This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Ki Teitzei (5772)
This week’s Torah portion begins with details of going to war. The Zohar, other Kabalistic works and the Chassidic masters explain that war also implies prayer.
Jewish prayer is a well defined and very personal way to ‘connect’ and ‘unite’ both emotionally and consciously with G-d as we can see from the following letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding separating men and women by a high partition (Mechitzah) in Orthodox Synagogues.
By the Grace of G‑d
10th of Nissan, 5721
[March 27, 1961]
Greeting and Blessing:
This is in reply to your letter and questions:
(1) Regarding the Mechitzah [partition between the men and the women] in the synagogue.
You mention several explanations which have been suggested to you, according to which the necessity for a Mechitzah would be qualified and limited to certain conditions only.
Let me preface my answer with a general observation about a misconception in this matter. It is a mistake to think that the Mechitzah is degrading to the honor or dignity of the Jewish woman. The best proof of this is that although the love of parents for their children is not only a very natural one, but has even been hallowed by the Torah, as we pray to G‑d to show us the same fatherly feeling (“As a father has mercy on his children”), yet there is a Din [law] in the Shulchan Aruch [the Code of Jewish law, the volume of] Orach Chaim 98,1 that it is forbidden to kiss one’s little children in Shul [synagogue], and, moreover, even not during the time of prayer. Not to mention the Din of the Torah to esteem and honor every human being created in the “image” of G‑d. To think that there could be anything degrading in the Mechitzah is to betray complete ignorance not only of the significance of the Mechitzah but of the whole attitude and way of the Torah.
One of the inner and essential reasons for the Mechitzah—since you insist on an explanation—is that the synagogue, and the time of prayer in general (even when recited at home), are not merely the place and time when a formal petition is offered to Him Who is able to fulfill the petition; it is much more profound than that. It is the time and place when the person offering the prayer unites himself with Him to Whom the prayer is offered, by means of the prayer. And as our Sages declare: Know before Whom you stand: before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. “Know” (da), as the term daas [knowledge] is explained in the Tanya, in the sense of unity, as in “And Adam knew Eve.” The union of two things can be complete only when there is not a third element involved, be it even a matter of holiness and the like.
From the above it follows that there certainly must be nothing to distract the attention and the attunement of the heart and mind towards the attainment of the highest degree of unity with G‑d.
From the above it also follows that the separation of the sexes by a Mechitzah has nothing to do with any particular condition or state in the women, as has been suggested to you.
It further follows also that the purpose of the Mechitzah is not just to set up a visible boundary, for which a Mechitzah of several inches might do, but it must be one that completely hides the view, otherwise a Mechitzah does not accomplish all its purposes.
I have indicated above, though quite briefly, some of the basic facts about a Mechitzah and the essential explanation behind it in order to answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity. I must say, however, quite emphatically, that the approach of testing and measuring Torah and mitzvoth by the yardstick of the limited and often fallacious human reason is totally wrong. The human intellect is a very unreliable gauge, and quite changeable from one extreme to the other. Even in the so-called exact sciences, the unreliability of human reason and deduction has been amply demonstrated, and what was one day considered as an “absolute” truth is the next day abrogated with equal certainty and absoluteness. Hence to presume to make conditions in regard to the eternal and G‑d-given Torah and mitzvoth is completely out of place.
Therefore, inasmuch as we have been instructed to have a Mechitzah in the house of prayer, it would violate even common sense to present a petition to the Almighty in a manner which displeases Him, and to add insult to injury, to declare that “the reason I do not accept this regulation is because my human intelligence suggests to act otherwise than is the will of the En Sof [the Infinite G‑d], yet, please fulfill my request anyway!”
Much more should be said on this subject, but it is difficult to do so in a letter.
I trust that in harmony with your search for knowledge which you display in your letter, you have regular daily periods of study of the Torah and the Torah view, and that it is the kind of study which leads to action and practice in the daily life, as our Sages emphasized that the essential thing is the deed.
The enclosed message will surely be of interest to you.
Wishing you and your fellow students a kosher, happy and inspiring Pesach [Passover],
Here is a story that will help understand exactly what this ‘unification’ to G-d is.
I was told this story by Rabbi Mendel Daren who heard it directly from Alex P. (who today runs a large institution for Jewish Russian youth in Israel) as he was driving him to his home near Tel Aviv.
He told him how he became an observant Jew.
