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Parshat Behaalotecha (5762)
Among other things, this week's section gives details about the commandment of "Pesach Sheni."
Pesach Sheni is the only time-bound commandment that you can "make up". If one doesn't, for example, put on Tefillin or say the Shma or sit in a Succa in the proper time, the spiritual "blessings" which were to be drawn down by those "Mitzvot" are lost forever. But if one was "far away or unclean" and couldn't make his Pesach Sacrifice, he could make it up a month later on Pesach Sheni.
To clarify this here is a story.
Rabbi Dovid and his wife had been married almost twenty years and despite all their efforts, prayers and good deeds they remained childless. They had been to the Besh't time and time again but each time he would bless them with long life, success, health everything but children.
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem (Baal Shem Tov, or Besh't for short), like his predecessor Moses thousands of years earlier, was an expert at exonerating Jews from their problems. But, just as in Moses' time, there were some Jews that couldn't be helped and Rav Dovid seemed to be one of them.
A normal person would have just given up but not Rav Dovid, exactly the opposite. He was on his way to the Besh't for the tenth time and this time he swore he wasn't going to leave that room till he got that blessing.
When his turn came he boldly entered the Tzaddik's study, but as soon as he saw holy man's face again, he burst out weeping and couldn't say a word.
The Besh't just looked at him for several minutes, even after he stopped crying, as though he was looking at something written in the heavens and finally said.
"All right Rav Dovid. You will have a child. A son. But only on one condition, you must guard him constantly until he is six years old. After that time he will be out of danger but before then he must never be left alone."
Rav Dovid couldn't believe his ears. He was going to have a child, a boy!! He wanted to yell, to dance, to do a somersault! But the holiness of the room sobered him up. At first he couldn't talk but finally he readily agreed and backed out of the room thanking the Besht profusely.
Sure enough a month later his wife became pregnant and nine months afterwards it was a boy!!
Rav Dovid and his wife were ecstatic but they remembered well the Besht's warning and immediately began their plans for guarding the child.
At first it was easy, but as the child grew and became more mobile it was not so simple. Nevertheless Rav Dovid and his wife met the challenge and spared no trouble or money securing babysitters. Everywhere the child went there was someone with him and it seemed everything was going well until....
It was early one Thursday afternoon; Rav Dovid and his wife weren't home and the child was being guarded, as usual, by the trusted maid. Everything was fine until faint strains of music began filling the house. In the distance lively music could be heard and as it becoming louder and louder it was clear that it was....The Circus!! A circus had come to town!!
Joy, noise, laughter, children screaming with glee... what a scene it must be!!. The maid could not resist the temptation. The child was sleeping, everything would be alright. She wouldn't go far, she had to at least step outside and see. She'd keep the house in sight. She slipped out the door, locked it behind her and when she returned fifteen minutes later the back window was open and the child was gone.
When the parents arrived home they were beside themselves with grief. What exactly had happened no one could figure. Rav Dovid immediately began searching and interrogating everyone in the area, but to no avail; it was as though the child disappeared into thin air.
Rav Dovid would have rushed to the Baal Shem Tov, but it was impossible; the Besh't had passed away just months earlier.
But there was hope. People said that the Besht's daughter, Aidel, was very attached to her father, perhaps she could help. Rav Dovid had to take the chance. He traveled to Mezubuz, and sure enough the rumors were right; she promised to go to her father's grave that day and ask for advice.
Late that afternoon she came back with good news.
"My father says that your son is still alive. But he said to tell you that the only way you will find him is to wander the highways and ask about him at every inn or tavern you pass. HaShem will help."
Rav Dovid wasted no time. He immediately jumped back in his wagon and began moving. Day after day week after week, he literally lived in his wagon. At night he slept and by day he went from place to place searching.
He'd been searching now for over three months exactly as the Besh't suggested, with absolutely no success and he was tired; the horse plodded on and he drowsed off.
Suddenly he opened his eyes. He had passed a tavern and didn't enter! He stopped the wagon, looked behind him, sure enough, there it was. He tied the horse to a tree and ran back. The place was empty, only the owner was there. Rav Dovid put a silver coin on the table and got straight to the point. "My son is lost. Perhaps you saw him. He's Jewish, six years old, black hair, green eyes about this tall."
Before he could finish the innkeeper began shaking his head yes. "Ahh sure! That must be the Jewish kid the Baron is adopting, today is supposed to be the conversion but I'm not going, who's going to run the tavern?"
"What?! You know where he is?!" exclaimed Dovid "You saw my son!? Thank G-d Thank G-d!! But what is this about a Baron? Conversion? What Baron? What are you talking about?!"
