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.
Ten Days of Repentance (5763)
This Shabbat, Shabbat Tshuva, we prepare ourselves for the Holiest day of the year, Yom HaKipurim; The day that G-d not only forgives all who return to Him as He does the entire year, but also inspires everyone to return. This week's Torah Section reminds us that the Jewish people are a very unique nation. WE are a portion of G-d and don't need intermediaries like the other nations. (32:9)
Yes, every Jew can connect directly to G-d. In fact the very name Yisroel implies straight (Yis'r) to G-d (E-l).
It is therefore a bit strange when we read that in the days of the Temple the Cohen Godol (Great Priest) prayed for the entire Jewish nation in the Holy of Holies while they just stood outside the Temple the entire day and waited.
What place does this have in Judaism? Why was there ever such a thing? Why didn't everyone just pray for themselves?
Even more; today when we do pray ourselves on Yom Kippur we beseech G-d to rebuild the Temple so the Priest can do it for us again!
To understand this here are two stories.
This story appears in the book Shemen Sason (2:43) by Rabbi S.B.Volpe. When Rabbi Shabtai Slovtetzki (now the head Lubavitch Shaliach in Antwerp) learned in Yeshiva Kol Torah in Jeruselam over twenty five years ago, there was one pupil there that would continually ridicule the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Once the head of the yeshiva, the famous Rabbi Shomo Zalman Auerbach heard about this, and it pained him greatly. He took the young man aside and told him the following story, which the pupil later related to the entire yeshiva.
Late one winter night, when the rest of the house was asleep, a simple woman came to visit my father, Rabbi Chiam Leib who was also a great Rabbi and leader. She was hysterically weeping and it was difficult to bear her obvious anguish.
"Rabbi, Rabbi, help me, help me please!" she wailed. Only you can tell me what to do!!" My father made her sit down and as soon as she did she calmed down a bit and continued.
"My daughter is in the hospital giving birth but there are complications. Complications! Oy Rabbi! The doctors say that her life is in danger and they must operate immediately. But I am afraid. Rabbi, I have a feeling that if they operate ….. ooy Rabbi help me! Tell me what to do!"
I remember how my father looked at the poor woman's beseeching eyes and I could see the mercy welling up in him.
He thought deeply for a minute and suddenly said, "It will be all right!" He paused a moment and continued "You have nothing to be afraid of, just trust in HaShem! There is no need for any operation!"
"Ohhh! Thank you Rabbi! Thank You!!´ She said as she stood and hurriedly backed out of his door, semi bowing. "Ohhh thank you!"
She was gone. My father sat there deep in thought for some five or ten minutes. Suddenly he bolted out of his seat, ran out of the house, into the street and looked feverishly in all directions.
But it was too late, she was gone. And she had left no traces, not even her last name or which hospital her daughter was at. There was absolutely no way of contacting her.
"What have I done?" He mumbled to himself as he returned. "How could I have been so sure? What made me do it?!"
He returned home, woke up the rest of the family and told us all to say Palms the entire night. Believe me I never saw my father so distressed. He wept and kept repeating. "How could I tell her to risk her daughter's life? Perhaps the doctors are right. Oyy!"
Early the next morning there was a knock on our door. My father ran to answer it and there was the woman again, but this time with a smile on her face.
Of course my father was overjoyed. "Am I happy to see you!" He exclaimed excitedly. "Tell me, how is your daughter? How was the birth? From the smile on your face I see we have good news! Thank G-d!!"
"It's a boy, Rabbi! The operation was unnecessary just as you said, thank you Rabbi! I don't know how to thank you! You saved my daughter's life!!" Rabbi Shlomo Zalman had finished his story. He looked deeply at his young pupil and concluded, "Just think; my father was a very great man, a holy Tzadik and a gaon (genius) but when he took the responsibility for just one woman it was almost too much for him to bear.
"While the 'Lubavitcher' does that for hundreds of people every day! And he's been doing it for years! I can't imagine what an immense soul he must have. Why, he's taken the responsibility for the entire Jewish people! "How can you possibly speak against such a man?"
The second story is about another Torah giant.
Rabbi Yosef Ruzin, or as he is better known The Rogachaver Gaon (the genius of Rogachav) who passed away some seventy years ago in Russia was a true phenomenon of Torah genius and erudition.
His books are deep Torah questions and long lists of book references and page numbers where the answers can be found.
Although he knew all the Talmudic tractates with all their commentaries by heart, nevertheless he literally never stopped leaning Torah.
His diligence was so outstanding that the great Ohr S'meach, Rabbi Mair Simcha of Divinsk, once said of him that you can't say he has a good memory because there is no aspect of Torah that he has not recently repeated. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that his mind was easily five times that of Albert Einstein's.
But despite the Rogachover's greatness, he was devoted to the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and considered himself one of the Rebbe's followers. He often would invite the students of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva to eat at his home on the Sabbath and engage them in conversation.
Once he asked them an interesting question; "Can anyone here tell me what a 'Rebbe' is; not a Rabbi or a scholar or a Tzadik (holy Jew) but a Rebbe? They gave a few answers which he considered until they finally asked him what HE thought a Rebbe is.
He thought for a few seconds and replied: "What a Rebbe is …. No one can possible understand.
But one thing I know; if a Jew, any Jew, even a Jew on the other side of the world moans in pain……. The Rebbe feels it."
This answers our question. Every generation needs a 'Cohen Godol'; a Jew that worries for the welfare of ALL the Jews in the world (even those that oppose him). In some generations it was the king, in others it was a prophet, some it was a combination of all three, but without at least one such person, the Jews are like a flock without a shepherd.
But as vital as this is we see that the Jews have trouble with this idea. They rebelled against Moses, later against David, later against all the prophets. The Jews wanted to be on their own, without any Great Priests or leaders intervening for them and eventually G-d complied; He destroyed the Holy Temple so they would SEEM to be alone.
This is the topic of this week's section; G-d is reproving the Jews for despising true leaders (see the end of last week's section) and reminding them that, in fact, G-d has not left them although it may seems so. And this is the preparation for Yom Kippur.
In Yom Kippur we beg HaShem to forgive us for our mistakes rebuild the Temple and bring back the 'Cohen Godol'.
In other words all the prayers of Yom Kippur are only that HaShem should send us Moshiach, (only he will rebuild the Temple) a true leader that worries for and feels the pain of all the Jewish people, and that we should obey him as we should have done to the prophets.
Then, and ONLY then, will be fulfilled what we request in our prayers: "Gather the scattered Jews from among the nations, from the corners of the earth…to Jerusalem Your Holy Temple."
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.