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 Behaalotecha (5760)
A well-dressed middle-aged couple knocked and entered Rabbi Shvartz’s office. He immediately recognized them; they were the parents of one of his pupils.
Rabbi Chiam Tzvi Shvartz was the head and founder of a very successful Jewish school in Brazil with several hundred young pupils (most of them from non-religious families).
The parents sat down opposite him, looked at each other nervously, the husband nodded to his wife, she leaned over facing the Rabbi and began speaking almost in a whisper.
“Rabbi, you must help us, we do not know where to turn… it is a tragedy! Our oldest daughter just announced her engagement to a non-Jew!”
She became choked up with tears and began whimpering into her small handkerchief. They both were obviously beside themselves with anguish. “It is true that we were never very observant ourselves,” the father continued, “but we never dreamed it would go this far, ooy if we would have known….Oy Rabbi we will do what you want, just bring our daughter back!” And he too began weeping.
The Rabbi nodded silently, thought for a while, and agreed to do what he could. Right then and there he took the phone and called her. To his surprise the daughter answered very pleasantly and even said that she was willing to speak face to face. The next day the Rabbi was sitting in the young lady’s apartment using every argument he could think of to convince her to change her mind. He appealed to her emotions, her loyalty, her logic, faith etc. until after three hours, he was simply out of ideas.
“Well… thank you Rabbi” She said as she stood up indicating that the conversation was over, “I appreciate you taking all this time out for me… really I do. But, you see Rabbi, Eduardo and I love each other and we are going to get married, the date for the wedding is already set. I know that this is not what you want to hear, but just as you live your life so I must live mine. Again, thank you for your good intentions.” She said as she showed him politely to the door. The Rabbi walked down the apartment building stairs in low spirits, it was hopeless… he had failed. And you can imagine how her parents felt when he called them.
A week later he was sitting in his office when a thought suddenly occurred to him. “I’ll call the Lubavitch Rebbe! Why didn’t I think of it earlier!”
Rabbi Shvartz was a Munkatch Chassid but he was very attached to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and would ask his advice frequently. In fact the Rebbe was the one who advised him over ten years earlier to move to Brazil and look for work, and now, thanks to this advice many hundreds of souls had been saved from certain assimilation.
One of the Rebbe’s secretaries, Rabbi Hodakov, answered the phone and listened to the problem. “Please tell the Rebbe my name,” concluded Rabbi Shvartz. “Perhaps he will remember me, I really need an answer as soon as possible, it is very urgent.”
The secretary told him to wait on the line, and a minute later he was back with an answer. “The Rebbe says you should go to her and tell her that because she wants to marry a Gentile there is a Jew in New York that can’t sleep nights.” Rav Shvartz was totally confused. “A Jew in New York can’t sleep? Who is he what is his name?” Suddenly the call was interrupted; the Rebbe’s unmistakable voice cut in and said, “His name is Mendel Shneerson”. Startled but no less confused, Rav Shvartz thanked the Rebbe and said good-bye.
“How will this help?” he was thinking to himself after he put down the phone, “it makes no sense! The girl will just laugh at me!” While he was still lost in thought his phone rang and when he lifted the receiver he heard the Rebbe’s secretary speaking once again. “Hello, Rabbi Shvartz? The Rebbe says to tell you that a Chassid does what he is told with joy, not with pessimism. Also the Rebbe said that you can tell the young lady that she has met him and she knows him.” No less confused, Rav Shvartz called the girl once again and convinced her that he had something new to tell her, they would meet again tomorrow.
“That is what you have to tell me!!! She shouted indignantly the next day when they met in her parent’s home. “Listen Rabbi Schvartz,” She fumed, “last week I listened to you for three hours, today I took time off from work! I want you to leave me alone or I will call the police! I don’t know any Jews in New York and I can’t imagine why my conduct would disturb anyone’s sleep over there! Now please stop bothering me!”
But the Rabbi was in it too deep to stop now.
“You know this man” He continued, “He is a famous Rabbi!”
