This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeitzei (5760)
One day a well-dressed Jewish businessman, Mr. Goldberg, walks into a bank and asks to speak to the manager. He is directed to the manager’s office enters, takes a seat, shakes the managers hand, introduces himself and asks, “Please tell me how much interest will I have to pay on a loan of 5,000 for two weeks?”
The manager immediately takes out a pocket calculator pushes a few buttons, looks up and announces “Twenty two dollars”. “Good” Says Goldberg, I’ll take it” One minute, not so fast!” Says the manager “ We have to do a credit check on you. You’ll have to give us some I.D. and you’ll need to put up some collateral. We can’t just give you $5,000 because you ask for it.”
“Certainly, no problem,” Goldberg answers “Here are my credentials and here are the keys and papers to my Rolls Royce, it’s parked out in front of the bank”
Needless to say within minutes Goldberg is counting the $5000 and shaking the managers hand goodbye.
Two weeks later Goldberg is again in the manager’s office, but this time to repay the loan; $5.000 to the penny, plus the agreed-upon interest. “Thank you Mr. Goldberg”, said the Manager “It was a real pleasure doing business with you. But, Mr. Goldberg, please excuse me but something is puzzling me. You see, we did a credit check on you and…why.. you are a multi-millionaire Mr. Goldberg, you don’t need our money, why did you have to borrow $5,000 from our bank?”
“You are right” Replied Goldberg, “I didn’t need the money. But I had to go on a two week long business trip and, well, where else can you find a place to park a car for two weeks in New York for twenty two dollars?”
Yes, Jews are well known for their acute business sense.
So it is very strange that our Torah advertises, in this week’s section, the way that Yaakov (one of our forefathers!) made one of the worst business deals in history! He was fooled by his father-in-law, Lavan, into working like a slave, day and night non-stop for twenty years when, seemingly, if he was a bit more on the ball, he could have gotten away with a much better deal!
Let’s try to understand this according to the unique viewpoint of Rebbe Shneur Zalman, the first Rebbi of Chabad, in his book the Tanya.
This weeks Torah section, VaYeitzei, corresponds to the sixth chapter of the Chabad Chassidic book the “Tanya”, there is explained the nature and purpose of evil, which will help us understand Yaakov’s unusual behavior.
Note: [Chassidim are Jews that follow the teachings of the great Jewish teacher and leader, the Baal Shem Tov who lived and taught in Russia over 250 years ago.
There are many groups of Chassidim, each differing slightly from the others in dress or customs, but one large group , called ‘Chabad-Lubavitch’ is almost totally different. One major difference is that in addition to the name ‘Lubavitch’ which was the town where the group was centered, has been preceeded the name ‘Chabad’ , meaning ‘intellect’ in Kabalistic terminology, because of the very sophisticated and practical philosophy that animates them. This philosophy is called ‘Chabad Chassidus’ and it can be learned from the hundreds of exquisite volumes written by each of the seven Chabad Rebbes, The Magnum Opus of Chabad, however, is a masterpiece called The Tanya written 200 years ago by the first of these Rebbes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The Tanya is divided into 54 chapters (if you count the introduction) and the Chassidim say that each chapter corresponds to one of the 54 chapters of the Torah.
According to this, then, this weeks Torah section corresponds to the sixth chapter of the Tanya which discusses, as we mentioned above, evil.]
First let us try to understand on our own, what is evil? Why does G-d create it? Why does G-d create people like Hitler or Stalin and give them success? Why does G-d make it feel so good to do evil, and why is the urge to be evil and selfish so powerful and prevalent? In a similar vein, how could the arch-evil Esau come from the same womb (and the same holy environment) as the Tzaddik Yaakov?
Before we begin , let us ask one more question. Is there such a thing as evil?
For instance, murder. Every civilized person will agree that murder is bad. It may be hard to find a consensus on other so-called ‘sins’ like stealing (income taxes ect.), lying, or sexual promiscuity etc. but murder is generally regarded as ‘bad’. But is it really so?
