This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeira (5772)
This week's Torah portion begins with G-d personally appearing to Abraham, continues with his unsuccessful pleas to save Sodom and Amora (a.k.a. Gemorra) and ends with him almost sacrificing his son Isaac.
At first glance this makes no sense. Exactly what type of religious hero was Abraham if G-d didn't listen to his prayers regarding Sodom, and then gave him orders to kill his own son?
What is the Torah trying to tell us here? Abraham was the founder of Judaism… the first of all religions. Why didn't G-d listen to his prayers and save Sodom? And why would G-d tell him to kill his own son? What type of religion is this?
To understand this here is a story I just heard on a video from Rabbi Manis Friedman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7j3T1R-B6g).
He relates that one day many years ago he happened to be wandering around in the halls of the huge Chabad Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, when he happened to see a group of his friends re-arranging cabinets and sweeping the floor of one of the rooms.
He asked what they were doing and if he could help. The answer was that they decided to arrange the room into an office and would welcome his assistance.
As they were pushing one of the larger cabinets, a portfolio fell out of a drawer, hit the ground and opened, revealing that it contained only one document. It was a letter that someone had written to the Rebbe a few years earlier and the Rebbe's handwritten answer filled the margins.
The Rebbe received massive amounts of mail everyday, some say more than any man in the world including the President of the USA. He would write his reply on the page and one of his secretaries would then type it onto another page and sent it to the proper address.
Perhaps they should have just returned the letter, but they couldn't help notice its first few lines which drew their attention. The letter was a question to the Rebbe written by a doctor concerning a truly strange event.
This doctor had a friend who decided to have a Torah Scroll written in the honor of some departed family member. When this friend heard that it was customary to make a festive meal before putting the Scroll into a Synagogue for the first time, he asked the doctor, because his home was larger, if he could make the meal in his house.
The Doctor agreed, invitations were sent and tens of people arrived to celebrate the event. But in the middle of the festivities tragedy struck: one of the participants, a young woman, suddenly had a heart attack, clutched at her chest, fell to the ground and died on the spot. All efforts to save her were in vein and, needless to say, the entire event was instantly transformed into a catastrophe.
The Doctor said that because he had seen death before he didn't have any doubts in faith, but his friend was really shaken up, and asked him questions that hecouldn't answer. First, how could it be that a young woman who was in the middle of doing a good deed, met with such a tragedy and second, why did it happen in his house.
The Rebbe's answers were as follows.
First, it is impossible to understand G-d or the ways of G-d.
Second, G-d wants us to understand Him to the best of our ability.
Third; we have to do our best to explain what we can.
First; everyone has a set number of days to their life including an exact date that their life will end.
Second; rarely is someone so bad that they die before this date or so good that they prolong this date.
Third, therefore, because this woman was destined to die on this date the best place she could do it was in a friendly atmosphere, in the middle of festivities involved in a commandment.
Even more, in her last moments when she was unable to say the traditional " Shema Yisrael" prayer at the time of death, it must have been a great comfort to her to know that on the front door of the house she was in was affixed a Mezuza inwhich is written " Shema Yisrael " declaring the kingship and unity of G-d.
Finally, regarding the question why it happened in your house, the answer is simple. Because you are a doctor everyone is assured that everything possible was done for her to save her life.
All the Chassidim were amazed by the clear and positive words of the Rebbe; every word rang with obvious truth. The Rebbe's reply literally was "An eye-opener". But no less were they impressed by how it 'accidentally' fell right into their hands.
Now comes the best part.
While they were marveling over the Rebbe's crystal clear advice, suddenly the phone in the room rang. One of the young men located it, picked up the receiver and answered.
On the other end was one of the emissaries ( Shluchim) of the Rebbe from one of the cities in the USA, in such distress that he almost couldn't talk.
"Hello! I have to talk to the Rebbe quick! I don't know what to do! Get me the Rebbe! I need advice!"
The young man asked for details and the desperate answer was. "Listen! It's awful! One of my congregants is making a Bar Mitzva here and suddenly his father dropped dead from a heart attack in the middle of the party. Everyone here is going crazy and asking me to explain. What should I tell them!?"
The young man looked at the others, told them what he just heard and another of them took the phone and dictated to the caller the letter they had just 'received' to tell his congregants!
They hung up the phone and were speechless; they had just been part of a miracle! If they hadn't decided to clean that room, and if they hadn't moved that cabinet, and if the portfolio and the letter hadn't fallen out, and if they hadn't read it, and if the phone hadn't rung at that moment none of this would have occurred.
Then one of them asked, "Hey, why did we decide to make this room into an office in the first place?" They all looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, realized their idea was foolish, left the room and it never became an office.
This answers our questions.
The purpose of Abraham was not to bring people into heaven or to save them from hell. Rather it was to reveal the holiness (i.e. goodness) hidden in every event in and aspect of this physical world as we saw in our story: Even in such 'unholy' events as the inevitability of death, is G- dliness.
That is why Abraham prayed to save the lives of the sinners of Sodom(although G-d hated them) and he was prepared to sacrifice the life of his only son (although G-d loved him). Because the purpose of the Jew is to make this world a good place AT ALL COSTS.
And this goal of Abraham will only be accomplished by Moshiach as we say thrice daily in the ' Alenu' prayer; to bring even the most evil people to change their ways ( Yifnu ailechaw kol rishai aretz) and realize that their Creator loves them, and simultaneously bring all the Jews to negate themselves to the King of the Universe as Abraham did.
It all depends on us. Even one more good deed, word or even thought can tip the scales and reveal….
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