"Yep, the Baron has no children so he sent his soldiers to kidnap one." answered the innkeeper. "A few months ago one came back with a Jewish boy and the Baron is crazy about him, just crazy; everyone knows, it's no secret.
"Well," he continued, "today the Bishop is coming to the castle to convert him and do the adoption. But it's your son, eh? Wow. You must feel terrible! But there's nothing you can do now. Nothing! That Baron is a real Jew hater, that's why there's not one Jew in all this area, not one for miles. Hates 'em like poison. Your only chance is the Bishop. He's also hates Jews, you should hear his Easter sermon! But at least maybe you can talk to him. Maybe you can intercept his carriage and convince him. He'll be coming down this road; you won't be able to miss him!!"
Rav Dovid ran outside, stood in the middle of the road and waited, and he didn't have to wait very long. After a few minutes he saw a cloud of dust in the distance; a large carriage was approaching. A minute later he saw it. It was the Bishop's.
He waived his hands like a madman and when the carriage stopped amidst the curses of the driver, he ran around to the carriage window and begged the Bishop to hear his plea. The Bishop opened his door and Rav Dovid began weeping and pleading his case.
To Rav Dovid's surprise the Bishop seemed moved and replied. "I don't know how much I can help; the Baron is a hard man. But I promise you I will try. You just stand by the gate of the Baron's castle and I'll see what I can do."
Rav Dovid jumped in his wagon and followed at a distance. The Bishop reached the castle, entered the gate, alighted from his carriage followed by his servants and priests and he approached the stage where the Baron was sitting. As he walked he blessing those to his right and left amidst the blowing of trumpets while the crowd of hundreds stood in awesome silence.
Everything was set up for a royal ceremony. The Baron was smiling from ear to ear surrounded by beaming courtiers and stone-faced soldiers standing at attention. As soon as the Bishop reached the podium and took his place next to the Baron the proper signal was given and the boy was brought before the two of them.
The Bishop called for his anointing scepter. It was brought on a crimson pillow by one of his servants.
Poor Rav Dovid was witnessing the entire thing from afar and his heart was pounding.
Suddenly the Bishop took a look at the boy, gave a loud scoffing laugh and said in a voice loud enough for all to hear. "My dear Baron, I think we are wasting time, energy and holy water."
The crowd was astounded, not to mention the Baron. His jaw fell and he couldn't believe his ears as the Bishop continued.
"This child is a stiff-necked, stubborn and as selfish as the rest of his wretched people. Why, it's written all over his face. Here just watch this. You have been caring for this child for over three months, correct? Any normal child would be grateful, correct? Just have a look." The Bishop looked toward the castle gate and declared, as though in surprise. "Aha! See, there at the gate stands a Jew. Bring me the child! See there, my boy, at the gate stands one of your foul people. Look!"
Needless to say, as soon as the child saw his father he broke from the crowd and ran in his direction while the Bishop was yelling "Aha! You can't change a leopard's spots. No matter what we do he will never be one of us!"
Rav Dovid immediately grabbed his son, jumped with him into the wagon and drove off as fast as fast as possible, thanking G-d for the miracle as he sped away, but it wasn't over.
A half hour later he was still whipping his horse, away from the castle when coming toward him in the distance on its way to the Baron was….. The Bishop's carriage! It stopped as he pulled off the road, and as it passed and Rav Dovid looked inside and saw the Bishop!! His wagon driver yelled, "Cursed Jew!! The Bishop is late to the Baron's Castle! Out of the way!!
Some say that the first "Bishop" was really Elijah the Prophet.
This answers the questions we asked.
Passover, in many ways, is the essence of Judaism. Besides being the birthday of the Jewish nation, an unequalled miracle in the history of mankind, and the essence of the Torah (The first of the Ten Commandments; I am G-d that took you from Egypt) Passover was the first time in history all the Jews did a COMMANDMENT.
They took a lamb (or a goat), did G-d's will with it and the PHYSICAL actually became HIGHER than the spiritual. This is what the Jews were CHOSEN to do; to make the physical world into a holy place.
Now, the Torah tells us in Exodus 12:14 and 12:24 that this commandment will be eternal. And Pesach Sheni means that it is NEVER TOO LATE to do it. Namely no matter how "far" from G-d or "unclean" one is, it's never too late to do this job.
By just beginning to do good, one can transform one's self and the entire world to be a G-dly place.
And it also means that, just like Rav Dovid in our story, despite all the obstacles he didn't give up and each time G-d helped him in a big way, and just as in the first Exodus G-d helped in a bigger way, so also it's NEVER TOO LATE for G-d to help each and every one NOW.
May we all merit seeing how G-d helps in the BIGGEST way and sends Moshiach who will return even the "furthest" and "most unclean" to the Holy Land, rebuild the Temple and reveal how this world is far Higher than the spiritual.
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