This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chukat (5761)
This week’s section discusses "Chukat HaTorah" The ENIGMA of the Torah…… the most mysterious of all commandments; The Red Cow.
The ashes of this red cow, when prepared and used properly, 'negated the impurity of death' purifying those who had encountered dead bodies or other 'impure' things. The enigma is that all those who prepared the ashes to purify others, became defiled themselves.
So it enigmatically purified the defiled and defiled the pure.
At first glance it's not understood. What is the big mystery here?
What is so enigmatic about the fact that those who fix the impure become impure themselves? Isn't it logical that, for instance, one who heals sick people is in danger of getting sick himself?
Also, why is it called the "enigma of the TORAH"?
And most importantly, what has all this got to do with us today? The Torah is a book of eternally vitally relevant teachings (Torah means Teaching). But today there is no Holy Temple, laws of purity or Red Cow… so where is the relevance?
I want to explain with a story:
This story occurred over fifty years ago. A well-known Chabad Chassid by the name of Rabbi Yosef Weinberg was a great Torah Scholar and successful lecturer and therefore often was invited to speak in various countries.
He lived in New York and before each journey he would inform the Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, aka The Lubavitcher Rebbe) and ask for a blessing. But one time he entered the Rebbe's room to inform him of an upcoming trip to Johannesburg and the Rebbe asked him if he planned to make a stopover on the way anywhere in Africa for two days.
When Rabbi Weinberg said no, that he was flying directly to Johannesburg, the Rebbe paused, gave him a penetrating look, continued the conversation and finished by blessing him with a safe and successful journey.
The next day Rabbi Weinberg was on his flight reading a book when the plane made a routine fuel stop in Dakar. In those days, even direct flights usually had to stop for refueling and Dakar, the capital of Senegal was one of the stops on the way to South Africa. But this time the captain announced that the delay would be a bit longer and suggested that the passengers wait in the more comfortable Senegal airport lounge.
They left the plane, were taken to the lounge, Rabbi Weinberg found a table in a quiet corner, opened his book and continued reading.
A young man’s voice interrupted his thought.
"Please excuse me sir. Please pardon me for interrupting." He looked up and saw a well dressed young man. "My name is David Pinto, I live here in Dakar, I work for an oil firm here, and I just happen to be here in the airport. Please tell me sir, "are you Jewish? Are you a Rabbi?"
"Yes I am" answered Rabbi Weinberg.
"Ahh, Thank G-d!!! Boruch HaShem!! I thought so," he said excitedly as he sat down across from him grabbed his hand and began pumping it enthusiastically. "I have lived here in Dakar for almost four years with my wife and three children and it is so good to see a Jew!! Believe me, you’re the first Jew I’ve seen since I arrived."
"You mean there are no other Jews here?" Asked Rabbi Weinberg.
"None at all" he replied. "I even looked around a bit, and found nothing! I even...well, except for making Kiddush for my family on Friday night I don’t do any Jewish things anymore. I used to do a lot, I even have a pair of Tefillin but I stopped putting them on years ago. Am I glad to see you!!"
The Rabbi spoke to him for a few minutes and it had an effect. Mr. Pinto, who was just waiting for some encouragement, promised to begin putting on Tefillin again and was interested in learning more.
They exchanged addresses, promised to correspond, and when the loudspeaker announced the re-boarding, they hugged each other like old friends and parted.
In his seat on the plane, about fifteen minutes after takeoff, the Rabbi was beginning to concentrate on the book he opened again when suddenly something happened. The plane shuddered, the lights flickered, and everything lurched to the side. The people began screaming, while the captain's voice mumbled something from the P.A. system but there was too much noise - something was really wrong!
Through the windows, the terrified passengers could see one of the engines on fire pouring thick billows of black smoke!
The captain's voice was clear now. "Please fasten your belts. We are having trouble from one of the engines. We are returning to Dakar for repairs."
The plane dropped abruptly then steadied out again wobbling and shaking but miraculously making a safe landing where the shaken passengers once again left the plane and filed into the Airport.
They spent the night in the terminal waiting for news. Then, at dawn, the captain appeared, and announced apologetically that there will be a regrettable delay of two days until a new engine is installed, and they will be accommodated at a local hotel.
Everyone was disappointed but once in the bus on the way to the hotel, Rabbi Weinberg comforted himself with the thought that he could easily change the date of his lecture and now he could sit and learn Torah uninterruptedly for a few days. At home and on the road there were always interruptions. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all!
Once settled in his hotel room, he prepared himself a cup of tea, sat down by the window, brought out a Talmud from his suitcase and began again to learn.
Suddenly the Rebbe’s words jumped into his mind;
"Are you going to have a two day stopover on your journey?
He thought for a moment, closed his book, left the room, locked the door behind him, walked into the street, stopped the first person that passed him, introduced himself as a Rabbi and asked if there were any Jews in the city.
