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.
Passover (5762 (1))
This year is the highest and most powerful Passover in the history of the Jewish people.
The Jews are commanded to always "Raise in Holiness" (Brachot 28a and more). Therefore, every Passover, in fact every day, is standing on the "shoulders" of all those before it, making this year's Seder 3314 levels higher than the first Pesach 3314 years ago.
But one question still remains; why did G-d have to take us OUT of Egypt?
Passover celebrates our leaving Egypt, but it seemingly wasn't really necessary. After He subjugated the Egyptians with the ten plagues, why didn't G-d just let us stay there and make the Egyptians serve US?
Perhaps the following story will help us understand.
Professor Yirmiahu Branover is a Chabad Chassid. He was born in Russia, has deep connections to the Jews there, and although he moved to Israel many years ago to establish a large research center in Ber Sheva, he was given many special and highly secretive missions by the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding Russian Jewery.
Around 1989 the Rebbe began saying publicly that the iron curtain was about to fall and myriads of Jews would flood into the free world.
Needless to say, at the time it just seemed like very wishful thinking and attracted very little attention. But when the Rebbe told Professor Bronover to secure land and begin a housing project in Jerusalem for the new influx of immigrants, eyebrows began to raise.
Professor Branover did as the Rebbe requested but it seemed VERY unlikely that anything would come of it. Especially when the shocking news arrived that Mikael Gorbatchov was chosen to be the next Primer of the USSR.
Gorbatchov had a reputation for being a very ruthless politician with few pro-Jewish sentiments. There were even editorials in Russia that predicted he would be another Stalin. The Jews trembled.
But the Rebbe thought differently. He told Bronover to call all his acquaintances in Russia and tell them that they would soon be leaving. But when he did so, they all replied in the same way. "Impossible!"
One man even wept and said. "Last night they took my wife in for questioning and she hasn't returned yet. At this moment a KGB (secret service) car is parked in front of my apartment building. Things are worse than ever. Are you sure that is what the Rebbe said?"
But suddenly it happened. Unexpectedly Gorbatchov dramatically dissolved the Soviet Union, gave autonomy to all its member countries, opened the gates of Russia and allowed free exit to anyone that wanted out. In the course of a few weeks one of the most powerful and evil forces in history suddenly dissolved. Exactly as the Rebbe had prophesized.
But the story isn't over.
When Gorbatchov later visited Israel, Professor Branover was chosen as his guide for part of the stay. Inevitably they discussed how he had changed world history, and Branover had to mention the Lubavitcher Rebbe's predictions almost a year earlier.
Gorbachov was stunned. He thought for a while and said. "If what you say is true, then your Rebbe is completely outside the realm of nature. Even if he somehow succeeded in infiltrating the Kremlin he could not have known such things a year ago. In fact I myself did not even know! When I took office I had a completely different plan, but circumstances just forced me to change."
This is a real example of leaving Egypt in our time.
But there is seemingly a very big difference between back then and now. The Rebbe did not lead the Jews out of Russia as Moses led them from Egypt.
If so we can ask, what was the purpose of the Rebbe's prophesy, what did it accomplish?
The answer is that it showed the world that it wasn't nature, but it was G-d that miraculously opened the gates of Russia in order to let the Jews out, like He did in Egypt.
So that begins to answer our question.
The Egyptians were spiritual people. The Torah tells us they could change inanimate sticks into serpents. But when the Jews left Egypt they left all that, they went "above" spirituality. They became united with the Creator Himself. (As G-d tells Moses (4:22) that the Jews are HIS SON etc.)
And the Creator cares about the PHYSICAL. (that is why He gave the Torah here).
This is what the Jews got when they left Egypt, its called "Hashgacha Protit". Suddenly they were given the potential to see the truth; that G-d is ONE here in this physical world.
Namely that the PHYSICAL WORLD and everything that happens in it, even the most obscure detail, is a vehicle for G-d (that's what it means that G-d is ONE ie there is NOTHING except for Him).
This is called "Hashgacha Protit"; seeing that G-d personally causes EVERY occurrence in this world and that each detail comes to teach us a lesson about G-d's Goodness and His Oneness.
There is a story about Rabbi Yosef Yaakov of Polnoy called the "Toldos" because of a book he wrote by that same name. The "Toldos" was commanded by his teacher, the Baal Shem Tov to see the Hashgacha Protis in literally everything.
"It is too difficult" he complained. "In fact it's impossible. Perhaps from major events I can see G-d's hand, but how can I see it in every blade of grass and every bug that moves. That is for great Tzadikim like you, but not me."
He left the Besht's room and walked outside deeply immersed in thought. "Impossible! To see meaning in everything? It's simply impossible for someone like me."
Suddenly he heard to his right, "Hey there, Rabbi! Hello! Come help. Please help, I can't get this wagon out of the mud."
He had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn't even notice that he passed by a wagon stuck in the mud, its driver futilely trying push while his horse was unsuccessfully straining to pull it free.
"No no!" answered the Rabbi, "I can't do such work. Sorry, I simply can't help you."
"Aaah!" answered the distressed wagon driver. "Can't ehh? Can't help ehh?! No no my friend. It's not that you CAN'T help. You don't WANT to!"
Suddenly the "Toldos" realized that this was Divine providence telling him to reconsider his refusal to the Besh't. He helped the driver and returned to his teacher.
That is why the Jewish people had to be taken from Egypt. If they would have remained they would have become just another self-centered nation with a spiritual patron-god like the all other nations, they would never have realized their potential.
But by leaving they became attached to the Creator and to the purpose of Creation; they received the Torah and finally entered Israel where they could make a lot of difficult choices and bring G-dliness into the lowest place possible; their own free will.
This will be the job of Moshiach; to bring the entire world out of "Egypt" to wean them from their spiritual and selfish "hang-ups" and bring them to the realization that G-d is infinitely good and infinitely near.
It all depends, like the story of the "Toldos", on our will.
May this year's Matzo, wine and relating the story of the exodus give us the inspiration to REALLY WANT....
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.