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Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim (5772)

This week in Israel we read the double Torah portions of Acha'rai Mot and Kedoshim.

Both of them deal with topics that are more positive than last week's double portion of Tazria-Metzora that explained the laws of Tzoraat, loosely translated as spiritual leprosy.

Here we learn in Acha'ri Mot about the Temple service on Yom Kippur (the Day of Forgiveness) and in Kedoshim we learn how to be holy by doing G-d's commandments.

But at first glance this is not so clear. Why are these two topics; forgiveness and holiness necessary? Why didn't G-d just make us pure and holy to begin with? Even more, if G-d would not have given the Torah there would be no such thing as sins or un-holiness; these are all Torah terms. Then we could do what we want and just be ourselves?

Indeed, one of the reasons for anti-Semitism is the Torah; that when it was given on 'Sinai', hatred (Sina) descended to the Jews.

To understand this… here is a story.

It takes place in Israel around forty years ago. Names were omitted for obvious reasons but it deals with the manager-principle of a Chabad School in an Israeli city.

In Israel, as everywhere else in the world, there is a public school system and a religious (parochial) school system.

But unlike other religious groups the Chabad (Lubavitch) Chassidim have both types. As well as their Torah institutions where young men sit and learn Torah all day, they also run a large network of schools in co-ordination with the Israeli government that feature Jewish, Torah classes in addition to math, history, science and other secular subjects.

Needless to say there are certain government rules that must be abided by in these schools and one of them is the three month summer break during which children are 'free' from learning.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, the leader of the Chabad Chassidim, was never in favor of such long breaks and one year he wrote a letter to one of the school principles, the hero of our story, that he should cut the summer break short and resume the learning three weeks early.

Of course, when the principle got the letter he immediately set into action. He called the secretaries, who were on vacation along with everyone else, asked them to come in to work early, with a raise in pay of course, and contact all the pupils and teachers to inform them of the change.

Of course he couldn't force any of them to stop their vacations all he could do was offer them to come so he was sure that only a small percentage would actually change their vacation plans. But to his surprise, when they heard that it was a request from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, almost everyone; secretaries, teachers, pupils and even the cooks and maintenance people, returned to work.

But then there came an unexpected problem; the Ministry of Education. It's not so clear how they found out about it, but as soon as they did they sent a high official to stop it.

The official appeared with a look of disbelief and rage. He knocked angrily on the principle's door, entered his room and demanded an explanation.

"What is the meaning of this!!" He held himself back from screaming. "Who gave you permission to begin classes?! To stop the vacation!!!? These children need their vacation!!! And so do the teachers!!! And so do YOU!!! If you don't suspend learning immediately you will be suspended permanently!!! You will get a permanent vacation!! Do you understand!!!?? Stop the classes… immediately!!!"

"Yes, I understand" replied the principle. "But we aren't stopping."

"What?!!" Yelled the official as his face reddened in anger, "Remember that this school is funded by the Israeli Government… if you refuse to follow the orders of the Ministry of Education we will CUT OFF that funding and CLOSE YOUR SCHOOL DOWN!!!"

The principle calmly replied. "Listen, you have no need to yell and threaten me. This school is run by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I only listen to him. He is the manager, not you or your government and there is no use in your ultimatums. If the Rebbe says to start early we will start early and you and the government can do whatever you see fit."

The official looked blankly at the principle as though at a madman, then took two steps back, took a few deep breaths, again turned red with anger, pointed his finger and yelled, "YOU'LL SEE WHO'S BOSS HERE! YOU'LL HEAR FROM US …. AND HOW!! YOU'LL REGRET THIS!!!"

Saying this he turned on his heels, and left the room in a fury, slamming the door behind him.

The secretaries and everyone else that heard the ruckus immediately gathered around the principle to comfort him and ask what he was going to do, maybe they should just go home and start at the ordinary time in a few weeks.

"This school is run by the Rebbe and no one else" he assured them, "and money? Well, the same G-d who wants these children to be educated is the same G-d who will provide the money. I'm not worried. Let's just get back to our jobs and forget this ever happened."

And it seemed he was right. One week went by without anything happening, then another. But just as everyone had almost forgotten about it, early one morning just as classes were beginning, several huge tractors rolled up to the school followed by a truck carrying a massive steam shovel accompanied by several carloads of workers. It looked like this was the end! They were going to actually level the school!

The workers got out, began measuring and surveying and the tractors, with awesome roars began to dig and level the ground around one side of the building while the steam shovel began digging a huge hole and depositing the dirt nearby.

The principle went outside, approached one of the workers who looked like the foreman and asked what exactly they were doing. The foreman opened a large page of blueprints, spread it on the hood of the car before him and pointed out what they were doing. "We're building an addition. Here, see? It will be two stories and about twenty more classrooms."

To the total amazement of the principle he realized that they were actually making additions that he had been requesting for the last eight or nine years with no success; they had been totally ignored.

The thought crossed his mind that perhaps they were building because they intended to fire him and install another principle in his place. But he decided that, in any case, it was best to just be quiet and see what happened.

But nothing happened! In less than a month the building was done, he began using the rooms and not another word was said.

But the principle was curious and after a few months he asked friends to try to find an explanation for what had transpired. Perhaps the angry official had a change of heart, or perhaps he was fired, or replaced.

But after several weeks of intensive and secretive asking and inquiring there was no answer. For some totally unknown reason the angry official's request was ignored or he forgot about it and suddenly the government just decided to honor the principal's nine year old requests.

A true miracle!

This answers our questions.

G-d not only created the world but He created it with a purpose; that man should perfect it. As the Torah tells us about Adam, "To improve it and protect it" (Gen. 2:15): namely, to change 'nature' to become 'above' nature.

But in order to do this man must first reveal new powers in himself i.e. to go above his own nature.

And this can only be done when we are under pressure. As the Midrash explains that Jews are likened to olives; they only produce their best 'oil' when pressed.

As we saw in our story: the principle only got new things done when faced with opposition (both external and internal) that aroused the essence of his soul.

But this is only because he had a clear goal. And this is why G-d gave the Torah and with it good and bad, right and wrong, holy and unholy; in order to inspire us to reveal our true selves even if, or perhaps BECAUSE, the entire world hates and opposes us.

This is the point of our two Torah portions: Holiness can only be achieved by having a clear goal and transforming all obstacles in order to achieve it.

And our goal is to bring Moshiach. Moshiach will be a leader who will inspire all mankind to reveal their true natures and transform the world according the goals of the Torah.

But this all depends on us. Just like the school principle in our story, we must learn what the Lubavitcher Rebbe wants and awaken our innermost powers to make it come true.

Namely to perfect the world around us beginning with ourselves; even one more good deed, word or even thought can reveal….

Moshiach NOW!

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