This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bo (5763)
This week we read about the last preparations of the Jews before leaving Egypt.
Rashi explains (12:6) that G-d told the Jews to:
1) Sacrifice a lamb or goat
2) Put the blood on the inside of their doorposts and
3) Circumcise themselves (most were uncircumcised because of the constant slavery).
Why were these preliminaries to leaving Egypt? And what has all this got to do with us today? Torah means 'teaching'; that from it we learn how to live.
But today we don't make sacrifices, put blood on the doorposts (after leaving Egypt it was never again part of the Passover ritual) and we certainly do not circumcise ourselves the day before the holiday?
To understand here are two stories.
One of the most famous and courageous Rabbis of the last century was Rabbi Mair Levush Malbim (a.k.a. "The Malbim")
Besides being a renowned Torah genius he was an outspoken foe of the German-founded 'enlightenment' movement that threatened the existence of Judaism.
They scoffed at such irrational ideas as G-d, Torah, commandments and certainly not Moshiach or the Third Temple. And with rationality and enjoying life as their banners they succeeded in luring millions of Jews into lives of assimilation.
One Shabbat a group of these 'assimilationists' confronted The Malbim on the steps of the Synagogue as he was exiting from the prayers. It happened to be his week's section (Bo) and they had a 'difficult' question.
"Rabbi" one of them condescendingly asked while the others looked on and smirked, "Is it not true that you believe that there will arrive some sort of Messiah that will rebuild a third Holy Temple in Jerusalem?"
"Yes, it's not just my belief. It is G-d's promise and it is true."
"Aha!!" Their spokesman replied as the others gazed at him to see how he would react to utter defeat. "Third Temple ehh? G-d's promise?!" he looked over his shoulder at his friends and winked.
"I see you are unfamiliar with the Bible! In the Prophet Haggai it says clearly the Second Temple will be the last! (The second Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago by the Romans). It says in Haggai:
'Greater will be the glory of the LAST house than the first' (2:19)
Even the sages in your Talmud (Baba Batra 3a) say this refers to the SECOND Temple!
"Do you understand, Rabbi? The Second Temple is the LAST and FINAL!!! There will be……" He leaned forward till his nose was almost touching the Rabbi's gloating with success and raised his voice. "NO THIRD TEMPLE!!"
His friends puffed up and giggled with glee but the Rabbi just looked off to the side and when they quieted down turned to them and replied.
"My friends, there are a lot of Rabbis that contend that you are evil people, but now I see they are wrong. You are simply fools.
"The word 'Last' does NOT mean final.
"Please let me explain" he continued, "I'll go slowly so even you can understand. Just one moment."
He returned to the Synagogue and came out with a Chumash (Pentateuch) opened it to the story of the burning bush (Exodus 4:1) pointed to the words and continued,
"You see, here at the burning bush G-d shows Moses a few miraculous signs to convince the Jewish people that he will lead them from Egypt.
First he tells Moses to turn a stick to a snake. Then he empowers Moses to make his hand leprous and then heal it. And then (now look at this!) G-d says;
'If they don't believe in the first sign (snake to stick) they will believe in the LAST sign (leprosy).
But if they don't believe in these two signs… then take water from the river… pour it on the ground and it will become BLOOD'. (4:8,9)
"So you see" the Malbim continued "That the word 'last', does not always mean 'final'. The trick leprosy is called 'last but nevertheless the trick of creating BLOOD from water came after it!
So just because the Second Temple is called 'last' there can be a THIRD Temple after it!
They grabbed the Bible from his hands, saw he was right and wanted to walk away but he wasn't finished.
"But there is more" the Rabbi continued. "In this week's Torah reading (Bo) when G-d commands the Jewish people to smear the blood of the Passover sacrifice on their doorposts He uses the following language:
'And the BLOOD will be a sign on the HOUSES.' (12:13)
Namely this third miracle of 'Blood' that Moses used AFTER the 'Last,' will be a sign to non-believers like you on the HOUSES; after the second and 'LAST' Temple there will be a Third 'Holy House; 'Bait HaMikdosh'!"
A similar story is told about another holy genius who lived about the same time Rabbi Yisroel Salanter; (founder of the Torah Self-improvement movement called 'Musar')
He once visited one of his past pupils only to discover that the pupil, who had once been a totally observant Jew, had completely abandoned all observance of the Torah and its commandments.
"It's my brother Reuven, "he was almost crying as he whispered embarrassedly to the Rabbi. "He convinced me. He went to Germany to learn Torah a few years ago, and he came back 'enlightened'. Now he calls himself Rudolf and … well, he convinced me. Rabbi, I couldn't stand against his arguments. Here, he's coming".
Entered a young man in his twenties dressed in the style of the lettered gentiles of the time with a look of disdain on his face. He introduced himself, shook hands halfheartedly with the Rabbi and got to the point.
