This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shemini (5764)
This week's section begins with the inauguration day of the "Mishkan': the portable Holy Temple that accompanied the Jews for forty years in the desert (and four hundred and forty more after they entered Israel until the First Temple was built in Jerusalem).
The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that this should make us remember the Temples, regret their loss, and bring us to a tremendous yearning for the Moshiach who will build the third and final Temple.
But it probably doesn't.
And paradoxically our section gives us a good reason why not. It tells us that on this auspicious 'opening' day, Nadav and Avihu, the two eldest sons of Aaron the High Priest, became so filled with tremendous yearning that they rushed into the Holy of Holies. And they were killed; punished by Divine Fire (!!); not very encouraging.
And not very understandable either.
What were they yearning about? What was so great about the Holy of Holies? Why should WE yearn?
On the other hand...why were they punished with death? What did they do so wrong? What is this trying to tell us?
To understand, here is a story:
Rabbi Mordechi Dubin was a well known Chassid of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was extremely talented man and at one period of his life he held two high positions in the Lithuanian government. In fact he used his influence to help save the Rebbe's life, free him from communist prison and get him out of Russia.
But his talents made him a target of communist suspicion as well and he too had several close encounters with death. Here is one of them.
He had been imprisoned for several months already in one of the several thousand 'correctional' facilities in communist Russia in a dim, cold, concrete cell with eight or nine other 'criminals'
Death waited every second, the air smelled of it, it was a dull curse in everyone's dulled eyes and a ….
Suddenly the iron door opened, "DUBIN!"
Two guards stood at the open door behind an official who took one step into the room and was reading from a paper. "Mordechi Dubin? On your feet! Come with us!"
Was this the end? Would he never see his family or friends again? He stood upright, walked to the door. It was pointless to argue or to plead. He had nothing to fear - death would be a macabre blessing to end the cold, bitter uncertainty.
Exactly the opposite, his only chance was to show them that he was not afraid. One indication of fear would only draw their contempt.
He said words of Tanya by heart as he walked down the corridor and with every step he became filled with a strange pride. He was far superior to his captors. They were animals, worse than animals, living a lie; they were really dead. But he was attached to life… to infinite, undying truth. He was a follower of a true servant of the Creator; the only man in the Russia to defy Stalin; the Lubavitcher Rebbe!
"DUBIN!" Another voice broke his thoughts. He looked up to see he was standing near the main entrance of the penitentiary. They would probably take him outside and shoot him. Just throw him in the snow somewhere for the wolves and dogs to drag him away.
"YOUR NAME IS MORDECHI DUBIN?"
"Yes" he answered firmly.
A smile came across the face of the officer speaking to him. "Congratulations" He said as he handed him an envelope "Your period of correction is over. Here are your papers of discharge and a few other things."
He nodded to the guards at the door and they began to open the massive iron structure.
"But, my clothes? My clothes? At least a coat?" As the words came out he knew it was a mistake.
"Ahhh! He wants to stay." Smiled the officer. "Close the..."
"No, no!" he whispered as he moved toward the door. They opened it a bit more and he slipped out into the bitter cold grabbing the envelope in his fist. It was ten below zero.
The iron door closed behind him muffling the laughter of the guards. It must have been one A.M. In the distance he could vaguely see the outline of a nearby town, lucky the moon was full.
He put the envelope in his shirt and began to run. He had to keep moving, it was his only chance to keep from freezing. The snow wasn't too deep...another stroke of fortune, a blessing! He hugged himself to keep warm and ran.
He wasn't used to running; in Yeshiva there was no running, but he ran. The night was spinning around him, he ran out of breath quickly, he couldn't breathe but he ran. He tripped rolled on the ground, his nose was bleeding, his knee hurt but he stood up and ran again.
Finally he was there. Who knows how many times he had fallen. He knew that his only chance was to find a Jew. No one else would open the door, especially not at two in the morning. He was shivering uncontrollably. A Jew. A Jew would open for a Jew. It was his only hope… Aha! A door with a Mezuza!!!
He began knocking, pounding. His head was spinning. But he mustn't wake the neighbors, they could kill him. "Ratavet! Ratavet" (Yiddish for save me). He pressed his mouth to the door and whispered as loud as possible "Ratavet!!".
He was going numb. He didn't feel his feet at all. It must be twenty below zero, up to now he hadn't noticed wind. He gave thanks to G-d for that, no wind up to now. And with his last ounce of strength he knocked for the last time.
A small hole opened at the side of the door and closed. He heard the man say to his wife in Yiddish, "A Drunk meshuga! Prison clothes… no coat… saw our mezuzah… pretends to be a Jew."
Rabbi Dubin slid slowly down, he couldn't stand, face pressed to the door until he was huddled up in a ball on the ground near the door. His strength was gone. He would go to sleep. It wasn't so hard. He stopped shivering, closed his eyes and said his last "Shma Yisroel" thankful to G-d that at least he wouldn't die in jail. Maybe he'd get a Jewish burial. Maybe...
Suddenly he opened his eyes. Wait a minute!!!
A terrible thought occurred to him.
"When this Jew opens his door tomorrow morning and sees me dead at his doorstep and realizes that I'm Jewish… he will never forgive himself! Never!! I know how I would feel!!! I can't let that happen!"
He stood again and began pounding with all his might yelling in Yiddish "It's no trick!! I'm Mordechi Dubin. My mother's name is such and such and my father's is such and such… let me in! Let a Jew in!! Shma Yisroel HaShem Elokeinu..."
The door opened and he fell in the house, almost unconscious but alive and safe.
His love for another Jew actually saved his own life!!!
This answers our questions. The Bait HaMikdosh will reveal G-d; the SOURCE of all the eternal things that motivated Rabbi Dubin: Infinite undying Truth, Attachment to the Creator, REAL Life.
And that is why we should grieve the loss of the Temple and long for Moshiach to rebuild it; because without these things the world is cold, dead and meaningless. And that is why Nadav and Avihu rushed in.
But as noble as their motives were, they lacked the one essential ingredient that saved Rabbi Dubin's life: Brotherly Love.
They were trapped in their own, personal, holy worlds.
A similar story is told about Rabbi Akiva (Talmud Hagiga 14b) who entered into the secret realms of Kabala together with three other great Tzadikim. The others were irreparably damaged but he alone 'came out' in peace. Because his paradigm in life was 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. (See Rashi. Lev 19:18)
In other words BOTH are necessary; an inward connection to G-d (so as to never lose the truth) together with outward effort (love) to improve the world.
And if one is lacking the results can be disastrous. As we see with Nadav and Avihu.
(Similarly, the Second Temple was destroyed due to the lack of brotherly love and the First because of the lack of connection to G-d.)
And that is why we need the Holy Temple: it is the ONLY way there will really be G-dliness and Unity in the world.
But meanwhile we have the Chassidic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, especially as they are explained in the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, (ask in your local Chabad House for details) to teach us Love of G-d, Love of the Torah and Brotherly Love.
To prepare the world for Moshiach NOW!!!
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