This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Vayeishev (5765)
This week, on Friday, will be the Chassidic Holiday of the 19th of the Jewish month of Kislev
And this week's Torah portion, 'VaYaishev', begins with Josef, the son of the Third Patriarch of Judaism, Jacob, relating a dream to his father.
They must be connected somehow. Let us see how.
First let us examine the dream.
Josef dreamt that he and his brothers were gathering sheaths of wheat in a field and when they finished, his brothers' bundles mysteriously stood and bowed to his bundle.
The Torah then tells us that when his brothers heard this, they became so angry they designed to kill him.
Does this make sense? They were holy people, why would they take a dream so seriously as to want to kill him?! And what did the dream mean?
To understand this, here is similar story of hatred that happened some 3,500 years later in 1789: the imprisonment of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbi Shneur Zalman due to the slander of 'his brothers' and his miraculous release on the 19th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.
Rebbe Shneur Zalman wrote a book called 'The Tanya" that explained what G-d is and how the Jewish people and the Torah are uniquely united with Him. He taught that all Jews; even sinners, are holy and are 'part' of G-d's essence while even the greatest scholars and Holy Jews have to 'repent' (more accurately 'return' 'Tshuva' to G-d). This he did by the explanation of Kabbalistic ideas and terms that enflamed the minds and hearts of his followers with enthusiasm.
But it angered the 'normal' Torah Scholars. They couldn't stand this turning Judaism 'inside out'; stressing the soul and the essence of all things and playing down their greatness in Torah.
They called themselves "Mitnagdim" (opposers), forged papers that the Rebbe was planning a revolution and slandered him to the government. And it worked! The Rebbe was charged with high treason, taken in the feared 'Black Coach' to the highest maximum security prison in Russia and interrogated under threat of death.
His presented him with twenty two questions about his goals and his 'philosophy'' to determine that he was a danger and should be eliminated.
All the questions except for one the Rebbe answered in great length, some orally some in writing, explaining each detail so as to be understood by all his interrogators.
Except for the last question; this the Rebbe did not answer but rather just smiled at his captors….. although he knew that this smile could spell certain death.
The last of the 22 was on what it says the end of the very first chapter of the 'Tanya' (that had been published some two years earlier) that Jews are completely different from gentiles; Jews can be 'good,' devoting themselves totally to G-d while even the most religious and altruistic gentile cannot rise beyond the creation!
Czarist Russia was completely controlled by the Russian Orthodox Church who considered themselves the quintessence of mercy, wisdom, good and truth. There was no natural way they would ignore this brazen insult to their religion!
But strangely, they not only did not get angry a few days later on the nineteenth day of 'Kislev' they told him he was free!! This date became a major holiday for Chabad Chassidim all over the world as the day that the teachings of Chabad called "Chassidut Chabad' containing the meaning of life was revealed to the world.
There are several explanations, or rather theories, of why this unanswered question caused them to release the Rebbe without a word.
The first is that the Czar's officials realized the Rebbe was right and were afraid to hear his explanation.
The second is they sensed that they could never understand the Rebbe and there was no point asking.
But in either case, they released him because they sensed that he was a blessing and certainly only only good would come from him.
A third explanation is that he smiled in joy because he knew that he realized he was about to actually die for the truth and this made him rejoice.
But precisely this joy broke their spiritual power (simcha poretzes geder), and rescinded the decree. So they were spiritually 'forced' to release him although they had no idea why.
But I want to add a fourth explanation.
In the Bible is says that the Jewish people are 'chosen' (Deut. 7:6) but until the Tanya was written it wasn't clear exactly what they were chosen for.
Some interpreted it that they were chosen to receive G-d's Bible, or to go to heaven, or to inherit the land of Israel. But all these were superficial.
The real meaning was buried in Kabalistic books, accessible only to very few wise men.
But the Tanya revealed, explained and advertised it to the world: the Jews are (and each Jew is) a 'part' of G-d, designed and 'Chosen' to bring Moshiach who will awaken all mankind: "Fill the world with the awareness of G-d as water fills the sea" Isaiah 11:9) as it was at Sinai and in the Holy Temple.
In other words the Jews were chosen to make sense out of this confusing, cold and selfish world and show the gentiles how much G-d loves them: he creates them!
This is why the Rebbe smiled.
When he realized that gentiles had read his Tanya and had become aware of this truth, he smiled. It was a foretaste of Moshiach.
And when his captors saw this joy they wanted to be part of it by exonerating him from death, a foretaste of the Raising of the Dead.
This answers our question about Josef's dream.
His brothers were great and holy people. But they only succeeded in gathering small amounts of holiness in their service of G-d, (represented by their gathering sheaves) something like those who opposed the Rebbe.
But Yosef was a forerunner of Moshiach who will come to unite, 'gather' and elevate the entire world (including even the holiest people): their bundles bowed to his.
And his brothers sensed this. They sensed that Josef what something totally different and would destroy all the good and unity they worked for.
And that is why they hated him.
There is a tremendously deep and urgent message here: to try to see the potential good in every one, especially every Jew.,,,,,,,,, and very especially one who tries to change the world for good according to the Torah.
The Rambam (Maimonides) writes that Moshiach will be a Jew that will be incomparably 'higher' than any other Jewish leader in history who will 'gather ALL the sheaves: bring all Judaism to learn and observe the Torah and all the gentiles to serve the Creator alone. But we must long for him and do everything possible to facilitate his arrival.
It's all in our hands. We can correct the mistake of Yosef's brothers. It is imperative that we learn the ideas of the Tanya and other Chassidic works (see your local Chabad House for details) and see the 'big picture'.
Then even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring…..
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.