This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Va'eira (5764)
This week's section continues with the awesome story of the Exodus and begins to explain what a long and complicated process it was.
Once a month, for ten months in a row Moses and his brother Aaron were commanded by G-d to go into Pharaoh and threaten him with a different terrible plague. Only then did each plague occur.
But here we see a strange thing; G-d commanded BOTH Aaron AND MOSES to speak to Pharaoh. (See Rashi 7:2 Moses spoke to Pharaoh in Hebrew and Aaron translated).
At first glance this is strange. Besides the fact that Moses had a speech impediment, he spoke in a language Pharaoh couldn't understand!! Why didn't G-d tell Moses to just whisper to Aaron and let Aaron do the talking? Isn't that what Moses asked for in the first place? Why did Moses have to speak to PHARAOH?
To understand this here is a story that occurred recently.
It was a usual site; two attractive young ladies in their early twenties, sitting next to each other on the number three Brooklyn subway weeping uncontrollably and occasionally crying out in Hebrew, "Oh G-d, help us! Send us the greatest Rabbi in the world!!" and "Oh Daddy Daddy!!! What is going to be?!!"
They did attract a little attention over the noise and bustle of people getting on and off, but their Hebrew cries discouraged would be helpers. Then, when the girls noticed religious Jews getting on they quieted down a bit. After several stops, when they saw the Jews getting off at Kinsgton Avenue, they followed them out of the subway station. They found themselves standing in the cool autumn evening in front of 770 Eastern Parkway; the busy headquarters of the Chabad Chassidim.
Again they began weeping. But this time one of the Chassidim approached and asked if he could help.
"Our father went crazy!" Said one of them and burst out crying. The other continued. "Please, can you send us a Rabbi!! Our father is in danger. Please!"
The Chassid told them to wait, ran into the building and several moments later a different Chassid, Rabbi Yitzchak Lipsh, came out and approached them.
"I'm not really a Rabbi" he said humbly, "but I speak Hebrew and there was no one else around so maybe I can help. Do you want something to drink or eat? There's a restaurant here.
"No, thank you Rabbi" one of them interrupted, "It's very urgent. Who knows if he's still alive!!" And they both broke into bitter tears.
It took a few minutes for them to get themselves together and finally they told the sad story.
Their parents had been divorced some three years earlier and their father, who was as assimilated as they, began dating non-Jewish women.
Then, several months ago, he began acting strangely. At first he became withdrawn and refused to talk to anyone. They thought it would pass, but it only got worse. Until finally, a few weeks ago, he locked himself in his house with the claim that he was being pursued by witches and demons and now was refusing to eat saying that it was his only cure.
They tried to bring people to talk to him but he would have no part of it and just yelled at them to go away. The girls were really afraid that in his demented state he would do something rash and now, at their wit's end, they decided they would fight fire with fire.
They set off to find a spiritual Rabbi to exorcise the evil spirits.
They went to the subway with the intention of taking the number two to Flatbush, where they heard there were a lot of Rabbi's, but by mistake got on the number three subway and now that they were in Crown Heights they wondered if maybe they should leave.
The had heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In fact he was the only Rabbi they knew by name, but they heard that he had passed away almost ten years earlier.
Rabbi Lipsh answered. "Tzadikim never leave this world, especially the Rebbe. In fact, you can get advice now even easier than ever before. Just write a letter and I'll show you."
They followed Rabbi Lipsh to the women's section of the Synagogue, sat down, he brought a pen and some paper and they wrote the letter. Then, when they finished, he directed them to select one of the twenty five volumes of Igrot Kodesh (collections of answers the Rebbe sent to people) put the letter between two pages at random and then open it back up to see what was written there.
Amazingly it was a letter written over forty five years earlier (book 16 page 164) to a troubled man. Rabbi Lipsh read aloud:
"In answer to his letter in which he writes a summery of what is happening and how he attributes it to witchcraft and evil spells...
He must remove his mind from this completely and strengthen his trust and faith in G-d, blessed be He, who cares for each person individually. And he should check his Tefillin and the Mezuzas in his home, give a few coins to charity every weekday before prayer in the morning and read the portion of Psalms as they are divided into days of the month every day after prayer including Sabbath and the Holidays.
Regarding his cure; first begin to look for a proper Jewish wife. But there is no place for fasting as this is the opposite of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. And at every opportunity try to take part in a Chassidic Farbringen (gathering)."
When the girls heard the letter they stood frozen as though suspended in some world beyond time. All his problems; witches, fasting, lack of a Jewish wife and Jewish life, were there!
How could the Rebbe have written a letter almost fifty years ago, as though to their father today!!
They begged Rabbi Lipsh to accompany them to read it to their father in person and he reluctantly agreed. On the way out he met his brother Rabbi Uri who agreed to go along for support. Then, when there were no taxis at the nearest stop, miraculously a friend of theirs pulled up from nowhere and asked if they wanted a ride to Manhattan - not far from their destination!
In no time they were at the apartment house where their father lived. But as they went up the stairs the girls began trembling with fear.
"You don't know how scary it is there!" one of them whispered. "I'm not sure if there aren't REALLY spooks!" said the other.
Sure enough, as soon as they opened the door their father began cursing and shouting at them from the dimly lit room. The smell was almost intolerable. He had filled the rooms with bags of salt, sugar, flour and anything at hand to ward off the evil spirits and the windows had been tightly locked for weeks making it almost impossible to breathe.
As their eyes adjusted to the dark they saw an emaciated madman crouching in the corner behind a chair screaming and yelling at them to leave. Rabbi Lipsh had no choice but to try to yell a word in somehow so he began reading the letter of the Rebbe and hoped their father wouldn't get violent.
There was no way the man could have understood a word they were saying over his own shouting but suddenly he stopped, stood up and told his daughters in a calm voice that he was hungry and wanted to go to the corner store to buy some food. He then opened a few the windows to let some fresh air in and even turned on some lights for the first time in days.
One of his bewildered daughters accompanied him out while the other, together with the Rabbis, tried to restore some semblance of order to the house. Then when he returned with some food, they read and explained the letter to him while he ate (Chassidic Farbringen) until he went to sleep.
The Rabbis left, but next day the girls' father went on his own to the nearest Chabad House to put on Tefillin and to buy Mezuzas for his home.
Today, only months after the story, he has almost completely returned to normal and is on the road to fulfilling the rest of the Rebbe's letter.
This explains our question.
In Rebbe's words were two aspects. 1) Their meaning, and 2) The very words themselves
And it was this second aspect; the Rebbe's words ABOVE understanding, which did the job and shook their father from his insanity.
Similarly here; Rashi explains (7:1) that Moses spoke to Pharaoh in order to 'Judge and punish him'.
In other words, the purpose of Moses speech was NOT to explain and make Pharaoh understand (because even the highest understanding is limited) but rather to reveal pure G-dliness ABOVE UNDERSTANDING…. And THIS is what knocked Pharaoh out.
This is very relevant to each and every one today in our generation, which the Lubavitcher Rebbe called 'The generation of Moshiach' and the 'First generation of Redemption'.
We must not depend on our understanding.
According to reason; Moshiach, Redemption, total awakening of Jewish identity, building of the Third Temple, World peace and prosperity all seem like unrealistic, impossible ideas.
But we must remember that just like Moses' speech, the redemption will come ABOVE understanding. And it can happen in ONE INSTANT.
We just have to do all we can, above understanding … open our eyes and see...
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