This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeira (5764)
This week's section begins with G-d appearing (YaYera) to Abraham after he had circumcised himself.
When the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Shalom Dov-Ber (Nicknamed the Rebbe 'ReShaB') was some four years he old came home crying and asked his grandfather (who was the Lubavitch Rebbe at that time). "Why did G-d appear to Abraham and He doesn't appear to me?"
And his grandfather answered "When a person, a Tzadik, serves G-d, non-stop his entire life and then at the age of ninety nine is willing to start from the beginning and circumcise himself, then G-d will appear to him."
At first glance this makes no sense. G-d has no form or body. He is far 'above' being spiritual or physical in any sense. In fact He creates the spiritual and physical! So how can He 'Appear'?
Not only that but G-d did it again when He gave the Torah, later in the Holy Temple and will do it in an even bigger way through Moshiach. What does it mean?
To understand this here are two stories.
Rabbi Yaakov Biederman is a Chabad representative in Austria. Presently he is the director of a large Jewish educational complex that he miraculously built from nothing.
This is how it happened.
Shortly after the terrible nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl in 1988 Rabbi Biederman received an urgent telephone call from New York.
One of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretaries, Rabbi Leibel Groner, was on the other end of the line with a desperate request. The meltdown of the atomic plant there produced more than one hundred times deadly radioactive fallout as the bomb in Hiroshima and everyone in the area, especially the children, were in grave danger. (Radioactivity is especially dangerous to growing children)
"Hello, Rabbi Biederman. This is Rabbi Groner. The Rebbe told me to call you and tell you that you must urgently do all you can to get as many Jewish children out of the Chernobyl area as possible and bring them to Israel. The Rebbe said that it is a matter of life and death and that every minute lives are being lost! Do all you can to save them!!"
Rabbi Beiderman was stunned. Why did the Rebbe call him? How could he possibly save myriads of children? He was an ordinary 'Shaliach' (emissary) trying to spread as much Judaism as possible in the apathetic and often hostile environment of Austria. But even more; unlike many of the other emissaries, he had absolutely no connection with either Russia or Israel! What could he possibly do? He had no idea even where to start.
That evening, together with his wife, he had to attend an important wedding in Vienna. He was so disturbed by the telephone call that he was in no mood for weddings but he had to go.
A few hours later at the wedding he sat at his table lost in thought oblivious to the music and joyous chatter around him. "What is wrong, Rabbi, are you feeling all right?" the Jew sitting next to him asked. The fellow was a fairly wealthy businessman who had helped him with donations in the past.
Suddenly Rabbi Biederman got a crazy idea.
"Tell me Mr. R.. if I told you that there was a death-train headed for Auschwitz loaded with Jewish children and you could save them. what would you do?"
He looked at the Rabbi to see if he was serious and immediately answered "What would I do?! Why, I would give all I had to save them!! What's the question!!"
"Well," replied the Rabbi "That is exactly what is happening this very minute! And you can help!"
That very evening the businessman pledged one million dollars (!) to begin the rescue of the Chernobyl children.
That night Rabbi Biederman got on the phone to Israel and it wasn't long until he found someone willing to take the project; Rabbi Yosef Ahronov of the Chabad Youth Movement.
And to this day almost ten thousand children have been airlifted to life and to safety in Israel.
But that is only the first half of the story.
The next day Rabbi Ahronov called Rabbi Biederman to thank him profusely for the donor and the donation. "How can I repay you?" he asked. "I know someone who is willing to donate three hundred thousand dollars… there's a good chance I can interest him in your project.. what do you say? Certainly three hundred thousand dollars would help a lot of Jews in Austria! Three hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money!"
But Rabbi Biederman did not hesitate.
"I don't want money. I want a blessing from the Rebbe! That's right!" He continued to Rabbi Ahronov, "I want you to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for me for my Chabad House. That will be my payment. Tell the Rebbe that I want a blessing for miraculous success above all natural boundaries."
Rabbi Ahronov called the secretariat of the Rebbe, explained Rabbi Biederman's unusual request and hours later received an answer from the Rebbe with the blessing.
From that day on it seemed as though a new world opened up for Rabbi Biederman; as though all the restrictions had been lifted. He began a massive project . a Jewish college in Vienna. Jewish students were assimilating, there was no place they could get a Jewish environment no less Jewish education. And Rabbi Biederman decided he would save them.
Before the Rebbe's blessing it was impossible, unthinkable! There were hundreds of obstacles, enemies and problems. But now it was different. Almost as soon as he made his plans public, funds and support came from all sides. People he never dreamed would help, even some who had been hostile, suddenly came to his assistance.
And that is how Rabbi Biederman built his massive multi-million dollar Jewish University complex in the heart of Vienna.
That is what happened to Abraham; after he circumcised himself all obstacles fell away and suddenly a new world opened before him.
Namely he was able to unite with his own Jewish soul; and because the Jewish soul is the essence of G-d and G-d creates everything constantly nothing can REALLY obstruct Him. (see Tanya chapt 2; Jews are the 'sons' of G-d)
And that is what happened when the Jews left Egypt (Rashi Ex. 25:2) again at Matan Torah (Targum Unklos Ex. 19:20) and again in the Holy Temple (Lev.
16:2) all concealment was removed and HaShem appeared.
Is this possible for us today? Definitely! That is why the Rebbe ReShaB wept to his grandfather. And this is why every Jew must long for Moshiach. And that was really what the Rebbe, as a boy, was crying about.
The Moshiach will teach all the Jews how to 'circumcise' their hearts until 'All flesh will see' (Isiah 40:5) and the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d.
That is the secret behind all the miracles Moses and all the great Tzadikim after him did; they were to remove the 'foreskin' i.e. the difficulties and obstacles to 'seeing' G-d (Just as the Rebbe wondrously helped in Chernobyl and again in Vienna).
But in the end it all depends on US to open our eyes.
Like the story told about the holy Kotzker Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk: Once an assimilated 'intellectual' Jew threw him a sarcastic challenge; "Nu, Rabbi. I'll give you a ruble if you can show me where G-d is!" To which the Rebbe calmly replied, "And I'll give you ten if you can show me where He isn't!"
But when another troublemaker asked the same question, "Nu, Rabbi no joking around, where is G-d?" he got a different response; "G-d is wherever you let Him in!"
And both answers are true. G-d is everywhere and everything. we just have to remove a bit of the 'foreskin' i.e. the false egotism on our hearts. Or in the language of the Rebbe; 'Open our eyes' and see that Moshiach is here and (as we say in Alenu) "To speedily SEE G-d's glorious power"
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