This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayishlach (5760)
The nineteenth (Yud Tes) day of the Jewish month of Kislev is a holiday that holds a very deep and vital message for every person in the world, both Jew and non-Jew.
On this day the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Laidi, was released from prison over 200 years ago.
On this day the meaning of life was revealed to the world.
First let us look at exactly what happened.
In the year 1799, the day after the holiday of Simchat Torah, the Czarist Government imprisoned The Rebbe on charges of high treason.
Very conscientious and religious Jews who hated Rabbi Shneur Zalman because of his devotion to the teachings of the 'Baal Shem Tov' brought these false charges.
The Baal Shem preached, one generation earlier, that every Jew is holy regardless of his accomplishments and that one good deed in this world is more important than the spiritual rewards of the world-to-come. These and similar ideas, together with his emphasis on Moshiach, were the antithesis of the accepted elitist philosophy of the Torah scholars, and the Rebbe went even further.
Based on his astoundingly complete knowledge in Kabala, Talmud and Jewish Law he expanded and codified these ideas and applied them to every aspect of the Torah and every facet of life. He taught that the Jews are the only ones that can hasten the coming of the Messiah, reveal the Creator's purpose for His Creation, and bring peace and blessing to the world. He explained how each and every Jew can use his entire personality: mind, emotions, action, speech and thought in the way that G-d wants, i.e. according to the Torah, in a spirit of true happiness and joy, and actually cause a massive change for the good in the entire world.
When his work was finished and virtually no question remained unanswered, hundreds of the most outstanding scholastic minds in Russia decided to cease their opposition and become his pupils.
But his flawless logic and his success only angered his enemies all the more, they were certain that he was a threat to the entire edifice of Judaism. They decided they had no choice other than to forge documents 'proving' that The Rebbe, in his desires to be declared 'Messiah', was collaborating with Turkey to overthrow the Czar in exhange for their promise to make him the King of the Jews.
The Government took the story very seriously and even sent the dreaded 'Black Coach', reserved for the worst political enemies, to arrest him. The Rebbe was imprisoned and for the next 53 days sat with a death sentence hanging over his head.
But gradually things began to change. He was subjected to severe questioning, but all the interrogations that he underwent only indicated to them that he was not only innocent, but that he was a truly unique and a G-dly man. <p>
In fact he answered all their questions either verbally or in writing except for one; when he was asked to explain what he wrote in the end of the first chapter of the 'Tanya' that only a Jew can be 'good' in the true sense of the word, he replied with only a smile. Suddenly they themselves understood that a Jew is really a 'Chosen' being.
Higher and higher officials came to question or just to look at him until the even Czar disguised himself as a simple soldier to see this holy Jew. As soon as he entered, however, the Rebbe immediately stood and made the appropriate blessing on seeing a King and gave the Czar an explanation.
After his miraculous release on the nineteenth of Kislev the Rebbe increased his work, publicizing his discourses and lengthening them into the format that would come to be known as 'Chassidut Chabad'.
We can gain even a greater insight into this Chassidic holiday by taking an inquisitive look at this weeks Torah section, VaYishlach,
[Especially because the holiday of Yud Tes (nineteen in Hebrew) Kislev usually occurs in the week that the Torah section of VaYishlash is read, and Chassidus Chabad explains that the Torah portion of each week is the secret of the life force of that week. From it, and only form it, we can learn how to properly translate the occurrences of the week, past, present and future, into action]
The Torah tells us that Yaakov dealt with angels; in the beginning of our Torah section he sent actual angels to his brother Esev and later in the section he fights with an angel. What does this mean to us? How can we possibly benefit from or even understand this weird information? How can a physical man fight with a spiritual angel? What is an angel? Are there really such things today?
The Mystical books of Judaism explain that angels are 'messengers' from G-d. They are the way that G-d runs the world. Something like the way that emotions and thoughts are the messengers of the soul to effect one's physical body. <p>
There are angels that direct the spiritual life force for plant growth, others for animal growth, for human life, for each religion and nation etc. Some angels are purely spiritual, like those spoken about in the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah but many have a specific purpose in the world, like the angels that destroyed Sodom and that spoke to Lavan and Bilham.
What they all have in common is that they are a link between the spiritual and the physical, or more exactly spiritual links between The Creator and His Creation. <p>
Yaakov ruled over the angels because he was G-d's representative in the world, he was connected only to the Creator. <p>
He rose above even the spiritual, and was only involved in G-d's plan; bringing the spiritual down and raising the physical up according to the Torah. (That is what the Midrash means when it says that Yaakov did all the commandments hundreds of years before they were given on Mount Sinai.) This is also indicated in Yaakov's name; it begins with the letter 'yud' the first and 'highest' level of G-d's name, (representing 'Chochma' the highest of G-dly levels), and ends with the word for 'heel' (ekev) i.e. the lowest of mundane levels. <p>
Yaakov "our Father" gave us the ability to always be devoted to the purpose. ( Kaballa calls it "Teferet", the middle pillar)
Therefore Yaakov was able to send angels, defeat others, and had his name changed to Yisroel, which, among other things, means 'straight' (Yashar) to G-d, because he was totally connected to G-d's purpose in the world, as he remarked to his brother 'Avo Adoni S'iera" I'm trying to bring Moshiach.
For that reason, when he sent the angels to Esev, he only sent their physical part (mammash) to impress him, but the spiritual side, their true purpose, remained with him. Similarly, when he fought with the angel, although the angel assumed a physical form Yaakov remained spiritual, seeing the situation and drawing energy from G-d's perspective. Consequently even after these feats of prowess, Yaakov said 'Katonti' "I am very small"; he was looking from G-d's view and therefore knew and actually felt that all his victories were purely the kindness of the All Mighty.
Yaakov (Yisroel) was also one of our forefathers, in fact the main father of the Jews, (Bnei Yisroel), and therefore he inherited this trait to us as well. But it comes to us through the 'Tzaddikim' G-dly Jewish leaders of every generation. <p>
Rebbi Shneur Zalman continued the legacy of Yaakov. The above-mentioned letter that he wrote after his release was also entitled 'Katonti' and had the same message; pay no attention to external occurrences, (as he himself had done) but rather to the G-dly purpose behind them and do all that we can to finish the work that Yaakov began and reveal the Moshiach.
Only then will we be able to act, and react, in a way that will take this dark exile and transform it into the beautiful symphony of joy and G-dliness. NOW!
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