This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Devarim (5762)
This section is always read on the Shabbat before or (as in this year) on Tisha B'Av; the date that both the first and secondTempleswere destroyed, and it contains a message very relevant to that day.
It begins: "These are the words (D'vorim) that Moses spoke to the Jews before they enteredIsrael"
Rashi explains that these were really words of reproof chastising the Jews for their sins in the desert and exhorting them to repent.
This is a very fitting message to read before this tragic holiday; The Temples were destroyed because the Jews sinned and didn’t know how to respect them, and if we repent theThirdTemplewill be built. So it is practical to read these harsh words of criticism this Shabbat.
Or is it? After all, these reproofs have been read by the Jews for over 3,300 years with no results. Exactly the opposite! In the course of that time bothTempleswere destroyed and we have been dispersed throughout the world because of the same sins over and over again.
So if the previous generations didn’t get the point how does G-d expect us, the lowest generation of all time, (according to Judaism the further the generations get from the Revelation on Mt. Sinai the lower they are spiritually), to get it?
But on the other hand the Lubavitcher Rebbe has said time and time again that OURS is the generation of the complete redemption! How can this be if we are the lowest?
Perhaps this story will help us understand.
Over 300 years ago when a Jew by the name of Yisroel Baal Shem (a.k.a. the Baal Shem Tov or Besh’t for short) began revitalizing Judaism by advertising his deep and inspiring ideas called "Chassidut". But he met with great opposition.
Judaism at that time was seriously divided into two groups; the learned class and the ignorant class and there was little or no contact between them.
The Baal Shem, wanted to change all that. He stressed that each and every Jew, learned or not, is a "son" of G-d and, although knowledge, erudition and understanding are essential, so are simplicity and humility (Which ultimately will be taught to all mankind by the Moshiach). So he ordered his followers to teach the simple Jews Torah and the intellectual Jews humility.
This raised the scholarly Jews up in arms. They mistakenly felt threatened: the Baal Shem Tov by doubting the supremacy of intellect was threatening their status.
They branded the Besh’t as an apostate and forbade the learning of his teachings. He and his followers were ostracized and even beaten. But despite their wrath, the Besht's opponents never managed to find real facts to support their accusations and the Chassidic movement gained more and more followers.
One of the spearheads of the opposition was a G-d fearing scholar and Kabalist by the name of Rabbi Dovid Forkis.
He vehemently despised the Chassidim but, because one day it dawned on him that it is forbidden to condemn them only from hearsay, he decided that he had to see for himself.
He first sent a pupil of his to attend one of the Besht's Shabbat meals and the pupil returned with the following report: The Besh't had all types of followers some simple people and some great scholars. But one interesting thing was that when they all sat down to eat the Sabbath meal, just after they washed their hands before eating bread, everyone except the Besh’t fell asleep for several seconds until the Besh’t took his first bite.
The next Friday afternoon, six hours before the Shabbat began (the Jewish date begins at nightfall) Rav Dovid slept well so he would be sure to be fresh that night and that evening, after finishing his Shabbat evening prayers, he walked over to the Besht's Synagogue and arrived just as they were preparing the table for the Shabbat Meal.
Rav Dovid sat among them. Then the Besh't came to the table, filled a cup with wine, made "Kiddush" and they all washed their hands in the ritual manner before eating bread. But as soon as the Besh’t washed his hands from the vessel that was brought to him Rav Dovid suddenly felt very drowsy.
Usually he succeeded in fighting slumber and keeping awake but this time he felt helpless. His head drooped down on his chest and he fell into a deep unexplainable sleep.
Suddenly he found himself standing with several rabbis in a large celestial room. They were listening to an argument between the Baal Shem and his best pupil Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritz about the kabalistic meaning of N'tilat Yadaim (Washing before bread).
Rabbi Dov Ber contended that his master's explanation was too simple and not according to the Ar'i Zal (Rabbi Isaac Luria; the most outstanding Jewish Mystic of all time circ. 1600) while the Besh't held that his opinion fit the spiritual level of our low generation and today even the Ar'i would certainly agree with it.
From nowhere appeared another Jew, a younger man of indescribable radiance and holiness, who listened intently to both sides of the heated discussion and finally announced "The law is like the Baal Shem Tov!"
Rav Dovid began trembling with awe. He realized that the intruder was obviously the Ar'i himself.
Suddenly the dream stopped, he awoke at the dinner table and all the Chassidim were singing, swaying back and forth.
The Besh't, however, was in another world. His eyes were closed and he sat perfectly still as though listening to some heavenly message.
Suddenly he cleared his throat, the room fell silent, and he began to speak.
Rav Dovid was all ears. The Besh't spoke about the commandment of washing the hands before eating bread. He connected it to the Torah section of that week and explained the connection from many angles bringing sources, exact quotes and pages, for every idea.
"Nice!" thought Rav Forkis to himself. "He is certainly a genius! But there are a lot of geniuses.
But when he began expounding Kabilistic ideas suddenly his prize pupil Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritz who sat in the closest seat to him mumbled an objection.
"That is not what is written in the Ar'i Zal! The Ar'i writes something different!" he said. And he began quoting by heart from the Shaar HaKavanot, (the book of kabalistic intentions).
"No no!" Answered the Besh't, 'I am right and even the Ar'i would agree! Our generation is different. And if you don't believe me just ask Rav Dovid Forkis, he just heard in heaven how the Ar'i agreed with me."
At that point Rav Dovid became one the Baal Shem Tov's most adamant followers.
Before we see how this relates to the question we asked above let us consider an interesting question and answer of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Rebbe rhetorically asked; why did G-d create such a seemingly useless thing as sleep?The Torah teaches us that reason man exists is to serve the Creator, but when he sleeps he can do nothing. So what is the purpose of sleep?
And he answered; if man did not sleep he would serve G-d at best like the angels do; without major changes. But G-d created man so that each day’s service would be TOTALLY NEW and INCOMPARABLY BETTER than yesterday’s.
And that is what can be learned from sleep; when we sleep we think the dreams are reality, but when we awaken we realize we were wrong. From this we learn to begin anew and leave the false security of yesterday; hopefully in a totally higher way.
This is what happened to Rav Dovid in our story; his falling asleep and waking up enabled him to see things in a TOTALLY different way.
And this is what the destruction of theTemplecan teach us; like sleep it is a cessation of one level to reveal an incomparably higher one; the secondTemplewas greater the first and theThirdTemplewill be incomparably greater than both of its predecessors. Therefore King David compares the time of exile to a dream (Ps.126)
That is what Moses was chastising the people for and what they refused to learn for the next 3,300 years till this very day: True service of HaShem (G-d) means complete renewal; to become a different person constantly.
So this anwers our question; Our generation is the highest; up to now no generation learned the above lesson and the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that ours will be the first to do so.
That is the message of Moshiach. He will build the thirdTemplereveal the true nature of the Jewish people and transform the entire world to INCOMPARABLE good.
It all depends on us changing completely; seeing only the good in everything and developing a new, unlimited love for G-d, for the Torah, for every Jew, and a burning desire to do all we can; even one more good deed, word or thought, and bring.
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