This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Va'eira (5765)
The miraculous accounts we read of in this week's section prepare us for the future Redemption as the prophet says:
"Like the days you left Egypt I will show you miracles." (Micah 7:15)
In other words, just as Moses led the Jews to redemption so Moshiach will lead the entire world.
But this does not make sense. The section ends with "And Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder stopped (after seven plagues) and he continued to sin and hardened his heart etc."
The miracles had no effect.
So why did G-d make all these wonders for nothing? And what is it supposed to teach us about the redemption?
Not only that, why did He make so MANY miracles? If He wanted to free the Jews then why didn't He just fly them to Israel or just make all the Egyptians disappear?
To answer this here is a story:
Some forty years ago in Jerusalem, a few days after Rosh HaShanna, Rabbi Chiam Tzvi Schwartz was packing his bags for his 'Holiday' trip to Brooklyn.
He had been looking forward to the trip all year. Together with thousands of Chassidim, he would be with the Lubavitcher Rebbe from the Day of Forgiveness (Yom Kippur) through the Holiday of Joy (Succot).
He was just closing the suitcase when the phone rang and his wife yelled, "It's a long distance call for you " He picked it up,
"Hello," the voice on the other end of the line said, "This is Rabbi Zalman Gurarie one of the Rebbe's secretaries, how are you? You wrote a letter to the Rebbe asking for a blessing for your daughter, right? Well the Rebbe answers that you should check your Tefillin."
Rabbi Schwartz thanked him and slowly hung up the phone.
What should he do? True, he wrote the letter and still needed the blessing. But he wrote that letter two weeks ago. Since then he bought a brand new pair of very special and very expensive Tefillin that were sworn to be the ultimate in perfection. No reason to check them.
But on the other hand the Lubavitcher Rebbe was never wrong.
In any case there was nothing he could do now; he would be flying in a few hours. So he decided that immediately upon arriving in New York he would have them checked by a scribe and meanwhile he would borrow Tefillin for the trip from someone.
That next morning, shortly after he arrived in America, he gave the Tefillin to a scribe in Williamsburg where he was staying, gave him a big tip and requested that they be checked urgently.
Sure enough a half an hour later the scribe announced that there was something wrong. The Tefillin were totally disqualified....an entire word was missing!
Rabbi Schwartz was shocked. Rarely is such a massive flaw to be found in even the worst Tefillin - and his were supposed to be of the highest quality!
But he didn't have much time to think about it. He finished praying the Morning Prayer and took a taxi to Brooklyn. In eight hours Yom Kippur would begin, and some ten thousand other Jews were standing in an immensely long line before 770 Eastern Parkway (the Chabad Headquarters) waiting to receive a piece of honey cake and a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe before this holiest day of the year.
Finally his turn came. The Rebbe handed him his piece of cake and said, "Have a good sweet year" and continued, "And since you have to return to Israel anyway, it would be best to return as soon as possible in order to fix your Tefillin."
Rabbi Schwartz was dumbfounded. How could the Rebbe possibly have remembered him from the tens of thousands of letters he receives, and how did he know that his Tefillin were disqualified!?
But upon hearing the Rebbe's words he decided to change his ticket. He would return home immediately after Yom Kippur and not stay for Succot as he had planned. It was a big disappointment but the Rebbe was never wrong.
Three days later, a day after Yom Kippur, he was back in Israel.
As was his custom, whenever he returned to Israel he would immerse himself in a mikva. As he entered the Mikva in the Maya Shaarim District of Jerusalem who 'happened' to be coming out but the very scribe that wrote and sold him the Tefillin!
The scribe was shocked to hear that the Tefillin were not kosher and even more so to hear that they were missing an entire word!! "Why, those parchments had been checked five times by experts." He repeated several times.
"Tell me" the Scribe asked, "Did the Lubavitcher Rebbe have something to do with this?"
"Yes," answered Rabbi Schwartz "Of course. It was the Rebbe that told me to check them in the first place and then told me to hurry home to correct them. Actually it's quite a miracle that I am meeting you here now."
"Oyyyy!! " The scribe held his head and screamed." What does he want from me!! This is the fifteenth time he has done this to me!! I take weeks, months writing them, have them checked over and over again and he makes them Posol (unfit). Why doesn't he leave me alone!! What does he want from me!!! "
Rabbi Schwartz listened to this outburst with interest and finally asked, "Tell me have you ever had any sort of trouble with the Rebbe? After all he is a very great Tzaddik (holy Jew). Maybe you did something to anger him?"
"Who cares how holy he is!" said the scribe. "I have nothing with the Rebbe. I mean all those miracle stories don't impress me but I just keep quiet about it."
But after a few minutes he remembered.
"Well actually once there was something. A long time ago, maybe ten years or more, I wrote an article in HaChoma (the Neturai Karta ultra-orthodox Jerusalem) magazine against the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. You know, how he claimed to be the head of all the Jews.
Anyway, the present Rebbe wrote a letter to the Chief ultra-orthodox Rabbinic Court of Jeruselam, the Aida Charidit, about me saying that since I wrote such an article it was a certainty that my Tefillin would be Posol.
"Why he wrote to them I don't know, but they contacted me and told me to have my Tefillin checked. So I did but it was a false alarm. They were declared to be one hundred percent Kosher. So the Rebbe was wrong.
"But that was years ago. And what does it have to do with me? And anyway, if anyone is wrong it's the Rebbe not me. So why doesn't he leave me alone.
"Tell me" Rabbi Schwartz asked "Did you write those Tefillin - you know, the ones you had checked back then?"
"No" The scribe answered. "I didn't write them. I inherited them from my father, but they were Kosher! The Rebbe was wrong."
"No!!" yelled Rabbi Schwartz "Exactly the opposite! How holy and wondrous are the words and prophesies of the Lubavitcher Rebbe! He was totally right! The ones you were wearing were not yours! That is why they were Kosher; they were your father's.
"When the Rebbe said that 'your' Tefillin would be posol: he meant the Tefillin that YOU WRITE would all be posol. And he was right! Every pair you write has been posol."
The Scribe broke out in tears of remorse.
This answers out questions. Our section with all its plagues comes to tell us that people are not affected in a permanent or deep way by miracles. Moses ended up doing ten of them and they had no lasting result.
For two reasons:
Miracles are temporary (As soon as the miracle stops, so does its effects, like Pharaoh) and impersonal (like the scribe in our story they don't affect him at all).
But the future redemption it will be different:
Then the miracles will be constant: the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, and also will affect the inner soul of each person. (As occurred to the scribe at the end of the story): there will be no hatred, jealousy or competition, everyone will know G-d.
And the preparation for all this is to learn the Chassidic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, especially as they appear in the writings of Chabad: Lekutei Torah, Tanya, Torah Ohr and the discourses of the final Rebbe.
Then the Oneness of G-d [and the connection to the Moses (and Moshiach) of our generation] permeate our mind, heart and soul.
So we will have the desire and ablity to, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe said: "Open our eyes and see that....Behold! Moshiach is here!!
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