This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Tazria (5760)
Before we talk about this week's section here is a story which contains three of the ideas mentioned therein; good speech, bad speech and, bris
In Poland some 300 years ago there once lived a very clever and wise Jew named Rav Avraham. His advice was so accurate that he eventually became the chief advisor to a Baron Polanski, one of the most wealthy and powerful men in Poland at that time. The Baron relied on Rav Avraham for all matters whether big or small. This, of course, was like a thorn in the side of some of the baron’s lesser non-Jewish advisors, especially one Colonel Stephen whose hatred for the Jew increased daily until he actually plotted to kill him.
Rav Avraham was known as a man who never lied and never spoke evil about another even at great personal risk, in fact this was one of the things that endeared him to the Baron, and was to almost cost him his life.
Stephan’s plot was simple; someone would sneak into the Jew’s room and change the sums in his personal account book to make it appear that he had much more money than he claimed. This then would be reported to the Baron and when Rav Avraham denied it he would be suspected of lying as well as embezzlement, and the combination of both crimes would result in at least expulsion from the palace and hopefully worse.
Everything went as planned for the Colonel. The figures were altered from 10,000 to 100,000 gilders (a tremendous sum) and were shown to the Baron.
The next day the Baron invited our hero to his chambers and asked him what his total assets were, and the answer was even more incriminating than the
evil Colonel could have dreamed of:
“The truth is that my real assets are one thousand gilders, your majesty!” answered Avraham loud and clear, “just a week ago I went over my accounts, my total assets amount a bit over one thousand gilders”.
“One thousand?” thought the Baron to himself, “why the man is robbing me blind and he’s a liar to boot!”
The Baron kept a smile on his face as though the answer meant nothing to him, and changed the subject; but in his heart he had already doomed poor Avraham to death.
Later that day Colonel Stephen was comforting the Baron and unveiling his plan how to execute his unfortunate ex-advisor.
“I know that it will be difficult for the Baron to witness the death of the Jew” (Really the wicked man was afraid that the Baron would have a change of
heart) “and therefore I have engineered a plan that I hope will find favor in the Baron’s eyes.
I will send a messenger to a distant town of my choice with a letter sighed by the Baron to the effect that they should prepare a huge fire and whoever arrives with a letter saying ‘Have you carried out the Baron’s orders?’ should be thrown into the flames and burned to death. The Baron will then give this Avraham such a letter sealed in an envelope with orders to take it to the same town, and we will, thus, be swiftly and efficiently rid of the traitor in our midst. And, of course, the Baron will confiscate all the stolen ‘assets’ of this lying Jew ”
The Baron listened, thought a moment, and finally, with a bit of reluctance, nodded his head in agreement. The Colonel shook the Baron’s hand and speedily left the room to put his sinister plan into action.
Two days later Rav Avraham was spurring his horse on, to travel as fast as possible in the direction of a small town six hours away, he was in a hurry to deliver a special letter from the Baron himself and he wanted to do the job as swiftly and efficiently as possible, little did he know that he was carrying his own death certificate.
After three hours of hard riding, he noticed in the far distance someone waiving a flag by the roadside, and as he came closer he saw that it was an old Jew signaling him to stop.
“Are you Jewish? Are you a Jew?” Yelled the old man at Avraham as he was pulling on his horse’s reins to a halt.
“ Why yes!” he shouted down in reply, “What do you need?”
“Oh! Thank G-d! Thank G-d!” exclaimed the old man ecstatically holding on to the reins of Avraham’s horse, “HaShem sent you to us, thank G-d!!! Today
is the Bris of my grandson and we did not have ten Jews for a Minyon. (Ten Jews, necessary for certain commandments) You are the tenth man! This is a
miracle! Please don’t refuse me! You are a very special guest!!”.
Now Avraham had a tremendous passion for learning Torah, and even more for the observance of G-ds commandments (mitzvos in Hebrew), but nothing
compared to his love of the mitzvah of Bris Mila!
Not only did he himself know all the laws and the art of circumcision, but also he attended every Bris that he heard about, even if he didn’t know anyone present.
So when he received such an invitation he could not refuse.
“I am in a terrible rush however,” explained our hero, on horseback, as he followed the old Jew into the nearby village “You must promise me that I can leave immediately after the Bris, not more than half an hour, I have a very important mission from the Baron!”
But, as fate would have it the ceremony did not begin exactly on time, when it began it drew out longer than expected, and then, of course, there was the mandatory feast after the Bris that Avraham could not refuse.
The time flew, after many ‘Lechiams’, much singing, dancing and words of Torah; Rav Avraham suddenly grabbed his head and cried “Oy! I’ve been here
for hours! I must go! I’m terribly late!! What have I done!!”
But by the time he actually was about to mount his horse it was beginning to get dark and travel was impossible.
He would have to remain in the village that night and first thing next morning, even before praying he would set out, on the final half of his journey.
The sun was just rising next morning and the evil Colonel, who intentionally spent the night only minutes from the town where the Jew was to be killed, was bursting with curiosity. He wanted to hear the story from the townspeople themselves, see the ashes, only then would his joy be complete. He saddled his horse and began riding like the wind and in no time he arrived in the town.