In 1996, Alex, like so many of the Russian immigrants in Israel, was very ‘far’ from Judaism.
Then two things happened that changed all that.
The first was one late night when a friend drove him to his parent’s home after an evening at the bars and he discovered he had misplaced his house key. Not wanting to wake his parents he was at a loss of what to do. But his friend immediately came up with the answer.
‘Come with me, we’ll make some money and have some fun as well” he suggested. “You can help me plaster up posters”
1996 was an election year in Israel and his friend’s job was hanging posters for the leftist Shimon Peres on as many billboards and over as many of the opposition’s (Benyamin Natanyahu’s) posters as possible.
Of course there were also those working for other candidate also had the same task: to cover THEIR posters.
So what it boiled down to was the entire night they tried to cover each other’s posters and evade one another before the dawn’s early light when everyone went home to sleep.
Things were going smoothly until they got to one place where, after they covered ‘Natanyahu’ with one of their posters they noticed next to it a poster of some white bearded rabbi with a Hebrew word written under it.
Alex’s friend automatically took one of their large Peres posters, smeared the back of it with glue and, happy to be rid of another poster, was just about to plaster it over the Rabbi’s picture when Alex yelled out …‘Stop!!’
His friend turned to him in surprise. “Stop what?” he asked.
“Don’t cover that Rabbi’s picture!” he replied.
“Why, is it your Grandfather or something? What do you care?!”
But Alex just answered “Just don’t cover that picture!”. Meanwhile the glue made the Peres poster soggy enough that it drooped over his friend’s hand and got all stuck together.
Both of them were well drunk from their earlier escapades his friend got really angry, threw the poster to the ground, said a few Russian curses, got back in the car and resumed their mission.
But a few minutes later the inevitable happened: they met up with their rivals! Four drunken Israelis who were in love with Natanyahu and hated Peres! Curses were exchanged. Threats followed, then challenges and finally a decision to fight it out in a nearby empty lot; Two huge Russians, certain of victory, against four hotheaded Israelis.
In moments they were alone; facing each other ready to go. But surprisingly one of the Israelis turned to his three friends, told them to take off and he would take care of it alone. Then as soon as they jumped in their car, he pulled out a pistol! Alex and friend were frozen in shock! He took aim, fired one shot and Alex’s friend slumped to the ground whereupon the Israeli jumped into his car and sped off.
Someone must have heard the ruckus and shots because in moments the police appeared, called an ambulance and took Alex’s friend to the hospital and Alex in for questioning.
Alex was trembling and totally traumatized which was a bit strange to the police. Here was a huge, brave man pale as a sheet one hour after the incident. It made no sense to them until he explained why. He had been standing in FRONT of his friend when the shot was fired! There was no logical way to explain how the bullet detoured around him and struck someone standing behind him!
He just kept stammering “It, it, it just must have been, it must have been that, that Rab, that that Rabbi! The poster!”
“What Rabbi?” the police asked. “Was there someone else present? Can he come and testify? Do you know his name? What was his name?”
‘You know!” Alex stammered (Really Alex didn’t know ANY Rabbis). “The picture! You know!! The Moshiach!!”
“That,” Said Alex to Rabbi Daren as he was driving, “was the beginning of my transformation. But here in this very busy intersection (they happened to be passing through a large intersection) was where it finalized. Right here!!
“That’s right. It was several months later. I was driving my car listening to the radio when suddenly they announced they were going to play the Lubavitcher Rebbe singing a song. I was about to turn it off but from curiosity I decided to listen for a second.
“As soon as I heard the first notes my eyes filled with tears and I had to stop the car. Everyone was honking behind me! But I just couldn’t do anything. Never had anything like that happened to me. It was only a minute long but after it stopped and I resumed driving I was shaken up for a long time. So I asked around until I found out that it was the same Rabbi that was on the poster.
“That’s when I decided to become Religious.”
This is what is meant that the time of prayer is “Going to war”. Namely respecting the G-dly feeling within us (not to cover it with our own agendas) and then ‘unifying’ with it like the Rebbe’s singing did to Alex in our story.
This we should do EVERY time we pray. Then we can be sure that, as the sentence continues; we will be “OVER our enemies. (21:10) and take prisoners.”
Namely that then even one more good deed, word or even THOUGHT can tilt the scales and bring a good, healthy, happy, sweet new year with ……
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