But man he asked just shrugged his shoulders and walked away and so it was with everyone he stopped. Either they didn't understand English, or never heard the word "Jew" before or maybe Mr. Pinto was right when he said there are no Jews in Dakar.
"There must be Jews here" thought the Rabbi to himself. "I saw it in the Rebbe’s eyes".
Just as he was thinking to himself, one of the people he asked earlier came back and pointed to a store and said "There is a Jew, I think."
And behold he was right!
The young manager of the store introduced himself as Clement Bajio. He was Jewish, 25 years old, born in Lebanon, had been working here in his uncle’s store for the last eight years and was overjoyed to see the Rabbi.
"Here there is nothing Jewish, nothing at all." Said Clement. "No Synagogue, no books, not even one pair of Tefillin. It's like a desert. There are even four other Jewish families but no Judaism. When I was young I used to do the commandments but not anymore."
"I will try to send books and Tefillin when I return to New York." Replied the Rabbi "But now, perhaps you would like to put on my Tefillin? Please come with me, they are in my hotel, unless you want to wait and I will bring them."
Clement immediately closed his store, and accompanied the Rabbi. To add to the excitement they even bumped into David Pinto; the man he had met earlier in the airport.. "Wow! What are you doing back here Rabbi? It is a miracle to see you again!"
The Rabbi told him of the near plane crash, introduced him to Clement and chided him saying, "You see, David? You have been here for years and haven’t found one Jew and in just a few hours I have already found five families!
In the course of that day Rabbi Weinberg searched the telephone book for Jewish names and then went from store to store and succeeded in discovering a few more 'hidden' Jewish families. That evening he telephoned them all and invited them all for a meeting and the next day Dakar had a Jewish community… the first in it's history! The Rabbi spoke, many people actually cried from joy and they all promised to strengthen their Judaism.
For the remaining time that the Rabbi was in Dakar, Clement did not leave his side, and as he drove him back to the airport he opened his heart.
"Rabbi , ... my business here is very successful but recently I began thinking of getting married. After all I am 25 years old. But, you know, there are no Jewish girls here in Dakar but there are a lot of girls. So, to tell the truth I have been thinking about maybe ..."
"Listen Clement," said Rabbi Weinberg. "If you marry a non-Jewish woman your children will not be Jewish and neither of you will be happy. I advise you to close the business for a few days or even longer and go to France to look for a wife. I know some people there and they will help you. HaShem will help also, I’m sure. Don't worry."
They shook hands, and parted.
When Rabbi Weinberg reached South Africa, he immediately called the Rebbe's headquarters in Brooklyn, reported to one of the secretaries there all that happened in Dakar and asked if it could be arranged to send them books and Tefillin. When he returned to Brooklyn a few weeks later he learned that the Rebbe sent them several pairs of Tefillin, a lot of Jewish books in English and even (because Passover was approaching) Matzot, wine and Haggadot for Passover as well.
But there is more to the story.
Several months later, Rabbi Weinberg received an envelope in the mail containing a letter of thanks from Clement and David and a plane ticket to France.
In the letter they wrote that from the day they received the Rebbe’s package, all the men have been putting on Tefillin every weekday, and everyone was even beginning to keep Shabbat. Not only that, but on Passover the little community made what was certainly the first Seder in the history of Dakar.
As for the plane ticket, it was a ticket for the Rabbi to attend Klement's wedding. He met a Jewish girl (also form Lebanon) in Paris just as the Rabbi suggested.
This explains our questions about the Red Cow.
The mystery of the Red Cow is not that the Cohen becomes defiled in order to purify others but rather that he MUST become defiled.
Just like in our story; in order to awaken other Jews, Rabbi Weinberg had to temporarily stop learning the Holy Torah, totally change his plans and (so-to-speak) "defile" himself in order to purify others.
This is the secret, the enigma of the TORAH.
Beginning with the Creation of the World:
The Torah tells us that G-d "defiled" Himself and concealed His Pure Oneness to create a world, in order that a HIGHER unity be achieved IN THIS WORLD through the service of man (Adam).
Then Avraham, was "lowered" from being Av Ram (high father) to AvRaham (father of all mankind) survived ten trials culminating with almost sacrificing his own son (the ultimate impurity; death), in order to purify the world through the service of the Jewish people.
Then the Jewish people were put into the defilement of Egypt in order to eventually purify the world with the Torah.
And even the Torah itself was "lowered" and put into this impure world, in order to bring a greater purity.
And so it is today, the Lubavitcher Rebbe re-discovered the secret of the Red Cow. He sent thousands of young Torah scholars AWAY from learning Torah to lower ("defile") themselves, because it is the ONLY way to purify all mankind (non-Jews have 7 Noahide commandments), and eventually the ENTIRE WORLD through Moshiach.
But this all depends on each of us! Believe it or not…. even one more good deed, word or even thought… can tilt the scales and bring…..
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