“Nu, what happened? Where is the Jew? What happened yesterday?” He asked the first townspeople he saw as he entered the town. But no one knew what he was talking about. “Nu! You idiots!!” he began screaming “Don’t you know how to follow orders!? Didn’t you do what the Baron ordered!? You stupid pigs!!! Have you carried out the Baron’s orders?”
Suddenly ten strong young men pulled him from his horse, hit him over the head several times, tied his legs and then his arms, put a gag on his mouth carried him to the huge bonfire and shouting altogether… “READY! ONE! TWO! THREE! HOOOUP! threw him squirming into the flames!
An hour later Rav Avraham his horse almost dead from exhaustion came racing into the town and noticing all the people still gathered around the fire approached them, asked for the mayor and when he appeared, handed him the Baron’s letter.
The mayor opened it, read the letter and looked up in confusion at Rav Avraham,
“But we already burned him! What does this letter mean?”
It didn’t take Avraham long to understand that he had narrowly escaped death and that somehow the Colonel had fallen into his own death trap.
When our hero returned home the Baron was so overjoyed to see his trusted advisor still alive, ‘that he actually hugged and even kissed him from sheer joy.
It seems that several hours after he sent Avraham on his mail delivery mission the Baron himself re-examined all those accounts and discovered the
Avraham’s love for the Mitzva of Bris Mila saved his life.
“One thing I would like to know, however,” asked the Baron “Why did you say that you only have one thousand gilders in assets when your records clearly
show ten thousand?”
Avraham looked sheepishly down and answered:
“When you asked me the sum of my assets, I realized that although I have ten thousand in my safe I couldn’t say such an uncertain thing as ten thousand, because who knows what will be of them tomorrow. Here… you see, you yourself confiscated them!
The only money I’m really sure of is the tenth of my income that I gave to charity just the day before. That is an asset, a spiritual asset, which is eternal and can never be taken from me.
The redemption will also come because of the transformation we bring about in ourselves an in the world, especially the charity we give, and the good
that we do.
The main topic of this week’s section section is ‘Tzoraas’. But it begins, strangely, with laws concerning birth, and the law of Bris Mila (lit. covenant of circumcision).
Tzoraas was a very severe Torah impurity-disease, non-existent today, the symptoms of which would appear not just on one’s skin (hence the English translation ‘leprosy’) but also on ones garments or even the walls of one’s house.
There is really a deep and mystical connection between these three things; circumcision, Tzoraas, and birth.
The Midrash and Talmud explain that the disease of Tzoraas did not come from germs, but rather from ‘evil tongue’ i.e. improper use of ones speech. [Pehaps we can say it came from ‘a virus’ (‘avairos’ is Hebrew for sins) (joke)]
The kabalistic book ‘Sefer Yetzira’ explains that the tongue and the organ of procreation are spiritually similar [both are instruments for connection, both are used to give birth to new separate entities, (the tongue creates ideas in the minds of others), both have the capability of doing much good or the opposite] and that on both we must make a Bris i.e. a covenant with
The Bris of the tongue means using the power of speech for what the Creator intended (“Death and life are controlled by the tongue” - Proverbs 18:21)
and the bris of the sex organ, circumcision, is for the exact same purpose with one’s sexual drives. That is the spiritual connection between the Bris and the tongue.
[As for the third topic: birth. If the first two are used properly it gives birth to a new existence called Kedusha’ or holiness. (That is one reason that marriage is called ‘Kidushin’ in Hebrew).]
So we see a very interesting thing: that the real covenant with the Creator, a bris, is made is by CHANGING one’s NATURE.
In other words, G-d creates Jews with foreskins and with unrestrained tongue and then demands that they change all this!
ONLY thereby can one become united infinitely and deeply to The Infinite One.
This is the essence of the Torah and why we so desperately need MOSHIACH.
Moshiach is the only one that can and will teach the ENTIRE WORLD how to do it; how to alter all of nature (especially human nature) according the truth of the Torah.
The Lubavitch Rebbe declared almost ten years ago that the Moshiach had already arrived and that this truth is becoming revealed.
I think one of the clearest signs of this is the unprecedented power and popularity of (may HaShem protect us) homosexuality today.
The vociferous spokesmen in favor of this Torah forbidden behavior have the claim that this is a NATURAL, even a G-d given nature, and there are those who were born with such and such desires and tendencies. In other words; because it is natural it is good!
But the Rebbe proved the weakness of this claim with the example of those born with suicidal tendencies who, although they intend no harm to anyone else and want only to fulfill their natural G-d given tendencies, never the less in every society are restrained and even given psychiatric treatment.
The reason for this is because everyone knows that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good.
MAN WAS BORN TO CHANGE HIS NATURE SO THAT IT BE ACCORDING TO THE TORAH.
This is the true NEW COVENANT that the Moshiach will bring to the Jewish people and from them to the entire world.
May we all see the revelation of Moshiach NOW.
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