This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Re'eh (5772)
This week's Torah portion is called 'Re'eh' which means 'See'. It is G-d saying to the Jews "See, I'm giving a blessing to those who keep the Torah and a curse to those who don't.
But 'See' seems to be the wrong word here. In fact the Jews didn't SEE anything unusual. At best they HEARD and understood that G-d was serious about giving rewards and punishments. So why does G-d use the word SEE?
Then, a few paragraphs later we read about the 'False Prophet'.
It says that if a prophet or seer makes miracles and supernatural signs to prove that G-d is seemingly on his side and then suggests that the Jews deny even one detail of the Torah, that prophet is to be ignored and…. put to death. (13:2-6).
This is a very difficult prohibition to follow because Judaism depends on prophets! It is a commandment to obey them and a severe prohibition to ignore them. (Deut.18:15 18:19). And believing them is one of the 13 foundations of Jewish faith!
Even more; the entire Torah (except for the first two of the Ten Commandments which the Jews heard directly from G-d 'face to face" (Deut. 5:4)) is the prophesy of Moses.
So why does G-d confuse us by sending false prophets?
The Torah anticipates this question and explains: "G-d does this (sends the false prophet) to test you to know if you love G-d with all your heart and soul" (13:4)
But, at first glance this makes things more puzzling. Why does G-d have to send false prophets to 'test' us? Doesn't G-d already know what is in our hearts? And doesn't He know that most of the world would go astray after false prophets? (Idolatry is forbidden to gentiles)
Also, what does it mean to love G-d with ALL our heart and soul? And why is this love the only antidote to false prophecy?
To answer this, here is a story I just heard.
A friend of mine in Kfar Chabad, Rabbi B', decided in 1993 that he wanted to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn New York. This is a very common and basic practice for Chabad 'Chassidim' because only the Rebbe can inspire them to make this confusing and uncooperative world into a 'Holy Temple' as the Jews were chosen to do.
As soon as his wife heard this she announced that she and her two children also wanted to go. This would mean a big layout of money for tickets but that wasn't the main problem.
The big difficulty was that the Rebbe had been in the hospital for several months after suffering a terrible series of strokes that left him in a deep coma.
My friend, Rabbi B', decided to take advice from older Chassidim than himself. The first elder Chassid he asked told him NOT to go.
The reasons were obvious: it was a big expense of money, time and energy, the Rebbe was not even conscious and it would be the opposite of inspiring.
That was it! Rabbi B' dropped his plans and even began to be happy that he was saving so much money.
But for some reason he decided to get one more opinion. So he asked the well known Chassid Rabbi Mendel Futerfass. Rabbi Futerfass had been very active in spreading Judaism in Russia in the difficult times of the previous Rebbe. He saved thousands of Jews, spent several years at hard labor in Siberia and years later was hand picked by the Rebbe to be the 'Mashpia' or Chassidic director of the Yeshiva in Kfar Chabad.
When Rabbi Futerfass heard the question he cringed; how could there EVER be a doubt about going to the Rebbe? After a few moments of silence replied with a story.
"250 years ago when the Chabad Chassidic movement was just beginning it had a lot of opposition. There were tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews who eventually called themselves "The Misnagdim' (the Opposition) who opposed them for no other reason than they were different.
"It so happened that one of these Misnagdim realized that his adversity to the Chassidim was based on pure hear-say and, although he trusted his sources implicitly, he decided that according to the Torah he had to see for himself and that without clear, visible evidence he could not condemn.
So he prepared a list of questions, packed his suitcase, told his wife not to tell anyone where he was going and set off for the city of Liozne where the first Rebbe of Chabad (Rabbi Shenur Zalman, who wrote the book 'Tanya") lived.
The journey took several days and one of his stops on the way was the city of Homel (or Gomel as the Russians pronounce it) where the famous holy genius Rabbi Isaac of Homel presided.
This Rabbi Isaac was one of the followers of Rebbe Shenur Zalman and when the 'misnaged' told him where he was going and showed him the questions, he requested that, if possible, on his way back that he stop back in Homel and tell him what the Rebbe answered.
Early the next morning the misnaged resumed his journey and sure enough a few days later he returned back in Homel and sought out Rabbi Isaac to tell him what had happened.
He told him that he arrived in Liozne near evening and was told that the Rebbe would only be available the next day after the morning prayers. So, early the next morning he arrived in the Synagogue and prayed with the congregation figuring that after the prayers he might get an audience. But after an hour or so when the Prayers ended and everyone either left the room or sat down to learn Torah he saw that the Rebbe was still deeply involved in his prayers.
