This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Emor (5761)
The highlights of this week are Parshat Emor, Pesech Sheni, Sfirat HaOmer and Lag B’Omer.
Here is a story that connects them:
The Yom Kippur war (1973) left Israel with thousands of casualties, and one of them was Mr. Sadon.
He had been lying for weeks in critical condition in Tzrifim Hospital and the doctors weren't optimistic. But his wife, sitting by his bedside, knew better. Somehow she was sure that against all odds everything would be all right.....she was writing a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Mr. Sadon had never been an observant Jew, but his wife had. In fact her grandparents had been Chabad Chassidim, but she left it all when she was just a young girl; that’s the way things went in Israel. Nevertheless, writing to the Rebbe was not strange to her.
In the bed next to Mr. Sadon lay a Moroccan Jew called Mr. Shapir who also had been severely wounded and had a dim prognosis. When he saw that Mrs. Sadon was writing to the Rebbe his eyes lit up. He motioned her to come close and handed her a small book of Psalms (3 sq. cm.), a family heirloom given to him by his grandfather. He begged her to send it to the Rebbe and request that he sign it. So Mrs. Sadon added the T’hillim to her letter and mailed them off.
Things began to improve for Sadon to the degree that two weeks later the hospital informed him that he was well enough to leave! They needed the bed for more serious cases.
After a few months at home they had almost forgotten the entire incident, and things began to return to normal, until one day Mrs. Sadon received a small envelope in the mail from the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Inside was Mr. Shapir’s tiny book of Psalms inscribed and signed by the Rebbe in extremely small print, and a letter addressed to her.
The Rebbe repeated the blessings he wrote in the T’hillim, added a few more, and explained that although it was not his custom to sign holy books he had made an exception, and then signed his name once again. But at the bottom of the letter a footnote caught Mrs. Sadon’s eye:
"P.S. Apparently you already light Shabbat Candles like every Kosher Jewish woman."
The next morning Mrs. Sadon called the hospital, only to discover that Mr. Shapir had also recovered, and left weeks earlier. She got his number from the phonebook, but there was no answer at his house. So she mailed him a letter telling him about his T’hillim, and waited for a response.
Sure enough two weeks later she heard a knock at her door and it was none other than a beaming Mr. Shapir. He had been in a recuperation center for the last few weeks, and as soon as he arrived home and saw her letter he took a taxi to her house. It wasn’t long before he was joyously reporting the stages of his miraculous recovery, and marveling over the Rebbe’s inscription in his little book.
But the Rebbe’s footnote still burned in her mind.
On one hand, she left Jewish observance years ago for very good reasons; it was old-fashioned, closed minded, unpopular etc. why should she start now? Who needs it??
But something inside her kept repeating:
"Light candles like every Jewish woman".
Little by little she warmed up to the idea. After all, the Rebbe did write it to her, and it was the same Rebbe that just helped her and so many others...so it can’t be THAT bad.
After a few weeks of this she decided that she would do it! This Friday she would light Shabbos candles!!
She even went to the store and bought candles and two small candleholders. But when she arrived home she realized that she didn’t know what to do.
She didn’t know when to light them, or where to put them. She didn’t know the blessing, and most embarrassing of all; she didn’t even know whom to ask!
She stood there confused for several minutes and she felt a tremendous urge to just put it off for another week, when suddenly the phone rang.
It was her oldest son calling from the army; his weekend leave had been cancelled, and before he could continue she said, "Oh that’s too bad, I was looking forward to seeing you. Tell me son, is the Army Rabbi there? I want to ask him something."
A few minutes later the Rabbi had gladly answered her questions, dictated to her the blessing, and even promised that he would mail her a "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch" (Jewish Law book). Mrs. Sadon hung up the phone and did what he said.
She lit the candles, put her hands over her eyes, slowly said the blessing and just stood there.
When she uncovered her eyes suddenly everything was different. Suddenly everything was so pure and quiet.
She was so happy...She cried.
Of course it didn’t stop there; little by little the flames began changing their lives.
The next Friday, after lighting the candles she felt that some of the pictures and statues in the room sort-of "clashed" with the Shabbos lights. So she moved the offenders to a different room altogether.
Then they bought a few Torah books for their bookcase, and the T.V. became silent on Shabbos.
Finally she decided to contact the local Chabad House to make her Kitchen Kosher.
Then things really began to move. It wasn’t long before there were Mezuzas on all the doors. Mr. Sadon bought himself his first pair of T’fillin, and even began attending Torah classes a few times a week. And that was only the beginning.
The Rebbe and the Shabbos candles made the change.
This is also the message of "Pesach Sheni", "Counting the Omer", and "Lag B’Omer":
"Pesach Sheni" teaches, "IT’S NEVER TOO LATE".
In the time of the Holy Temple one who missed the most important sacrifice of all; the Pesach Lamb, could make it up a month later on Pesach Sheni.
Like the Sadons, we should also remember that it’s never too late to begin something good; begin NOW.
"Counting the Omer" teaches that, as in our story, we must improve constantly. It also teaches that "light" and optimism is the best vehicle for this change. (The word for Counting (Safar) is the same as "Shining"; as we say; "HaYom Yom" - "Today will be Day")
"Lag B’Omer" teaches that the world depends on Tzadikim.
Just as Rabbi Shimon illuminated the world (that’s one reason the holiday is celebrated with huge bonfires) so also the Rebbe illuminated the Sadon’s lives, and continues to illuminate the entire world today with the light of Moshaich.
Finally, this week’s Torah section, Emor, besides containing the commandment of the Omer (22:15) puts special emphasis on Shabbos calling it "All the holidays of G-d." (23: 2,3).
Because, just as Mrs. Sadon learned when she began with Shabbos lights, all holiness begins with the Shabbos.
That is why the coming of Moshiach is also called the "Day that is totally Shabbos". Because from it, the entire world will be illuminated with holiness.
It’s never too late for.....Moshaich NOW!
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