This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chukat (5760)
This week’s section speaks about the Commandment of the Red Cow. In the Torah there are three general types of Commandments: Those that make sense even to non-religious people such as: ‘Don’t kill, Don’t steal’ etc.”.
Those that make sense only to religious people, like Tefillin, Mezuza, and Holidays etc. And finally there are commandments that don’t make sense to anyone, and the best example of these is the Red Cow. This commandment is so incomprehensible that the wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon, who understood the secret meanings of everything, including all the other commandments, said of it; ‘I thought I was wise but this is far from me.” (Kohel. 7:23)
Here is a story to help us understand why.
Once there was a follower of the Holy Rabbi Yisroel of Ruzin that owned a large soap factory. He had many non-Jewish workers and always treated them fairly and kindly. But one of his workers was a fifteen-year-old lad that suffered terribly at home and was always miserable.
This boy’s father had died when he was a baby and his mother remarried a cruel drunkard of a man with four grown sons of his own. It wasn’t long before this sadist began to order his sons to beat the poor lad while he sat back and enjoyed the spectacle. To make matters worse the boy’s heartbroken mother was helpless to stop the torture.
One night, insane with depression after an unusually long thrashing, he found a long piece of rope, limped to the factory, climbed up to one of the rafters above the huge vat where the soap was crushed and boiled, and … hung himself.
Early next morning when the Chassid opened the door to his factory and was greeted by this gruesome sight, he understood that it could mean big trouble for him. If anyone found out about this he was sure to be accused by the anti-Semitic villagers of murder.
He had to act fast. Without giving it too much thought, he took a knife, climbed up to the same rafter, cut the rope and watched as the body fell below him and melted into the boiling churning soap.
But the case was far from closed. It seems that one of the neighbors saw the lad enter the factory late the previous night, and because no one saw him leave, the Jew was suspected. Needless to say the Bishop and the townsfolk began to demand justice.
The Chassid had no choice than to speed as fast as possible to his Rebbe ‘The Holy Ruziner’ for help. The Rebbe listened, thought a bit, and finally assured the trembling man that everything would be all right and that in fact he personally would defend him in court.
The day of the trial arrived and the courthouse was packed. The police had trouble keeping order and the only thing that quieted the crowd was their desire to hear the witnesses. They were almost in tears when boy’s stepfather and stepbrothers testified one after the other, how they loved the dear departed lad, and they hissed when they heard how the boy often cursed the evil Jew.
They seethed when they heard the testimony of the neighbor. But it was the Bishop’s speech, a venomous assault on the Jews and their blood rites, which began to drive the crowd to the point of frenzy. He was just in the middle of a glorious sentence; hand lifted majestically in the air, when suddenly the courtroom door burst open, everyone turned to look, and in walked … the dead boy!
Everyone froze in astonishment as the boy walked to the front of the courtroom faced the audience and shouted angrily: “What are you doing to this Jew! He was my only friend! Dead?! I am not dead! I just ran away to escape their beatings! Your Honor!!” the lad looked up at the Judge pointing his finger at his ‘brothers’, “if anyone deserves punishment it is these evil snakes!”
Suddenly, blind with flaming rage, the stepfather and his sons jumped from their places and before the police could get over to them, one grabbed the boy by the throat while the others beat and kicked him mercilessly until … he died. Needless to say they were all arrested and charged with murder.
Later the ‘Holy Ruziner’ explained the miracle he did with the following story:
“Once there was an old wealthy Baron that hired a Jewish man to manage his estates. He liked and trusted the Jew, and eventually gave him complete control of all he had. After several years the Baron announced that he would vacation in France for a while and the Jew would be the sole manager of the estate until he returned.
But to the Jew he told the truth; he was sick of Poland and, because he had no children to inherit him, he was giving him all he owned. Several years later the news of the Baron’s death arrived from France and his embalmed body was brought back to the estate for burial. The Jew of course took ownership and vastly improved the land and the villages on it.
But then one day, fifteen years later, a well-dressed young man claming to be the nephew of the Baron, arrived at the Jew’s mansion holding a court order demanding that either the Jew produce proof of ownership or pay fifteen years back rent and leave immediately.
The poor Chassid was beside himself, of course he had no proof. His only recourse was to travel to the Baal Shem Tov and ask for help. “Travel to the city of Lipzig and walk the streets” Said the Besht, “and everything will be all right.”
Without really understanding what he was doing he set off early the next morning to Lipzig, checked into a hotel and began wandering the streets aimlessly. He continued this for one week, then another and began to think that either he misunderstood or … No! it was out of the question, the Baal Shem Tov had never made a mistake. So he continued walking, saying any words of Torah he could remember.
It was Friday afternoon a few hours before Shabbat and just as he decided to return to his hotel room it suddenly began to rain torrentially. Everyone in the street was running for cover and he too took shelter under a large overhang in front of a building. There were almost a hundred people packed in there, and he unintentionally shoved the man behind him.
As he turned to apologize he saw to his amazement that it was none other than … the dead Baron! “I understand you are having problems” the Baron said. “Come let us go into this building and I’ll write you a deed to the estate, no one will doubt my seal and signature.”
“That” explained the Holy Ruziner “is why I knew I could help you. I’m nothing compared to the Besht, but if he could reconstruct a person who had died so many years ago, I knew I could do the same thing with this lad who died only last week.”
These Masters touched on the mystery of mysteries, the subject of this week’s Torah section that eluded even King Solomon’s understanding: Death is not real.
Death was ‘created’ through the sin of eating the forbidden fruit and it actually disappeared when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, only to return 40 days later (till this very day) with the sin of the Golden Calf.
G-d is pure life, and G-d is everywhere. When the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf they concealed this fact … and death made its re-appearance.
Our Torah section tells us that the secret of purifying death, the Red Cow (the antidote to the Golden Calf) was given to Moshe (Yikchu AlehCHaw). (Tanchuma, Chukas 8)
This is because Moses was also above death as it says in the Talmud (Sota 13a) “Moshe did not die”. Therefore he was able to go 40 days without food or drink on Mt. Sinai, and only he was able to receive the Torah the “Tree of life” (Prov 3:18) which is also above death. Even the Ark containing it was unlimited and took up no space in the Holy of Holies.
Similarly the Jewish people (and those attached to them like the boy and the Baron in our stories) are above death. (We can see this somewhat in the fact that the Jewish people as a whole are eternal.)
But all this is concealed under a million veils of mystery.
Only the Moshiach can and will reveal this hidden truth to the world. He will prepare the tenth and last Red Cow (Rambam, Hil. Para 3) and purify creation until eventually ‘Death will be swallowed forever” in the Resurrection of the Dead.
It is not by accident that the Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away on the Third of Tammuz, which this year falls in Parshat Chukat because his ‘passing’ is also not understandable in any normal sense.
In addition to what is said of every Tzadik that after death they are more present in this world than they were in their lifetime; the Rebbe because of his unusual attachment to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people, seems to be something more.
Many of those who read the unfathomable ocean of seemingly omniscient wisdom that he wrote, follow his unfailing directives and prophesies, and have been touched by his outreach programs of unprecedented love for every Jew and all mankind, sense that what we wrote earlier about Moshe not dying is very applicable to the Rebbe as well.
They feel that he is standing behind our wall (Shir haShirim 2:9) waiting
only for the moment to be revealed and finish the work he began; to purify
all of creation.
But whoever the Moshiach is, one thing is for sure; his speedy arrival depends on how much we really want him, and the purity he will bring. And …
We want Moshiach NOW!!
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