another question. "Imagine you have a document that entitles you to a land. If you crumple it up and shred it and then present it as proof of entitlement for a piece of land, would you expect the Peel commission to accept it in a tattered condition?"
Ben Gurion was a very smart man and he refused to answer. So we see that, after all, the Bible proof was more compelling to Lord Peel than it was to him, although he presented it!
This answers our questions. These two examples show that belief in G-d solves not only spiritual problems but emotional and physical ones as well.
The Rebbe pointed out in his letter that, in fact, G-d is infinitely good and He alone creates and controls the world. And in the second story we saw that it is true.
The only problem is feeing this in our egos, as it says in our Torah portion; "I have put before you today life and death, blessing and curse; choose life….(30:19)"
The theme of both the Rebbe's letter and in the story was exactly this' the denial of the truth was the problem and CHOOSING the Truth was the solution.
When the man in the Rebbe's letter denied the reality of the Creator he felt anxiety and fear and when Ben Gurion denied the Torah he almost lost the land of Israel. But as soon as they CHOSE the truth they chose life and …… won.
This answers our questions. According to the Rambam quoted above Moshiach will be a king (similar to and in the lineage of King David) who will strengthen the awareness of G-d (as in the first story) and the Torah (as in the second story). In other words present everyone with the opportunity to choose the truth.
When the Jews, and then the entire world (or perhaps the gentiles first as in our story) realize how much the Creator loves us and reciprocate by doing what wants then all the prophesies we quoted above and many many more, will become reality.
Indeed, this is what we say in the prayers of Rosh HaShanna: that the entire world, every creation, will recognize that G-d of Israel is King and He rules over all being.
It all depends on us. Each one of us. First we must dispel uncertainty and disbelief in ourselves. And then just one more good deed, word or even thought can bring a good, sweet, successful, healthy, happy NEW year with...
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