This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Balak (5764)
Interestingly, the clearest information in Torah about the Moshiach is found in the prophesies of Bilam; the arch-evil 'star' of this week's Torah portion.
The most important idea in the Torah is Moshiach (Messiah). It is he and only he that will complete the goal given to Abraham when G-d made him the first Jew: To be the 'father' of all humanity, teach them that G-d is creating every detail in the world for a purpose and bring world peace and prosperity.
In fact when Maimonides explains the laws of Moshiach near the end of his all-inclusive Torah masterpiece "Yad HaChazaka" he quotes Bilam extensively saying that he actually prophesized TWO Messiahs!
"The first was King David who saved Israel and the second will be the FINAL Moshiach an offspring of David as it says (Numbers 24: 17,18) 'I see him but not now' this is David. 'I view him but not near'... this is the King Moshiach. 'There will come a star from Jacob'.. this is David. 'And rise a staff from Israel' this is the King Moshiach etc." (Laws of Kings 11:1)
At first glance this does not make sense!
First of all, why does there have to be two messiahs? And second, why does the Torah bring us the wondrous news of redemption (when the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d etc) through the likes of an abominable, anti-Semitic snake like Bilam?
This week will also fall the Chassidic holiday of the 12th of Tammuz marking the 87th anniversary of the miraculous release of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak) from Stalinist prison in 1927. Where he had been sentenced to death for single-handedly establishing massive networks of clandestine 'underground' Torah schools and 'outreach' programs throughout Russia thus defying (and defeating) Communism at its strongest. This, said his successor Rebbe Menachem Mendel, was the real beginning of the fall of Russian Communism over 60 years later.
Is there a connection between Bilam, Moshiach and the exoneration of Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak and if so, what is it?
To understand this here is a story (Shmuot v'Siporim Rabbi R. Kahn vol. 3 pg177)
The third Rebbe of Chabad was called the Tzemach Tzedik (Rebbi Menachem Mendel).
A family member of his, who we will call Reb Avraham, who lived in Vitebsk was in deep trouble. He had to close his once flourishing pharmacy and, unable to find another source of income, gradually sunk further and further into debt until he was about to lose his house and all he owned to creditors.
And, as if this wasn't enough, his son-in-law suddenly abandoned Reb Avraham's daughter without giving her an official bill of divorce (called a 'Get' in Hebrew) thus leaving her stranded with no source of income and permanently unable to remarry.
Reb Avraham's wife began badgering him to travel to the Tzemach Tzedik for advice and blessing. But this was totally against his grain. True, he was a family member of the Rebbe but he definitely was not a Chassid. He was a normal Jew and had no use for the entire Chassidic movement with their outbursts of Joy and emphasis on Moshiach. In fact the Rebbe's nickname, Tzemach Tzedik, even indicated that his followers thought him to be the Messiah!
For several months he held out but since no other solution came along and his debtors became more demanding; he gave in to his wife and much against his will he went to the Rebbe figuring he would be in and out and in any case it couldn't hurt.
Broken in mind and spirit and with his last pennies he traveled to the Rebbe's headquarters, promised he didn't want much time and asked for an early appointment. But when he was told that he would have to wait for several weeks he reeled back a few steps, held his head and moaned "'A few weeks? OY! Why is this happening to ME?"
He was stuck, he couldn't go back home and he didn't want to stay, but when the Rebbe's secretary heard his name and figured out that he was the Rebbe's relative he had mercy and arranged for him to enter that very evening.
When he entered he was impressed with the Rebbe's countenance and the Rebbe seemed very happy to see him. But rather than asking why he came, he invited Avraham to join him for supper with his family that evening saying that his wife would certainly enjoy his presence.
Rav Avraham agreed and that evening at the Rebbe's house the spirit was so friendly that he didn't feel it was proper to speak about his problems, in fact the Rebbe's awesome presence and closeness sort of confused and overwhelmed him.
So the next day he again requested an audience with the Rebbe, and again was immediately allowed in but this time the Rebbe was more businesslike.
This time he poured out his heart describing his financial situation in heartbreaking detail. When he finished almost in tears he stood silently as the Rebbe pulled open a drawer in his desk, handed him some money and said.
"Once I read in a newspaper that a German fellow was looking for help in a new drugstore he opened in the city of Kiev. Here is some money for travel. I'm sure he'll give you a job."
Reb Avraham said thank you, backed out of the Rebbe's office and headed for the train station. But hours later when he was already on the train heading home and thinking about what the Rebbe said he realized it didn't make sense.
