This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bo (5764)
This week's section features the last three plagues and the final departure of the Jews from Egypt.
But it was really only the BEGINNING of leaving Egypt.
In the amazing book 'Tanya' it explains that Jews, unlike other people, can and should FEEL the Infinite Greatness, Goodness, Awesomeness etc of The
Creator and get excited to observe His Torah with love and joy.
But if a Jew DOESN'T feel this, then it is called being in 'Egypt' ('Mitzriam' synonymous for 'limitations' in Hebrew) and therefore we must CONSTANTLY leave our PERSONAL 'Egypts', every day of our lives. (see Tanya Chapt. 47)
And every detail of this story of the Exodus is important.
If so let us understand why the Jews had to suffer for so long? (See Rashi
12:40) Two hundred and ten years of torture is too much!! At first glance, a much shorter time would have been sufficient - say a few days or even hours.
After all, the Jews are G-d's chosen. In fact they are G-d's SONS!! How can
a father allow, no less CAUSE his children such prolonged misery?
Of course, one answer is in order that they get the treasures of Egypt, as G-d promised to Abraham in the 'Covenant between the Pieces' (Gen. 15: 13,
"Your offspring will be strangers in a foreign land that will enslave them and torture them for four hundred years...and afterward they will go out with huge riches."
But this also makes little sense. Who would send millions of his children and grandchildren to hundreds of years of suffering and death so that their fourth generation get rich?!
To understand this here is a story.
It so happened, several years after the Lubavitcher Rebbe began leading Chabad in 1951 (tenth of Shvat 5711, exactly one year from the passing of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak which we will celebrate this coming
week) that a certain businessman entered his office and asked advice and blessing for his business.
[The Rebbe often gave such advice and it was always accurate. One time he also advised the questioner to observe the Sabbath and put on Tefillin daily. When the man answered that it was too difficult the Rebbe replied. "You came from far away and spent much time to receive my advice on business although that is not at all my field. So why don't you take my advice in the field I AM an expert in, Judaism!?"]
Back to our story; The Rebbe handed him a small amount of money and said that he would like to be his partner in a business venture. The pleasantly surprised man, almost not believing his ears, gladly accepted the offer.
With such a partner, who could go wrong!?!
The Rebbe continued; "Now we are partners. Neither of us will do anything in this endeavor without the other's consent. Good? Now my advice to you is to buy furs (the Rebbe told him which type) and then report back to me."
Overjoyed, the partner went out and after a few days of thorough pricing and searching he bought ten thousand dollars* worth of furs (*the exact amounts of all these transactions were not mentioned in the story I heard) and went back to report.
But the Rebbe was not pleased. "That isn't the type of investment I was thinking of. I meant a real investment; say, a *half-a million dollars!"
The fellow almost couldn't believe what he was hearing. A half-million?!! He would have to borrow a fortune!! With mixed feelings he forced a smile and left the room.
Hesitant to go into such debt but encouraged by the Rebbe's optimism he, at first reluctantly but then with more enthusiasm, spent the next few days mortgaging all he had and borrowing huge amounts of money.
And there were other problems. He had to rent a massive warehouse for storage, and arrange a way to transport, and guard the furs. And it all cost money!
'But what did he care!' he told himself, 'he was going to make a fortune!! It would all pay off in the end!
A week or so later he finished it all and was back reporting every detail to the Rebbe who congratulated him on the good work and reminded again him NOT do anything without his consent.
Satisfied and certain the prices would soar he went home, ate dinner with his wife and family and made several toasts to the Rebbe and to the new future. That night went to sleep with a smile on his face, certain that tomorrow's financial page would have bold news!!
But it didn't. The prices didn't soar. They stayed exactly where they were...day after day for a month. "Ahhh, of course!" our hero tried to comfort himself, "Heh heh!! What a fool I was to think it would happen instantly! Good things take time!!"
But after two months he really began to worry. Each day was costing him money. He had to pay for the storage, interest on his loans, his money was tied up, and worse of all...the price wasn't raising it was slightly DROPPING!!
He went back to the Rebbe and suggested that perhaps they should sell. But the Rebbe smiled and told him to be patient.
The price dropped steadily until two months later it was down 20 percent!! He was desperate. Time was against him! He rushed to 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn (the Rebbe's headquarters) and again got permission to enter the Rebbe's room.
"Please, Rebbe" he asked wide eyed "The price is dropping. If I. that is, WE, sell now I can at least pay off the loans I took. I'm sure I'll make the loss up elsewhere. Let's sell before it drops even more!"
But the Rebbe again assured him not to worry. Everything would FOR SURE be all right.
But it wasn't. It's not that he didn't want it to be; he wanted it to rise, he believed it would rise. But it didn't.
In fact two months later fur prices were at an all time low. 40 percent
lower than when he bought. It was a catastrophe!! He would be wiped out
for life! His head was swimming. He had heard so many good stories about the Rebbe. He had been so sure! It seemed so right! It was a, a mystery, maybe it was because of his sins, but he had to get out! That was CLEAR!!
"This will be the last time!!" He swore to himself as he again went to the Rebbe's headquarters, got permission to enter and poured out his heart. But
the Rebbe refused to agree.
A week later he mechanically bought a newspaper, as he had been doing for the last months, and with a heavy heart opened to the financial page; furs were UP...four hundred percent!
He ran to the nearest payphone to call the Rebbe...and the Rebbe answered "Sell"!!
He was rich!!!
Immediately after he cashed the check he sped to 770 with wings on his feet, again got permission to enter and gave the Rebbe a big donation.
"Now," he said joyously to the Rebbe. "Let's make another partnership!"
"No," the Rebbe replied seriously, "You are a difficult partner."
This is the answer to our question. The secret of creation is interwoven with the paradox of the Jews: Are they part of creation or part of the Creator?
The thousands of years they have suffered at the hands of the nations seem to indicate that they are under the laws of nature and within the framework of time.
But their eternal survival and unchanging devotion to the Torah and Jewish identity show they are clearly outside of nature.
But really they are both.
That was the novelty and purpose of leaving Egypt. The TRUE nature of the Jews began to be revealed. They have the power to transform limited creation (Mitzriam) into infinite truth; to reveal the ONEness of the Creator in His creation.
But really it was only the BEGINNING of that revelation. Moshiach will complete it.
When the Jews left Egypt the country was decimated. The only thing transformed to G-dliness was the riches they took and the time they spent there. But Moshiach will finish the job. Nothing need be destroyed.
That is why the Jews had to get the riches of Egypt, in order to use them for serving the Creator and begin the process Moshiach will conclude.
[This also explains why they had to borrow (11:2) from their Egyptian neighbors rather than just take what was due to them. They wanted the Egyptians to also surrender somewhat to the Creator in order to open the door for all mankind in the days of Moshiach].
But just like in our story, it takes time. And why so much time is a secret that ONLY Moshiach will reveal.
(The present Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that before the age of three he already had formed in his mind an idea of how Moshiach will make sense of all the thousands of years of Jewish suffering).
This is the goal of Judaism and it all depends on us; each and every Jew can reveal infinity in this world.
(The Rebbe was once asked what is wrong with Reform Judaism and he answered, "Their goals are too limited; they underestimate the potential of a Jew.")
But now it's different. We don't have to wait. The Rebbe has told us the time has come! Time to sell, to complete the deal! Time to realize that it all depends on us to reveal Moshiach! So let's learn from the businessman in our story and not be 'difficult partners'.
Let's do all we can to reveal...
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