This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bo (5762)
This week's Torah portion tells us of the plague of darkness; a terrible pall of pitch-blackness that kept all of Egypt paralyzed for almost a week.
Rashi (10:26) informs us, that one of the reasons for this bizarre plague was so the Jews would see where the Egyptians hid their money and thus extract their wages for 210 years of backbreaking work. But the second reason was so the Egyptians would not see how G-d killed 4/5ths of the Jewish nation; the millions of Jews that refused to leave Egypt.
This is very hard to understand.
Firstly, why didn't these Jews want to leave? They saw that G-d was destroying Egypt and that they were being released from slavery! They saw that He loved them and spared them from all the plagues. Why did so many of them want to stay in Egypt?
Secondly, why did G-d have to eliminate them for such a seemingly harmless crime? Couldn't He just have left them behind or forced them to leave?
Thirdly, and most important, what has this got to do with us today?
To understand this here is a story.
It was a beautiful autumn day. The fallen forest leaves covered the dirt road and crunched musically under the wheels of Reb Shlomo's carriage. The song of birds rang out from overhead foliage in the colorful Ukraine forest. But Reb Shlomo was angry and miserable. He mumbled madly to himself, and occasionally when he couldn't take it any longer, he pounded with his fist on the bench he was sitting like a madman, and shouted "Aaaachhhh! Whyyy!? Why meeeeeee!!? Why? Why!!??" into the empty woods around him.
He once had such great plans. He was going to be a famous Rabbi or head of a Talmudic academy (Rosh Yeshiva). Everyone said that he was a genius (g'oan) in Torah learning. He could have been famous!
But it all dissolved before his eyes when his daughter went into some crazy trance and stayed there. She had been a normal intelligent girl of fifteen when suddenly five years ago she became unexplainably withdrawn, crawled behind the stove and refused to talk or even move.
Now she had to be fed, washed and cared for constantly, and to make matters worse his wife forced him to take care of her half of the day every day. She didn't trust anyone else.
Then they began seeing doctors. Rab Shlomo had money, so they spared no expenses. They traveled from town to town, country to country, took her to the greatest specialists in the world. But it didn't help. After wasting a lot of time, energy and money they realized that it was hopeless; only G-d could help, and it didn't look like He was going to do it soon.
Rab Shlomo became depressed. He couldn't concentrate enough to learn Torah, he was ashamed to be seen in public and he hated to be at home. But just as he thought that it could be no worse, one day a guest arrived at their house, noticed the girl, and innocently suggested that they take her to a great holy Jew that did great miracles called The Baal Shem Tov.
When Rab Shlomo heard that name he just winced, and tried to force a smile. But as soon as the guest left, he began nervously pacing the room and mumbling bitterly.
His wife didn't notice all this, she was lost in thought, and when she finally came out of her reverie and said, "What do you think Shlomo? Do you think it might help? I mean we've tried everything. I know what you think of him but I've heard the Baal Shem Tov is a true miracle ....".
"THIS IS THE END!!" he screamed. He stood still and pounded on the dining room table. "I will not have that name mentioned in my home! NOT, NOT!"
His wife looked at him blankly as he paused briefly, looked about like a trapped animal, then stared at her wildly and continued.
"The man is a charlatan! A pure soothsayer and idolater! Do you hear!? All those miracle stories are lies! I have it from the most impeccable sources. Who does he think he is, Elijah the prophet?! NO! I will NOT GIVE MY DAUGHTER TO IDOLATRY!" He pounded on the table with each of the last six words.
But his wife thought otherwise; "Well… I heard that all those stories are not true. That’s what my sources say. And anyway…..it is our only chance. There simply is no alternative. At least gave it a try!" Finally when she pressed him to bring some proof for his words and then threatened him with divorce he had no choice but to bundle his daughter up, carry her into the carriage, hitch up the horses, and of course take a large sum of money for the "Tzadik" and set off.
And now here he was; driving through the miserable Ukrainian forest to Mezibuz TOTALLY against his will …… yelling to himself like a lunatic.
After what seemed to be infinity, the town was finally in sight.
He stopped in the marketplace to ask directions and he noticed the joy and reverence in people's eyes when they mentioned the Baal Shem's name, but he ignored it and finally found the address.
He parked outside the window, left his daughter in the carriage, took his bag of money, went around to the front door and knocked. "Nu, so I'll lose a few thousand guilder" he thought to himself, "at least my wife will get this insane idea out of her head".
The door opened and he was invited in. He told one of the Chassidim there what he wanted, and was told to have a seat in the waiting room.
He considered just walking back outside and going home. He shuddered at the idea of speaking with this faker. He would lie to his wife, he would tell her that the Besh't tried and failed. But minutes later was summoned enter and he found himself closing the door behind him standing before this legend. He wasn’t impressed.
The Baal Shem Tov didn't look so special. His eyes had a certain unusual deepness, but certainly nothing to get exited about.
"Nu!" Rav Shlomo said with disdain as he took the moneybag out of his pocket, put it on the Baal Shem's table and opened the string revealing the golden coins. "Here's money. Here, take it! Now let’s see if you can heal my daughter. She's in the carriage and she's really sick. Paralyzed, mute Let's see what you can do."
The Baal Shem Tov took the bag, lifted it with all the money in it, looked Rab Shlomo in the eyes and said casually, "I don't need your money" as he turned in his seat and casually tossed the bag out the open window behind him into the street.
Rav Shlomo was astounded. Ten thousand guilder! Out the window! He was frozen.
Suddenly he heard the unmistakable voice of his daughter yelling, "Daddy! Daddy, come quick! There are golden coins in the street!"
Rav Shlomo ran to the window and saw the most astounding sight: his daughter had jumped out of the carriage and was gathering up the coins in her hat. "Daddy! Look at the money!" She yelled out again gleefully.
Without even saying a word of parting he dashed out the door then outside, around to the back of the house, and began helping his daughter.
"Hurry! Hurry!" He whispered to her aloud. "Pick up the coins and let's get out of here before that Baal Shem Tov says that it was a miracle and he wants the money back!"
This explains why Jews didn't want to leave Egypt. One of the big lessons that G-d wanted them to learn from the plagues was to believe in Moshe; that Moshe was G-d's messenger and that his words were G-d's words.
And they refused to learn it.
After eight plagues eighty percent of the Jews insisted on following their own logic. They reasoned that if G-d destroyed all of Egypt and they were no longer slaves, then why should they leave?
Exactly the opposite!
Now they could stay in Egypt and THEY could be the rulers! So what if Moshe said differently? Moshe was only a person, and they were the majority! But what they didn’t know was that G-d doesn’t want a nation of rulers; the world is already filled with people like that. He wants a nation of servants to the truth (10:3)
Just like our Rav Shlomo translated the miracles of the Baal Shem in his own terms. So it was with the Prophets during the first Temple and the great leaders of Judaism through the generations till the Lubavitcher Rebbe this very day.
But today NO ONE will die in the darkness as the Rambam writes in his 14 volume ‘Yad HaChazaka’ "It is certain that everyone will return to the truth and then there will be the redemption." (Hil. Tshuva 7:5) as the Torah promises that all Israel will return to G-d (Deut. 30:3,4,5).
This will be the accomplishment of the Moshiach: he will bring ALL humanity to follow him and his directions to worship the Creator and His Torah (7 Noahide Commandments for Gentiles) (Rambam Melachim 12:3). As we say thrice daily in "Alenu" - "All humanity will call Your (G-d’s) name and all the evil people in the world will turn to you". But it all depends on us to learn the teachings of Chabad (called Chassidut) and make it all happen NOW!
Even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring…………….
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