"Rabbi, let me be direct and not waste time. I don't know why you came here today and it doesn't really matter. You are wrong. Judaism is only for superstitious people and my brother and I want no part of it. And I have proof that I am right, pure analytical proof.
"You claim that if one defiles the Sabbath or eats bread on Passover G-d will punish him with death or something else, correct?
"Well, Rabbi, I have done those things and many more such capital punishment from G-d transgressions and, well, here I am! I'm just as alive as you are. In fact even more so!! I am free and you are trapped in your dark, world of laws!! And I have freed my brother here also. Now what do you have to say? Perhaps you too would like to join us? There are many Rabbis here in Germany that have seen the light! Why not live with the times?!"
The Rabbi did not know what to say. He closed his eyes and prayed silently 'G-d, send me an answer. Do it for Your sake!"
Suddenly the door opened and a teenage girl entered. "Ahh, Rabbi. This is my daughter Rachel" said his past pupil happy to find some relief from the awkward confrontation. She is a wonderful daughter and an accomplished pianist too! See!?" He took the Rabbi to the piano and pointed to an impressive document in an ornate frame hanging on the wall above it.
"She just won a high place in the national Chopin piano contest for teens! She's among the best in all of Poland and Russia! It is a real accomplishment!" He said proudly. Rachel, I'd like you to meet my old teacher, Rabbi Salant"
Suddenly the Rabbi knew what to do.
"I don't believe it!" He announced loudly. "She doesn't look like much of a pianist to me! Let's hear her play something!"
Her father almost lost his breath, Rudolf let out a scoffing laugh which encouraged the surprised girl to almost do the same.
"Rabbi" She answered as calmly as possible, trying to show some respect for this man who didn't realize what a fool he was making of himself.
"You see" she pointed to the framed document on the wall "This is a certificate that I placed third in international competition. Just take a look. It is signed by expert judges and witnesses. It's not necessary for me to prove myself for each Rabbi who enters. And frankly Rabbi, even if I did play…. would it convince you? Do you understand ANYTHING about Chopin or about concert piano?"
"Aha!" The Rabbi said as he turned to Rudolf. "Did you hear what she said? She was speaking to you!!"
They all stared at him as though he was insane.
"Why do you scoff at my disbelief that she can play piano? Because she has the document to prove her claim!
Well so do I; It's called The Torah.
Her document was signed by ten judges. Mine has millions! Millions of eye-witnesses that had miraculously left Egypt together, saw and heard G-d give them the Torah at Mount Sinai and they passed that testimony from generation to generation.
So just as she doesn't have to prove her piano playing to me so I don't have to prove G-d's existence to every Rudolf that asks for it. What do you want; that G-d should make the sun stand still? And even if He did…. Do you understand ANYTHING about G-d or His miracles?
His old pupil came back to the Torah and Rudolf, instead of doubting the Torah, began to doubt the absolute value of 'reason'.
This answers our questions about the Pesach Sacrifice, the smearing of blood on the doorposts and the circumcision as preparations for leaving Egypt.
All three indicate the necessity of acting in a way that is above and even opposed to reason:
Judaism is a religion of logic and understanding: Jews are called by the Torah a "wise and intelligent nation"(Deut. 4:6).
But as we saw in our stories, cold logic can also be destructive to Judaism (and to the world as we saw recently in 'cultured' Germany).
The foundation and essence of Judaism must be above understanding.
That's why He gave them these three commandments before they became a nation,
Sacrificing animals is primitive and irrational, especially here when the sheep was an Egyptian god. It meant killing the god of Egypt and arousing the ire of all the Egyptians.
Smearing blood on the inside of the door so G-d will pass over is also irrational. It implies that G-d need signs to know who to kill and even so… why on the inside?
But perhaps the most irrational of all was circumcision, especially before making an arduous journey into the desert!
All these things were done ONLY because G-d commanded.
Although each also contains deep metaphors (Pascal Lamb; that we must sacrifice the animal in us. Blood on door, that we must open our lives with warm enthusiasm. Circumcision: that we must remove the covering on our hearts) but essentially they teach us to follow G-d with ALL our being.
This is the secret of Judaism and the secret of joy.
Ultimately, this also teaches us how to bring the Final Moses; Moshiach who will take the entire world from 'Egypt' to receive the Torah (Seven Noahide Commandments for gentiles). Indeed, the first of the Ten Commandments hints at how G-d will send another Moses to free all the Jews from the final exile (Sma'k Mitzva 1).
That through making sacrifices, having warm enthusiasm and circumcising our hearts; learning about Moshiach and doing all we can to bring him even a moment sooner (see our essay on Moshiach at www.ohrtmimim.org/torah ) we will soon be actually making the Passover sacrifice in the Third Bait HaMikdash!!!
It all depends on us; even one more good deed, word or even thought can bring………….
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