This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shemot (5764)
This week's section begins THE ultimate story:
An entire nation of over two million slaves, through no power of their own, decimated one of the greatest superpowers of all time and escaped, all together, to freedom.
This story has no comparison in world history and barely a place in human imagination. No religion, even those that claim to replace Judaism, is founded on such a story. And no author, even of the most surreal fiction, has even come close to duplicating it.
Yet, it was experienced by millions of people and repeated from father to son non-stop till this very day for over 3,300 years, making it the by far the most validated event ever to occur.
And it is the most important and meaningful one as well; namely that G-d has a plan for and cares about His creation (and EACH of His creations) and is willing to do miracles for them.
This is the firm foundation and unique message of Judaism to all humanity: G-d cares! And every detail of this story has immense depth and purpose.
In his week's section Moses sees a burning bush, approaches it and there G-d appears and requests from him to lead the Jews from Egypt. Whereupon Moses asks: (3:13)
"When the people ask Your name what will I tell them?"
And G-d replies Tell them that - "I AM THAT I AM".
Obviously this conversation has a deeper meaning than meets the eye.
G-d already told Moses His name at the beginning of the conversation. Not only that, but the Jews knew G-d's name since the days of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. So why did Moses ask? And why was Moses so sure the people would ask for G-d's name in the first place? What difference would it make? What is so important about G-d's name? And why would this new name of 'I AM' satisfy them?
To answer this here is a story.
This story started on a Shabbat which was a few days before Chanukah in the year 1973 in Brooklyn. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was speaking to a group of almost a thousand Chassidim who were standing crowded on makeshift bleachers of tables and chairs to see this holy Jew and hear every word he spoke.
The speeches were long, deep and interesting and were separated by joyous song and occasional 'L'Chiams'. Then suddenly the Rebbe announced something and everyone fell silent to hear.
"Where is Glick from London?!" He repeated his call again. People began looking around, asking each other if they had seen him. Again the Rebbe announced "Where is Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Glick?"
But he was nowhere to be found. In fact Rabbi Glick wasn't even there! He was in Spain, and the Rebbe knew it!!
But only a month later did it become clear what had happened.
Rabbi Glick was a successful businessman and his whole life had been devoted to business, until he met the Lubavitcher Rebbe ten years ago. At this first meeting the Rebbe said to him:
"You manufacture light bulbs, correct? A bulb lights only when one turns it on. Similarly, everywhere you happen to be you must illuminate and 'turn on' Jewish souls."
Since then his life's goal became 'turning on Jews' and all his business endeavors were devoted to spreading Judaism where and whenever possible.
Back to our story; that Shabbat while the Rebbe was asking about him in Brooklyn, Rabbi Glick was stuck in the city of Majorca, together with his wife in Spain.
His plan three days earlier had been to travel from Barcelona, where he was doing business to Madrid and then to Lisbon, Portugal for other business meetings. But the next day the phone in his hotel room rang; it was one of the Rebbe's secretaries. The Rebbe wanted him to travel to the isle of Majorca and 'turn on' the Jews there.
Because the message did not sound urgent, Rabbi Glick thought that he could put off Majorca until after he finished the circuit he had planned - but it wasn't so.
When he and his wife arrived in the Barcelona airport for their Madrid flight on Thursday they discovered that mysteriously all the flights to Madrid had been cancelled. So, seeing this as a sign from above, they bought two tickets to Majorca and boarded the next flight. Instead of spending Chanukah in Madrid and Portugal they would be in Majorca.
Only moments after the plane took off they began to understand why the Rebbe sent them. The skies suddenly blackened and severe storm winds began tossing the plane back and forth, up and down like a toothpick. The end was near! The passengers, even grown men, began screaming and weeping hysterically like children and pandemonium reigned.
But he and especially his wife were calm. They were sure that if the Rebbe sent them, there was ABSOLUTELY nothing to worry about, and their calmness was the only thing that kept everyone sane.
When they miraculously landed in Majorca the stewardesses, passengers and even the pilots could not thank the Glicks enough. And then they discovered why all Madrid flights had been cancelled; the Prime Minister of Spain had been assassinated by a terrorist bomb, Madrid had been closed off and the country was in an upheaval. They immediately headed for the largest hotel.
No sooner had they arrived there they received another call from the Rebbe's office. It was Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, on the other end. The Rebbe had just finished writing two very long and interesting 'general letters' to be sent to all his Chassidim and he wanted Rabbi Glick to copy them, have both translated into Spanish and then read them on Shabbat evening to all the Jews in the Hotel he was staying.
