This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim (5762)
The first half of this week's double portion speaks of the service in the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur after the death (Acharei Mot) of Aaron's two sons.
In the second section, the Torah teaches us fifty one new commandments. Two of which are "Orla" and "Neta Revaie" (9:23).
Let's discuss this first.
After any fruit tree is planted in Israel, its fruits for the first three years are called "Orla" and cannot be used in any way.
The year after that, the fourth year (Neta Revaie). The fruits are called Holy and can be eaten, but only in Jerusalem.
And only in the fifth year are the fruits permissible for ordinary consumption.
But here we see something unusual. The Torah promises (9:25) that the trees of any farmer that refrains from eating or selling "Orla" will be blessed in the fruits of the fifth year!
Why the FIFTH YEAR? Why doesn't G-d bless the "Holy" fruits of the fourth year? Why only the Mundane Fifth year fruits?
To understand this here is a story.
As you probably know, the goal of Chabad is to improve the entire world, beginning with the Jews, through Torah education. Put into high gear by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, in the Fifties and Sixties, the effects of this outreach began to be felt in various countries until, in the early seventies the Rebbe declared that he was going to "break the shell" of one of the biggest enemies of the Torah; atheistic free-thinking France.
He sent representatives to open Chabad Houses throughout the country, and the success was phenomenal! Within a year there were hundreds of young French Jews thirsting to learn Torah and live a Jewish life.
One of these representatives was one Rabbi Shmuel. Although he did not know a word of French, the Rebbe called him into his office and assigned him and his wife to a certain French city, blessing them and adding several times encouragingly. "It is important that you always be happy (b'Simcha) because the French people hate an angry face."
From the minute they arrived they also met with success, at first slowly and with many difficulties, but after two years there were almost a hundred children, all of them from non-observant backgrounds, learning in the large building Rab Shmuel had rented and converted into a school.
But then "lightning" struck. A government building inspector appeared on the premises and announced that he was checking the place.
For three days he poked around until finally he unceremoniously handed Reb Shmuel a long list of "hazards", and announced that if every fault on the list wasn't fixed, his school would be closed down. He estimated that the repairs would cost over twenty thousand dollars, and he gave him three months to complete the job....or else.
Reb Shmuel saw black! He had trouble even coming up with the monthly rent and teacher's salaries, how could he possibly come up with such a huge sum in such a short time? But he remembered the Rebbe's words about being b'Simcha and hoped for the best.
For the next two months he tried various solutions. He made a dinner, sent out letters of appeal and even asked a few rich people for donations, but nothing worked. In fact every time he thought about it he became depressed. Then suddenly he recalled a chance meeting he had over a month ago.
He had taken the express train to Paris and as fate would have it he accidentally got on the wrong coach. While he was searching for his seat another passenger interrupted and said good heartedly, "You must have made the same mistake as I did. See your ticket? It says coach 18 and this is 17. No problem! See there are a lot of empty places. You can sit next to me."
The man turned out to be Jewish and a chief assistant for a French Parliament member. They talked for the entire two hours of the trip, and Rab Shmuel remembered that as they approached Paris the man gave him his calling card and warmly invited him to call him if he ever needed anything.
Funny he had never thought about it before but now he was desperate. He franticly searched his office and finally found the card! He called the number and when there was no answer decided to travel to the office in person.
But when he entered the building the secretary at the entrance had bad news. The man he was looking for was abroad on business and would not return for "quite a while."
Rab Shmuel didn't even have time to become depressed, suddenly behind him he heard people at the door saying, "Oh hello Mr. Blan, How are you Mr. Blan?" He turned and saw a young well-dressed fellow shaking hands with people and remembered that he had read in a newspaper somewhere that "Blan" was the name of the building commissioner for his city!.
He said a prayer of thanks to G-d, excitedly walked over, shook the young man's hand and asked him if he was in fact the commissioner.
"Ahh, no no." He replied cordially. "You must mean my father. If you would like to meet him you can call and make an appointment. Here is his number." He said as he took a card out of his wallet.