Just 50 years ago one of the most civilized countries that ever existed, , Germany, armed its civilized citizens and for five years methodically went around killing tens of millions of humans for ‘Justice’. Meanwhile, over in the U.S.S.R., ‘The sun to the nations’, Josef Stalin was doing the same thing to millions of his own people in the name of ‘progress’.
And if you really think about it it’s pretty logical! Everyone is going to die anyway, right? Now, when you die what happens? Most normal people will tell you that you simply cease to exist. So when you kill someone you really aren’t doing anything to him, because there is no more ‘him’ that can suffer. Or if you want to say that the dead go to heaven, so murder just sends people to heaven, which is certainly fine. As for the adverse effect that murder has on the murderer himself, well, after it’s done, it’s in the past like everything else, like killing mosquitos or eating an ice cream, gone and forgotten.
Perhaps you may want to argue that murder causes family and friends to suffer, well…. Hitler had the solution for that too, kill them as well. Stalin will reply that with proper education, even sons will be happy to see their (counter-revolutionary) parents shot.
In any case, according to this we can now understand, and maybe even sympathize with, the murderers of the world, be they big or small. In fact today almost everyone has fogiven and/or forgotten the deeds of the Nazis.
So what is wrong with murder?! Or maybe there is no such thing as ‘wrong’?! (I seem to remember a ‘great’ German philosopher saying that “The only sin is to be ashamed”).
The answer is that the ONLY reason that it is wrong to kill is because G-D DOESN’T LIKE IT!
It’s like this: about 3300 years ago there was this nation of about two to three million people called Bnei Yisroel (today called Jews) standing around a mountain in the middle of a Desert when suddenly everything started shaking and ….POW!!!! The Creator of everything (including energy and Angels and time and consciousness etc. etc.) actually TOLD EVERYONE WHAT HE WANTS (i.e. ‘Good”) and WHAT HE DOESN’T WANT (‘bad’).
Since then there have been a LOT of imposters, misleaders and outright mishugoyiim but the truth keeps popping up and peeking through: It really happened, G-d really gave the Torah and He never changed His mind, G-d doesn’t like murderers, cheaters etc.
Now comes the 64,000-dollar question: If He doesn’t like them, then why does He create so many of them?!? And if He is really the King of the Universe etc. then why doesn’t he at least stop them?.
I’ll answer this with a true story about the capture of Adolf Eichman.
Eichman was the cursed devil that engineered and directed the murder of millions of Jews under the grand plan of German soverignty. After the war when Israel became a nation and had their own secret service, they sent a hit squad, mostly holocost survivors, to Argentina where Eichman was hiding, to kidnap him and bring him back to Israel for trial and punishment. Now after they snatched him it took a few weeks to arrange the details of how to smuggle him out of the country.
So what do you think they did with him in that time? They had no choice but to lock themselves up with him together in an isolated house and guard him. Not only guard him that he not escape but also that he not catch cold. They had to feed and wash him and protect him like a precious child because they had orders to bring him whole and heathy to Israel for trial. In other words,although they really hated Eichman and would have loved to tear his eyes out, because of their higher goal they were ‘forced’ to do the exact opposite and actually care for him.
So it is with evil. G-d doesn’t really want it. But He keeps creating it for a higher purpose. And WHAT is that purpose?
The purpose of evil is ‘Avoda’; that man should ‘serve’ and ‘please’ G-d. .
Here is where the Tanya comes in.
A bit before the Baal Shem Tov appeared on the scene the Jewish leaders had almost forgotten that there is such a thing as pleasing G-d. “After all” they reasoned, “How can we give G-d pleasure? G-d is lacking nothing!” They considered it nothing short of blasphemy to even think that G-d is lacking something (Heaven Forfend!) and that we can please Him by fillling that lack.