What did he mean by "Once I read in a newspaper"? How long ago was it? And how did he know that the German would give him work? And why Kiev? Kiev was far away!
Suddenly he slapped himself on the forehead! And yelled "Oy! How stupid can I be!?" I forgot to mention my abandoned daughter!!!
But when he arrived home his wife paid no attention to his doubts (he didn't dare tell her that he forgot their daughter) and the next day his bags were packed and he was off for Kiev.
It was easier than he thought. He quickly found the German who immediately gave him a simple job and after a short time recognized his talents. In just a few months he had already risen to be the manager of the store with a handsome income and finally was beginning to stand again on his feet.
A few weeks before Passover he requested from the German if he could have a month off for the holidays and he was immediately given permission. But when Rav Avraham arrived home there awaited him an urgent telegram from the German that he should return immediately for a matter of great importance and great profit.
So a few days later he was again standing before the German who apologized for bringing him back but explained that in a week would be his 50th birthday. He was planning to make a big and unique occasion and invite all the important people he knew including the mayor, several generals and government officials and suddenly got the idea that Reb Avraham could be the perfect person to arrange it. But there was no time to waste.
When Avraham heard how much the German was willing to pay him he took the job. It was a lot of hard and intensive work; arranging the hall, the music, food, and wholesome entertainment etc. but in a week the party was in session and Reb Avraham was receiving the honored guests at the door while his boss was gleaming with satisfaction.
Suddenly Reb Avraham let out a startled cry, became confused and almost lost consciousness!
The German immediately noticed it, walked quickly over to him without attracting attention and took him to a side room, sat him down and asked him what was wrong, if he would like a doctor? etc.
Reb Avraham stood, took his boss to the door and pointed to a priest who had his back turned to them and said.
"Over a year ago my daughter's husband abandoned her with several children and according to our religion she cannot remarry until he gives her a bill of divorce."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Said the German "But what does that have to do with..?"
"That's him!" said Rav Avraham "That priest is my daughter's husband. I'm sure of it! I would recognize his face anywhere! Perhaps he changed his religion, perhaps he just in disguise .. but I'm sure its him!!"
The German, who at that time held Reb Avraham in the greatest esteem, promised to settle the entire matter immediately. And so it was.
He brought the 'priest' into the side room where Reb Avraham confronted him and demanded he sign the 'Get'.
At first he denied the entire story, claimed that he didn't know this Jew and he certainly had never married anyone in his life . he was a priest!! But when the German pulled out his pistol his entire defense crumbled. He confessed to everything and agreed to sign anything just as long as it was kept secret.
Reb Avraham brought a Rabbi, two witnesses and a scribe, the document was signed and his daughter became free.
He realized now the greatness of the Rebbe and why he told him to go to Kiev; that only there could all his problems be solved.. even the one of his abandoned daughter that he forgot to mention. And, of course, his German boss also heard that there is a prophet in Israel.
Now we can answer our questions. Why the prophesies about Moshiach came from Bilam and what this has to do with the exoneration of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.
As Maimonides writes in the very end of his book (Laws of Kings 12:5) and as religious Jews say thrice daily in the 'Alenu' prayer; Moshiach will solve ALL the problems of the world and all evil will be transformed to good.
That is why these wonderful prophesies came from the arch- evil anti-Semite Bilam; to teach us that the goal of Moshiach, and of the Jewish people is to transform bad.
Just as Reb Avraham in our story and the Previous Rebbe had to experience extreme difficulties in order to transform them to miracles; so too all the trials and tortures we Jews have been suffering for the last two thousand years in horrible exile will be transformed by Moshiach to reveal the goodness of HaShem and of the Jewish soul.
And the reason for TWO Moshaichs is, as the Talmud states (Sanhedren 98:b) "Messiah will be like King Dovid; a Caesar and a half-Caesar". And the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains:
Caesar means "Unusual" (Yotzi Dofan) and half Caesar means semi-unusual implying that Moshiach will have two 'levels'. First he will be a teacher revealing new vistas of the Torah and raising the consciousness of the world according to understanding; half-unique.
But he will also be a King and COMPLETELY unique; revealing new levels of human potential that were totally above understand and even undreamed of.
This is the level of King Moshiach (Melech HaMoshiach) that will COMPLETELY transform the world to good.
And the Lubavitcher Rebbe assured us time and time again that we can make it happen one moment sooner!!
We have suffered enough. Now it depends on us to MAKE the change. One more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and actually bring ……
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