Suddenly in a spirit of "chutzpah" he looked the young man in the eyes, smiled slightly and said, "I want YOU to call. It is very important."
Like magic, the young man shook his head yes, went to the phone and returned just moments later announcing that his father would see him at his office in two hours.
Two hours later Rab Shmuel was standing opposite the elderly commissioner explaining his terrible dilemma; in two weeks he was to be evicted, one hundred children would be on the street. He was hoping that the old man would give him a few rooms in some other building until he could arrange something else.
"Sit down please" Said the commissioner "Do you mind if I ask you a question, Rabbi?"
Rab Shmuel was a bit apprehensive but he sat down and said he would be glad to answer to the best of his ability.
"Tell me, Rabbi, what you think about your Israeli Prime Minister Begin giving the Sinai desert back to the Arabs?"
Now Rab Shmuel was really in the "hot seat". The French were notoriously leftist, pro-Arab and opposed to anything that reeks of racial oppression; especially if the Jews do it. One wrong word and he could say good-bye to his school
But on the other hand The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very opposed to returning the Sinai.
It crossed his mind to try to be diplomatic and evade the question, but he shuddered at the thought and just blurted out. "Mr. Blan, I am a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and he said that returning of the Sinai is a big mistake and will lead only to tragedy."
The old man looked at him deeply and said. "I just returned from Israel last month, I was there for a week. I'm even a representative here in France for the Weitzman institute. I want to tell you that the returning of the Sinai is the most insane thing in the world.....Completely insane!"
He then took out a Bible from a drawer put it on his desk and continued. "In this book it says that Israel belongs to the Jewish people. If G-d said it, that is good enough for me. No one has the right to give that land back! No one in the world!"
He paused again and said, "Rabbi, I'm going to write a letter about your school to the Building Minister in Paris. He is the one that makes the decisions not me, but I think everything will be all right. Please give me a call in a week."
A week later the Rabbi was again sitting opposite the commissioner waiting to hear the answer. The commissioner just spread a set of blueprints on his desk and said. "Do you understand blueprints? This, Rabbi, is your new building! It's yours. See? It's two stories high, and about three thousand meters square. Here I will call my driver and we will drive down to see it. You can move in whenever you want."
The Rabbi was dumbfounded! A huge building! Completely his! He was expecting only a few rooms! Even more amazing, in France there is a very strict separation of Church and State, this was probably the first building ever given by the French government to a religious institution!
When the Commissioner saw the joy in Rab Shmuel's eyes he said, "Rabbi, I want to tell you something. You know why I am doing this? You told me that you were a Chassid, right? Well, I asked one of my friends what a Chassid is and he told me that Chassidim are Jews that are always happy. That made me feel good. You know, I know several other religious Jews, but they aren't like you, they always have angry faces, and I hate an angry face!"
Rab Shmuel understood what the Rebbe meant with those exact same words over two years ago.
Now we can understand the answer to our question. G-d created this world in such a way that it is very easy to err.
One mistake is getting too involved in the physical; the book "Tanya" even explains there are three levels of such forbidden involvement (Shlosh Klippot HaT'maiot covered by the negative commandments of the Torah). This corresponds to the three years of Orla.
Another mistake is getting too involved in the spiritual. This was the sin of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, after whom the first of our two sections is named; they were so enraptured with holiness they rushed illegally into the Tabernacle and died. This corresponds to the "holy" fruits of the fourth year.
The goal of the Torah and of the Jewish people is something else altogether. It is to make this entire PHYSICAL mundane world into a Holy Temple. This corresponds to the ordinary fruits of the fifth year, and that is why the main blessing falls on them.
This is what Rab Shmuel did in our story; everything depended on getting that actual, physical building, and with just a smile and the simple truth he got it.
May we all see the revelation of G-d in this world as the Maimonides writes at the very end of his massive masterpiece; with the arrival of Moshiach there will be true peace, true joy, all the Jews will return to the Holy Land, the Temple will be rebuilt and the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like water fills the ocean.
It all depends on US to do all we can to bring.....
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.