The Baal Shem began to explain that not only is G-d (so to speak) ‘lacking’, but the only reason that He creates the world continuously is that we should please Him by filling this lack. (In fact, the only way to achieve true happiness is to realize that we please G-d through our good deeds.)
That, explains the Baal Shem, is the meaning of the mysterious sentence in Genesis “Let us make Man”. The Midrash explains that before he created the world, G-d consulted with the souls of the rightous, i.e. He saw the pleasure that He would receive from the service of the Jewish people throughout the generations, and only because of this pleasure did He decide to create the world and man in it.
What is this thing that G-d lacks? What is it that gives Him pleasure?
For this we must take one more look at Adam.
G-d is One. The Tanya devotes many chapters to explaining this idea; ‘One’ in this case means ;that G-d is All and He is the Creator of all, i.e. that there is nothing separate from G-d.
When G-d created the world he made His Oneness not so evident, He sort of covered and disguised Himself with nature, and it was the job of Adam, the first man(and supposedly all mankind after him) to ‘work’ and re-reveal G-d, but this time in the context of the world.
When Adam failed, he caused the concealment to be even more dominant and things continued descending and decending generation after generation until in the generations of the flood, Babel, and Sodom, things got seriously out of control. But none the less, G-d kept the evil impulse alive, much as the captors of Eichman kept him healthy.
The Tanya explains in the sixth chapter, that ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ is nothing other than this hiding of the Oneness of G-d. In the language of Kaballa it is sometimes called ‘Klippa’ or shell; just as the shell covers the fruit inside it, similarly ‘bad’ makes it seem as though G-d does not exist. Now, G-d creates four types of ‘klippa’ to hide His Oneness, the least offensive of them is called ‘nature’ and that is discussed in the seventh chapter, but the lower three are called impure and evil.
That is what G-d is ‘lacking’ so-to-speak, He wants to be revealed in this ‘Klippa’ world. And He has pleasure when this is accomplished through the hard ‘work’ of each and every Jew. (and sometimes non-Jews as well).
(At this point, the reader is requested to remember that we are dealing with G-d here and therefore we can not really understand what we are talking about. In fact I’ve noticed that the way G-d does it is like this: just as you think you have the whole thing figured out He throws in a holocost or some other weird test that scrambles everyones brains. A few more examples are the conditions that lead to worshiping the Golden Calf, Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit, Dovid’s ‘sin’ with Bat-Sheva, Non- observant Jews today etc.
That’s why evil succeeds and why it feels so good to sin; so that we will serve HaShem above our understanding as well.
In fact the Rebbi of Kotzk reportedly said that it takes about 70 80 .years to figure out what life is about and just as you begin to get it, it ’s all over)
This is the reason that Yaakov worked so long in the house of Lavan. He wasn’t working for his Father-in-Law, rather he was working for HaShem.
In fact that was why Yaakov earlier had to fool his father, Yitzchak, into not blessing Esav. Yitzchak mistakenly wanted to bless Esav because he believed that he could fix the evil of the world by just giving it a major blessing. But Yaakov understood that the evil which Esav represented was much too powerful and deep for that. Yaakov knew that he would be the first to really ‘Fight the angel of Esav until the morning’; to begin the removal of the ‘Klippa’ and begin the revelation of G-d’s oneness, and that the job would require years of detailed work and personal sacrifice.
The twenty years of work that he did for Lavan, then, was a preparation for this long and often painfull task that was to be continued by his twelve children and their offspring, the ‘tribes’ of the Jewish people through the dark and difficult exile, to this very day.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out, however, that this task is now over. In our generation we will see the great reveation of the Oneness of HaShem and the arrival of our Rightous Redeemer, the Moshiach. All that remains, instructed the Rebbi is to open our ‘eyes’ and see the truth; G-d is One, His Name is One, and we, the Jewish People are His emissaries to reveal this Oneness.
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