This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Tazria-Metzora (5764)
This week's portion, which deals mostly with the laws of Tzoraat (spiritual Leprosy) and how to purify it, begins with the commandment of circumcision.
This commandment is the basis of Judaism. Begun by Abraham hundreds of years before the Torah was given, it is the only commandment in the Bible to be called by the name 'covenant' (Brit) signifying the pact it cuts between the Jews and the Creator of the universe.
But it is surrounded by mystery. First, it's location; such a covenant should be more visibly advertised! Second; Abraham had to circumcise HIMSELF! Why didn't G-d send an angel to do it? And third, he did it when he was almost one hundred years old! Why did G-d wait so long to tell him? And finally, what connection has it got with Tzoraat? Why is it in this Torah portion?
To understand this here is a story.
There was once a rich Chassid who was known for his holiness and erudition. We will call him Reb Yaakov.
One day, Reb Yaakov was standing before the Baal Shem Tov almost in tears.
"I can't understand it" he moaned "Everything I do is failing. I used to have such business sense. It's as though I've been cursed! Has someone cursed me?"
The Besh't said nothing. Reb Yaakov tried to wait but the silence was unbearable.
"Every time I make an investment it fails. Every guess is wrong. I'm losing money hand over fist! What should I do?!"
The Besh't looked up at him sadly and said. "Do you have a snuff box?"
"Of course!" He replied as he nervously fumbled in his jacket pocket producing a small, finely decorated, golden box that he proceeded to open.
But the Besh't paid no attention and continued.
"About a half year ago you were sitting in Shul (synagogue) with some of your friends you took that box out and offered them snuff. Do you remember?
"I... I don't.. that is...almost every day some of us we sit together after Shachrit (morning prayer) and…
"Do you remember about a half a year ago that you took out your snuff box and offered everyone to take a bit of snuff but when you saw the Shul beggar stand up from his seat in the corner and approach to take some you closed it and put it back in your pocket. Do you remember?"
Reb Yaakov was deep in thought… he tried not to remember but suddenly it was clear as day. He didn't want that bum to get too close. He looked disgusting. Not only that but he had been in the middle of a conversation with his friends and he would disturb it.
"Well", concluded the Besh't "Maybe it meant nothing to you at the time because your success and wealth hardened your heart! But you really shamed that man to the essence of his being. So it was decided in heaven that all your money will be removed from you and be given to him!"
Reb Yaakov was stunned, he couldn't believe his ears! But it was happening, it was true! Hhe was loosing everything at a frightening pace… and now that he thought about it, that beggar seemed to have disappeared. It was a curse all right; but it was he that had cursed himself!!
As in a dream he looked at the Besh't imploringly and stammered… "Is there any way I can…."
"There is only one way you can get your money back." The Besh't said. "You have to reverse the process. If you ask him for a pinch of Snuff and he refuses you.. then he will lose it all, just as you did, and your wealth will return. But if not… everything is lost."
Reb Yaakov returned home and within a few weeks he had lost everything including his house and belongings just as the Besh't said he would.
He also discovered that that Shul beggar (whose name was Issac) had, in fact, miraculously become a rich businessman 'over night'. He was now making daring million-dollar investments and was surrounded by some of the wealthiest men in the country.
Several times Reb Yaakov considered just going up to him when he left his house in the morning and asking him for snuff, but decided against it. He would wait for a better opportunity.. a time when he was busy.
And finally it came.
One morning on the Shul bulletin board was pinned an open invitation to everyone in the city to the wedding of....Mr. Issac's daughter! It would be in two weeks in the massive town square.. a real G-dsend!!
Two weeks later Reb Yaakov was there with a foolproof plan.
The wedding ceremony was just about to begin, the band played solemnly and then stopped as the couple stood under the wedding canopy with hundreds of people gathered around. The Rabbi finished all the blessings, the groom broke the glass cup, the band broke into joyous playing and everyone began dancing, shaking the hand of the groom and the father of the bride, slapping them on the shoulders and yelling Mazal Tov!!!
And at that very moment; at the height of the festivities Rab Yaakov ran up to Mr Issac, tapped him on the shoulder and said…
"Please give me a pinch of snuff!"
Mr. Issac looked at him strangely… hesitated.. turned back to the person that he had been speaking to… (aha!! He was ignoring Reb Yaakov!!)said 'excuse me' .. turned around, snuff box in hand and offered it!"
Reb Yaakov fainted. A doctor was called. He was carried to a side room and after a few minutes Mr. Issac appeared.
"He'll be alright" said the doctor. "Maybe it was too warm or something."
"But why is he weeping?" Mr. Issac asked.
"I'll tell you why" Reb Yaakov replied. Remember me? I'm the rich man that refused to give you a pinch of snuff months ago in Shul and because of that I lost all my riches and you gained them. Well, just now when you didn't act selfishly as I did back then I lost my only chance to regain my wealth." And he resumed crying.
But the story has a happy ending.
When Mr. Issac heard the story he calmed Reb Yaakov down, invited him to the wedding feast and assured him that he had nothing to cry about. He would provide him with a home and a job for the rest of his life.
Now we can understand the commandment of circumcision. Just as man was created with a foreskin and is commanded to remove it so G-d created the world and man imperfect, requiring correction.
And the most difficult thing to fix is our hearts. In fact the Torah even refers to it as 'circumcising the foreskin of our hearts" (Deut 10:16).
Like Reb Yaakov in our story. Although he was a learned and devoted pupil of the Baal Shem Tov, nevertheless his heart was hard. And ONLY he could fix it.
Somewhat like how Avraham after years of devotion and self sacrifice to the Creator still had to circumcise himself - by himself.
And just as the 'Brit' is in a hidden place, so also this connection we have with HaShem must be hidden and must affect all aspects of our being including our pleasures and our offspring. Namely, to get excited about what is REALLY meaningful and real. THAT is our covenant with G-d.(And that is the job of the leaders of every generation, to awaken this excitement)
But in a big way, the circumcision of the heart relates to the desire for Moshiach and the future redemption he will bring (see Torah Ohr 13b).
That is why it is mentioned in our section .... because Moshiach is refered to as a Leper (Sanhedrin 98b) and also because he will purify the entire world as the Leper is purified.
Then HaShem will give us a new level of circumcision (Deut. 30:6) and the entire world will no longer be interested in what feels good but ONLY in the truth. There will be no idolatry, crime, war, selfishness, misery or even poverty, disease or death.
And it ALL depends on us!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that Moshiach is already here; strengthening the Torah and its commandments, fighting the enemies of Judaism, awakening the Jewish people...
We only have to circumcise our hearts and do ALL we can REVEAL...
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