Rabbi Glick knew that this would be no small task. First of all, he was very tired from his trying journey and, it would take a long time to properly copy the letters from dictation over the phone (these were the days before fax machines). Secondly, who knows if he could find a translator who would be willing and able to do the job and then actually translate such a thing? Thirdly, who knows if the people in the hotel were Jews? And even so, if they would be willing to listen to such a long religious letter from an unknown Rabbi in New York!
But a Chassid follows orders joyously! That night Rabbi Glick didn't sleep. He copied the letters from over the phone, found a translator and early the next morning it was ready.
That evening was Shabbat Chanukah. After the meal in the hotel dining room, Rabbi Glick, who had discovered that most of the guests were Jewish (!), stood on one of the chairs, yelled out a cheerful "Good Shabbos everyone!" made a L'chiam and announced, in broken Spanish, that he had stayed up the entire previous night preparing a special treat for everyone - a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe!! And now he wanted to read it to them…. In Spanish.
To his pleasant surprise the people were interested. Some of them had been on that flight from Barcelona and the word got around that he was a different sort of Rabbi.
He handed out the letters and then sat with the guests for several hours reading and discussing each idea late into the Shabbat night. The impression it made on them was awesome! Many announced they would begin to do commandments and some actually began to dance and sing with joy (with Rabbi Glick's impetus).
That Shabbat made the rest of the week's work easy. The news of that miraculous Shabbat went before them and when he and his wife contacted other Jews in Majorca from a list that they were given, everyone responded favorably. Jews that had become almost completely estranged from Judaism suddenly became interested.
Even the wealthiest Jew (and perhaps most assimilated) on the island not only took on himself to begin to put on Tefillin daily but actually ordered a huge Chanukah Menorah to be immediately installed on the top of his penthouse where the entire island would see it burn for the remaining nights of the holiday!
Several weeks later, after they returned home, Rabbi Glick and his wife received a long letter of thanks from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in English (so as to advertise it more widely) that promised; "This success will serve as an inspiration and encouragement for even greater successes in the future!"
And shortly thereafter, Rabbi Hodokov the Rebbe's personal secretary called him and explained why the Rebbe had strangely called his name that Shabbat.
"The Rebbe told me to call you now and tell you that he knew you weren't in the room when he called your name. He just wanted to give you powers to succeed in your Chanukah mission in Europe. The Rebbe was with you all the time."
This answers our questions about Moses asking G-d for his name.
G-d's names are important because they relate to His various aspects: One name relates to His kindness, another for His Severity, another, in fact His 'main' name, refers to His Mercy etc. By knowing G-d's names we realize that G-d is not just infinitely distant from the world but He cares and is connected to the every detail of creation as well: He is infinitely close.
So the Jewish people knew all these names of G-d; they had been passed down from the forefathers.
This was what worried Moses. He was apprehensive that the Jews would ask him; "We know alot of G-d's names and the aspects they represent. We also know that G-d's main name is that of Mercy.
"What we want to know is ...what is the name….. the aspect of G-d that allowed his children to suffer in Egyptian bondage for two hundred and ten years!!! What will I tell them??
To this G-d answered "I AM that I AM".
"Just as they suffer, SO I SUFFER WITH THEM!!! And it is that same infinite "I AM" that will miraculously take them out when the proper time has come, AND NOW THE PROPER TIME HAS COME!!!
They only have to WANT to follow you out.
(This is a summary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's explanation; Shabbos Parshat Shmot 5744)
Something like how the Rebbe was with Rabbi Glick on the endangered plane and in the miraculous events that came thereafter.
This is very very relevant to each of us today.
For almost two thousand years we Jews have been suffering in a terrible exile spread throughout the world; yearning, praying and doing everything possible to bring Moshiach. Because, like Moses in Egypt, ONLY Moshiach can free us from this exile.
There has been much suffering, and many disappointments, far too many! But now, in our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe announced time and time again that the awaited redemption has arrived. The Jewish people (and, so to speak, HaShem with them!) have suffered enough!!
Moshiach is here! All the work has been completed and the generation is ready. All we need to do is to learn about Moshiach (see www.ohrtmimim.org/torah Moshiach essay) and really WANT REDEMPTION NOW.
Then, even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scale and bring....
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