“Listen, the only Rabbi I know is you and I’m beginning to regret that!!”
She said as she rose from her seat to leave.
“Wait, Wait! I’ll show you his picture”, said Rav Shvartz, beginning to feel a bit crazy himself. He began searching together with her parents and in a few minutes he presented her with a picture of the Rebbe they found in some magazine.
“Here, do you recognize this man?”
She grabbed the picture and gave a quick angry glance when suddenly her face became serious and she sat down, still looking at the picture.
“Who is this man?” She asked, and after hearing the answer she continued; “This man has been appearing in my dreams for the last several nights and begging me not to intermarry, but I didn’t pay any attention. I thought that because I had met you I was dreaming about Rabbis. Now I understand why he doesn’t sleep at nights… he’s busy talking to me!
One week later they postponed the wedding and shortly thereafter it was cancelled completely. In addition to the thousands of Jews the Rebbe 'woke up’ in Brazil (there are over 20 Chabad houses there) he had time for one more.
This week’s section begins with the commandment of lighting the ‘Nairos’ the seven lamps in the Tabernacle (the Menora). This commandment has great spiritual significance today; it is connected to the Moshiach.
In the third blessing after the Haftora reading it says: “His (The Moshiach’s) ‘Nair’- lamp will never be extinguished.”
Namely, Moshiach will ‘light up’ every Jew, (and eventually the entire world - Tanya end of Chap. 36) because his lamp burns constantly, everywhere.
Let us examine this idea.
The soul of every Jew is called a lamp (Prov. 20:27).
One reason is because each Jew, like a lamp, is made to illuminate the
In fact, that is why we are called the ‘Chosen People’ because it is our G-d given job to bring ‘light’ i.e. blessing and meaning, into every aspect of creation through the Torah and its commandments.
But the analogy goes even deeper. A lamp consists of four things: a vessel, a wick, oil and fire.
Similarly every Jew:
His physical body is the vessel and its enlivening soul is the wick. The Torah he learns and the commandments he does are the oil. But the fire, which is the main thing, is his genuine enthusiasm for and his love of G-d. The Midrash calls it ‘the Shechina’ or the ‘G-dly soul’. This fire is very hard to obtain.
The only way it can be acquired is through the inspiration of Tzadkim, the Righteous Jews found in every generation. It is their job to ‘turn on’ as many souls as possible. Without them Judaism can be a very self-centered, cold and businesslike proposition.
But each Jew is different and each is ‘lit up’ by different things: Some are inspired by doing kindness, others by the regimen of the commandments, yet others by the beauty of the Torah, others by prayer, by the land of Israel etc. etc.
Kabalistic works classify them into seven general categories, [corresponding to the seven ‘emotions’ of G-d (See our essay on Sferat HaOmer) and the seven branches of the Menorah]. Only the Moshiach will light all of them; ALL the seven lamps.
But what do we need Tzadikim and Moshiach for, isn’t it only G-d that we are supposed to believe in?
That is what is hinted at in the title of this week’s section: ‘B’HAALOTCHA’
It does not just say that Ahron should ‘ignite’ or ‘light’ the lamps, but rather he should “RAISE UP the lamps” i.e. from below to above.
In other words G-d doesn’t do it alone (from above). Rather the arousal must be from below. From someone like Ahron the High Priest.
Just as we are inspired by music when we hear a master musician, so true
inspiration to love HaShem can only come from an expert, someone that really ‘feels’ the infinite Oneness of G-d. Only the light of such Tzadikim can arouse the inner identity (the fifth and highest soul level called ‘Yechida’ or ‘point of Moshiach’) in each and every Jew.
This is the ‘Lamp’ of the Moshiach that will eventually illuminate the entire world with the Oneness of G-d in the final Redemption, as it says in the Prophet Zacharia (14:7-9)
“And it will be at the time of evening that there will be LIGHT… And G-d will be the King of the whole world. On that day G-d will be One and his Name will be ONE.
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