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Parshat Shlach (5761)

This week we learn the about the tragically aborted mission of the M’raglim (the 12 scouts).

They were sent by Moshe to spy out the land of Canaan in order to conquer it. But when they returned, only two remained loyal to their task.

The others concluded that it's too dangerous in Canaan, and better to just remain in the desert and continue being miraculously fed and protected by G-d.

Only two of the spies, Y'hoshua and Kalev, had the power to resist this natural line of thought.

Y'hoshua got his power from the blessing Moshe gave him before the expedition.

But Kalev got it by praying at "Ma'arat HaMachpela" in the city of Chevron where Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov are buried.

Let us examine this. Why did Kalev have to go all the way to this grave to pray? Why couldn’t he just pray to G-d from where he was? Isn’t G-d everywhere?

Not only that, but it must have been very difficult and dangerous to find this place. He had to separate from the others and search alone (the last time Jews were there was over two hundred years earlier) and he couldn’t even ask for directions; all the natives were out to kill him. Was it really worth the trouble?

I want to answer with two stories I heard about the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shalom Dovber - the Rebbe ReShaB (1860 – 1920).

One of the closest people to the Reshab was Rabbi Yaakov Landau of blessed memory, (who was later to be the Rabbi of Bnei Brak for many years).

In the year 1920, shortly before the Rebbe Reshab's passing, an epidemic of typhus occurred that claimed the lives of many Chassidim. Besides being the acting Rabbi in the Rebbe’s house, Rav Landau was also an expert at healing and saved many lives with his self-sacrifice and wondrous remedies.

But because he was constantly in contact with the disease, he himself eventually became ill and was unconscious for several weeks until his fever broke and he miraculously passed the crises.

Unfortunately, while he was recovering, someone who didn’t know of his close connection to the Rebbe, unthinkingly gave him the worst news possible...the ReShaB himself had passed away when Rav Landau was unconscious.

Rav Landau was so devastated by the news that he actually wrote a letter to the Rebbe, which he put in a book of the Rebbe's, asking that the Rebbe take him away from the world to be with him!

A few days later, the Rebbe's son and successor Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak visited Rav Landau who was still in bed.

"I have an important message for you" He announced. "I just returned today from my father's grave in Rostov, and my father told me to go to you and tell you in his name to stop making foolish requests."


The second story:

One of the Chassidim of the Rebbe Reshab had a large factory for producing Vodka.

One night when he had to stay late in the factory, he heard strange noises coming from the storage room where all the vats were. He took a large club, tiptoed quietly into the building, and caught two of his workers crouched down behind one of the vats siphoning off vodka from one of the pipes, and then adjusting the meter to make it appear that nothing was missing.

Understandably he fired the workers on the spot, but before he could report the whole incident to the police the next day, the workers ran there with their own story.

They claimed that the owner had forced them to change the meter, or they were at risk of getting fired, and because of their loyalty to the Revolution and to Mother Russia, they felt they had to report the crime.

The next morning five policemen knocked on the Chassid's door with a search warrant, and when they found that in fact one of the meters was not in order, they put him under arrest and took him away to jail.

Everyone was shocked and confused. The Rebbe, whose advice and blessings had been their fortress of salvation, had passed away just a year ago, and now this catastrophe. It was too much to bear. Their only hope was to ask his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (Rebbe Rayatz) what to do.

The Rayatz told them to waste no time and to travel immediately to the grave of his father in Rostov and pray for help.

Travel in those days was dangerous, especially for religious Jews, and expensive to boot. So the Chassidim pooled their money and made a lottery to choose who would go, and the lot fell on Rav Yaakov Landau.

He made the journey, prayed for the poor Chassid, and returned just in time to be present at the trial.

No one knew what the outcome would be, but things looked very black for the accused Jew. There were two witnesses and much evidence against him. The policemen had seen the tampered meter with their own eyes, and begun to imagine discrepancies in his bookkeeping as well.

The smiling prosecutor handed a folio of incriminating papers and briefs to the judge, while the poor Chassid had nothing to present in his defense. All he could do was weep, read Psalms, and hope the prayers at the Rebbe's gravesite would work.

But he knew that only a miracle would do it, the case against him was airtight, and the Judge shot him a couple of looks that made him cringe.

The courtroom was silent; the judge picked up the folio, opened it, flipped through a few pages, mumbled something to himself, stood up in anger and threw the whole thing in the garbage pail behind him! His face was red as a beet as he screamed "GARBAGE!!"

The crowd was astounded, something must have happened to the Judge! It was completely unexplainable behaviour.

"WHAT IS THIS GARBAGE!!" His eyes were glaring at the prosecuting attorney.

"GET OUT OF HERE AND THROW THOSE MEN IN JAIL!!" He pointed at the bewildered thieves. "AND YOU!" he said pointing at the Chassid then turning to the guards, "What is this man doing here?! Get him out of here now, SET HIM FREE!!"

The Judge sat back in his seat, breathing hard while the guards were rushing to carry out his orders, poured himself a glass of water, pushed back his hair that had fallen in disarray over his forehead, pounded his gavel on the table and declared "Next case!!"

The Chassid turned in his seat and looked at Rav Landau. Only the two of them understood what had really happened.

The job of Jewish Tzadikim; G-d centered Jews, is to make the world holy. The first ones to begin this were 'The Fathers'; Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov. That is why they are called 'Fathers' (Avot).

They weren't interested in going to heaven, but only in bringing the spiritual down to earth. That is what made them the first Jews (as opposed to Noach, Job and other non-Jewish Tzadikim). Something like how it was when the Torah was given, or when the Temple was standing - the physical became holy.

This explains why Kalev had to pray at Ma’arat HaMachpela and the Chassidim at the grave of the Rebbe Reshab; it's something like how Jews always pray in the direction of the Temple, even today when it apparently isn't there.

Tzadikim make their physical bodies more holy than the highest heavens, and that holiness remains even after they pass away and seem to be invisible

That is what the Rebbe RaShaB meant by telling Rav Landau to stop thinking foolish thoughts about leaving the world.

Now we can understand why Kalev had to go to the Avot to pray for power to conquer Canaan. G-d wanted the Jews to conquer the land of Canaan in order to continue the work of the Avot; ignoring the obstacles and transforming the world into a holy place.

So it's fitting that Kalev should pray at the grave of the "Fathers" for power to continue the work they began.

And it was only fitting that he had to overcome great obstacles and dangers to do so; the same obstacles that discouraged the spies.

Now, just as the work of the Avot was a preparation for the sanctifying of Canaan, so to was the transforming of the Canaan was only a preparation for the work we are doing now; for revelation of Moshiach.

Soon the entire earth, not just the graves of Tzadikim or the land of Israel, will be filled with the Oneness and awareness of G'd.

And it all depends on our mission (Shlichut); to do even one more good deed and bring

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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