This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Mishpatim (5761)
This week’s section deals in great detail with one of the most mundane topics in the Torah; the laws of property damages.
Surprisingly the Zohar explains that these monetary laws contain one of the deepest mystical secrets of all; the mystery of ‘gilgulim’ … reincarnation!
Here is a ‘Baal Shem Tov’ story that will help us to understand the connection between the two.
One beautiful summer day a fancy carriage stopped in front of the synagogue which served as the ‘headquarters’ of the Baal Shem Tov (Besh’t for short). The driver opened the door and a wealthy-looking religious Jew stepped out of the carriage, entered the simple building and asked if he could have a private
audience with the Tzaddik.
A meeting was arranged and when they were sitting face to face the rich man looked at the Besh’t and wasn’t very impressed. The only reason he came was to see who is this Holy Man that everyone was talking about him, and, frankly, he looked like every other Jew, it was obvious that he had come all the way to Mezibuz for nothing.
“Well,” said the Besh’t “ Would like to hear a story? I have a very good story to tell you.”
“Alright, said the visitor looking at his pocket watch, but I do have a long ride ahead of me.”
“Good!” he said “I’ll make it short.
“Once, in the city of Warsaw, Poland there were two close friends, who were both religious Jews. They had grown up together, bought houses next to each other, went into business together and, when their business succeeded, become multi-millionaires together. Their friendship was so strong that they were like brothers.”
He paused, looked up and asked his guest, “Are you listening?” When he nodded ‘yes’ the Besh’t continued.
“After several years they decided to open a branch in Paris with the idea that one of them would move there to manage the new endeavor.
“Everything went smoothly. They traveled to Paris together, made the necessary connections, opened the business, bought merchandise and only after being sure that everything was running smoothly they parted.
“At first they wrote to each other twice a week, but as time went by they corresponded less and less frequently until ten years later they were writing only to wish each other happy holidays.
“Then one year the partner in Poland ran into some bad luck, suffered some major losses, and suddenly found himself without a penny, in fact a debtor. With no other choice he used his last money to buy a train ticket to France with the hope that his friend would help with a loan.
“However when he arrived at his friend’s home and suggested the idea, his friend replied in amazement. ‘What! A loan? I should give you a loan!? Why that is ridiculous!!! I’m not giving you any loan! We are brothers!! Half of what I own is yours! Take one million dollars!!! Here!!’
“They embraced and wept on one another’s shoulders, renewed their friendship and a week later the poor partner returned a new man with renewed hope to Warsaw, reinvested his freshly acquired funds and in a year’s time regained his wealth.
“But, just as before, in a few years time they had both returned to their busy schedules and remembered to write only occasionally. “The years passed and about ten years later the wheel of fortune again took a bad turn, but this time for the partner in Paris. He too lost all his money in a series of unlucky business deals and with no alternative he decided to visit his partner in Warsaw. He wasn’t a young man anymore, and he was a bit broken from the strain of his financial fall, but he had no other choice and he knew he could always depend on his friend in a time of need.
But he was in for a bitter surprise.
“When his friend in Warsaw happened to glance out the window of his mansion that day and saw his partner approaching, a strange thought entered his mind. ‘Oh no!!! It’s him!’ he thought, ‘Why did he have to come now!! If he wants his money I’ll lose that big merger that I’ve been working at for years!’ He paced back and forth in his warm plush room, poured himself a brandy, made a blessing, drank it down, loosened his collar, and called his servants.
“Well, you can imagine the disappointment of the poor man when one of the servants came to the gate and informed him that the owner was away for an indefinite amount of time.
“It was already evening and he was so very tired from the trip. He sat down at the gate to rest for a few minutes and drowsed off to sleep. It must have been an unusually cold night that night, or perhaps he was not feeling well, but whatever the reason, the next morning they found him huddled up at the gate… dead.
“The poor partner’s soul went up to the heavenly court and when he was informed, after a very short trial, that he would go to heaven, he immediately asked about his partner. ‘Your partner’s selfish callousness was responsible for your death.’ Was the answer,’ his spiritual future is black.’ ‘If so,’ the poor man’s soul replied ‘I shall not enter heaven until he be given another chance.’
“So the court decided, after long deliberation, that the only solution would be that both partners would have to return to the world after their deaths. The stingy partner would be reincarnated to a rich man and the kind one would have to be reincarnated to a poor man who would collect charity from him. Only after the rich one paid all his debt would he be eligible for heaven.
“The soul of the departed man agreed and eventually they were both reincarnated.” The Baal Shem Tov paused, looked at his incredulous guest and continued.
“The bad partner grew up to be rich and his poor friend came every day to ask him for a handout. This went on for years until one day the rich man was in a bad mood and when the poor man knocked at his door a bit too loudly, the rich man lost his temper, opened the door, struck the poor man over the head with his cane and …. unintentionally killed him! (Of course he didn’t realize that it was the second time he’d killed the same man and that he just ruined his only chance for clearing his past.) The rich man felt terrible, he had killed a man! But then he realized that he was in big trouble; he was guilty of murder! He looked about him desperately and seeing that no one was around, dragged the body to a side of his huge garden, dug a hole and buried him. And that’s the end of the story! Have a safe journey back home!”
The visitor did not move. He was sitting motionless … stunned as though he’d just received devastating news.
“Are you all right?” asked the Besh’t. “Can I bring you a cup of water?” Tears were streaming down his face and his body was shaking, he was weeping uncontrollably.
“That was me!” he whispered, “ I killed that man!!! I buried him in my garden.”
With these words he slid off the chair onto his knees and then rolled up into a ball on the floor and wept like a baby. “My G-d … My soul is destroyed!”
“No” answered the Besh’t “I didn’t tell you your story for nothing. There is always hope! G-d is merciful, even for you. Your must give away all your money and wander for the rest of your life helping others. If you are sincere, G-d will forgive you.”
The book ‘The Tanya’ tells us that the reason for reincarnation of a soul into a new body is in order that it physically fulfill the service of G-d that was overlooked or lacking in the last body.
This service is best summed up in the most important prayer in Judaism called ‘Shma Yisroel’, a prayer that every Jew is supposed to say twice a day. There it says: “You should love G-d with all your Heart, all your Soul and all your Might.”
The Rabbis explain that this is referring to three types of love, each deeper and more encompassing than the one before it: Loving G-d with ‘all your Heart’ means to love Him even more than your own ego. ‘All your Soul’ means even more than your very life, to be willing to die for G-d. But ‘all your Might’ is even greater. It means to love G-d even more … than your MONEY!!
Sounds strange? Well it’s not.
One of the most tragic stories in the Torah is how G-d wanted the Jews to leave the desert and enter Israel, and how the Jews refused. It all centered on making a living! The Jews knew that in Israel their livelihood would not come miraculously but rather through hard work and they were afraid that they would forget the Creator.
The most difficult thing is to work with all your energy to make a living, to really sink your heart and soul into it … and then give ALL the credit to G-d; to treat all your belongings, profits and accomplishments as though they are purely gifts from the Almighty, to give charity cheerfully, to be completely honest, and to never allow money to interfere in any way with doing G-d’s commandments.
That is why one of the first jobs of Moshiach will be to encourage everyone to follow the Torah and one of the immediate results will be financial, all human needs will be in abundance. Only then, will people will be free to serve G-d with all their Might and all the souls will return to pure eternal bodies, in the raising of the dead.
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