He watched for five hours as the Rebbe quietly sang beautiful, slow melodies while moving and swaying in total oblivion to the world around him enraptured by each word of prayer he was uttering to the Creator.
Then he said "just as the Rebbe finished praying I left the Synagogue and, well, here I am on my way home."
"I don't understand" Rabbi Isaac asked incredulously. "You mean you didn't talk to the Rebbe? What about your questions? Couldn't you just have waited a few more minutes and approached him?"
"Ahh, my questions?" the misnaged answered. "They disappeared! I don't have any more questions. In fact, not only did my questions go away but my entire self 'went away': just seeing the Rebbe made me realize that I understand nothing."
As soon as my friend Rabbi B' heard this story from Rabbi Futerfass he remembered a story he himself experienced years earlier when he was just a pupil in the Rebbe's headquarters-Synagogue-Yeshiva in 770 Eastern Parkway Yeshiva in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn.
The year was 1971 when a lot of hippies were scattered all over the world trying to settle down after the explosive sixties and one of them showed up there in the yeshiva.
He had a list of twenty questions that he wanted to ask about G-d and Judaism and he wanted a private audience with the Rebbe to get the answers.
He was in luck; some people had to wait weeks or even months to see the Rebbe but, perhaps because someone suddenly cancelled, he was scheduled for the next evening.
He arrived on time to discover a line of some ten people before him and as he stood there with his long bushy hair and hippy garb, gradually more entered and took their places behind him.
Finally his turn came. He entered and just moments later came out and told the secretary standing at the door that the Rebbe told him to make an appointment three weeks from now.
The secretary admitted the next person and when the door closed asked the young man what had happened and why he exited so soon.
The young man told him that he entered the Rebbe's office and was very very impressed. The only word he could use was Holy. But the Rebbe was very pleasant to him, took the letter with his questions on it, read them in just seconds, looked up and said that he would like to answer them in detail but it would take about two and a half hours.
Does he think that it would be fair to keep the people outside waiting for that long?
When he answered 'no' the Rebbe suggested that he that he make an appointment for three weeks from now and ask to be put at the end of the line. Then they could discuss the questions without any pressure.
The young man of course agreed, but just as he was at the door and about to leave the Rebbe asked him where he would be for the next three weeks and suggested that he remain in the yeshiva dormitory and the Rebbe would see to it that they provided him with clothes and his other necessities.
The secretary of course arranged it all.
But three weeks later when the appointment day arrived the 'hippy' appeared in the office of 770 and told the secretary to cancel it. He didn't want to talk to the Rebbe.
When the secretary asked if perhaps something was wrong; perhaps the lodgings or the food or maybe one of the pupils answered his questions. He answered 'Exactly the opposite.
'I see the Rebbe is a very clever man. He knew that the few weeks I would spend here would make me realize that my questions aren't as important as I thought. It took me that long without distractions to digest what I saw in that room when I saw the Rebbe. My questions were according to logic but …. The Rebbe is above that.
This answers our questions. This week's portion is called 'SEE' because the only way to actualize our identity as the 'Chosen people (Deut. 14:2) and change the world around us….. is by 'seeing' G-d. And the only way to do this is by seeing Moses. Moses was a human being that spoke to G-d 'face to face', and through him the Jews could SEE someone who saw G-d (Num 12:8).
And so, according to the Mystical book the Zohar, in every generation there must be a Moses ….. as we saw in our two stories.
But, as we also saw in our above three stories, this 'Moses' can only be appreciated if we have questions.
And that is why G-d sent the false prophet: to make us ask "why would G-d do such a thing?"
And this brings US to 'Know' and eventually to SEE the answer: that although we must use our understanding and logic to serve G-d, our connection to G-d cannot be limited to what we understand.
Rather, in order to dispel our questions and resist the false prophet and all the fallacies of this world, we must 'SEE' and connect to the Moses of our generation.
But what if we don't actually 'see' like Rabbi B' in our story (of course he flew with his family to the Rebbe and were tremendously inspired).
That is the purpose of the TEST, (not that G-d should know; He knows all before it happens) but rather in order that WE can know and feel that which is above logic.
This is the secret of Jewish existence, perseverance and identity. And this is the only way to actually love G-d like we love physical things; with our heart and soul.
This will be manifested and awakened globally by Moshiach. He will be the true Moses who will fill the world with the Knowledge of G-d and dissolve all the false beliefs, religions, loves and identities that depend on miracles and successes.
And through our actions we can bring him one moment sooner.
One more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring…..
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