This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Devarim (5764)
This week's section contains the commandment to appoint proper, honest Judges (1:17)
At first glance this seems to be a bit superfluous. Obviously judges must be honest; in fact every human being must be honest! What is the need for a special commandment?
Also this week's section always falls just before Tisha B'Av (the ninth day in the month of Av) when we remember the destruction of the first and second Temples.
To understand this here is a story.
Some hundred and fifty years ago a terrible uproar over a shameful scandal broke out in city of Tchernoble.
The richest man in the town, who we will call Reb Zelig, was a profoundly religious Jew whose business was buying goods from the local land barons and selling it wholesale to stores and craftsmen in the area. It made him into a very rich man, but it was very time consuming and left him almost no possibility to sit down and learn Torah.
So after a few years of it he talked it over with his wife, taught her the business and when she proved to be adept at it as he, left it all in her hands while he sat the entire day and learned.
For years things went smoothly. He learned while she made a fortune in the business. It was the best of both worlds. He was able to give large amounts of charity and still remain on a high level of Torah scholarship. But it had its disadvantages.
The business exposed his wife to the opulence and decadence of the aristocracy. The effect of dealing with the powerful, pleasure-loving ruling class and just the atmosphere in the various castles was not positive.
She, a G-d fearing woman, was able to ignore it for years but it gradually had its effect and finally, after returning with her from such a business journey, her Jewish wagon driver reported a terrible thing to her husband.
As usual he took her to a castle to one of the nearby Barons and waited outside until she came out either with the goods or a request that he go in to the castle and bring them to the wagon.
But this time when she left the wagon something seemed not right and he became suspicious. He waited a while and finally left the wagon crept up to a window of the Castle and peeked in only to discover that there were grounds for his worries.
He tiptoed back to the wagon, the Baron's men brought out the goods and he took the woman back home pretending he knew nothing . but he felt it his duty to reveal what he saw.
At first her husband refused to believe it and she, of course, adamantly denied the whole thing. But the next day her husband began having serious doubts. He decided it was a matter for the Rabbi of Chernobyl and when the Rabbi said that it certainly was no simple matter the scandal began.
Reb Zelig declared immediately that he wanted a divorce. The Rabbi tried to calm him down. His wife ran weeping to her family and they protested bitterly; one witness is not sufficient. two are necessary to ascertain guilt, and who knows if he's telling the truth etc. Rumors began flying and
everyone began taking sides.
The Rabbi of the town suddenly found himself in the middle of a serious controversy and, sensing that it was a bit more than he could handle, wrote letters to the all the great Rabbis in Europe and Russia he could think of asking their advice. Everyone was waiting for the replies.
In the next few weeks the answers came pouring in from all corners of the Jewish world: pages and pages of ingenious proofs and counterproofs some concluding that she was innocent and some the exact opposite. But in the end instead of clarifying things it just confused them.
Finally someone suggested that the Rabbi take the woman and present her to the holy Rabbi Avraham of Chernobyl to hear his opinion.
This Rabbi Avraham was an intense 'Tzadik' (holy Jew), the son of the famous Rabbi Menachem of Chernobyl, who was known for having incredible intuition regarding people. It was said that he could look at anyone's forehead and actually read all the sins that that person had done in their entire life one by one!
Now, Rabbi Avraham, besides being a great scholar and Tzadik with unique powers, was also a fearsome looking person. He had penetrating eyes not unlike two laser beams and when he wanted to gaze at someone he would lift up his long bushy eyebrows and stare, which was enough to throw trepidation in the heart of a lion.
So it was with this woman. As soon as the Rabbi brought her into the room of this Tzadik she began to tremble and when he lifted his eyebrows and raised his head to look at her she began to weep and moan until it was necessary to hold her up.
He took one piercing look and declared, "INNOCENT!! PURE! PURE! I see it on her forehead!"
The Rabbi was truly impressed and startled by the Tzadik's clarity and
certainty. He thanked him profusely and they backed out of the room with
the woman weeping tears of relief.
But just moments after he closed the door another idea popped into the Rabbi's mind, "Why didn't I ask the Tzemach Tzedik, the grand-chassidic Rabbi of Chabad-Lubavitch for his opinion".
The Tzemach Tzedik (Rabbi Menachem Mendel the third Rebbe in a chain of
seven) was considered by many to be the foremost Torah opinion in Jewry, and he was also a well known Tzadik with unequaled powers of clarity and even prophesy, but for some reason it hadn't entered his mind to write him, it had simply slipped his mind.
The Rabbi wrote, explaining exactly what had happened, summarized the opinions of all the Rabbis, finishing with the decision of the Tzadik Rabbi Avraham of Chernobyl, sent the letter special delivery by post and waited
for an answer.
A week later the answer arrived... To Rabbi Avraham.
The Tzemach Tzedik wrote that although he judged accurately according to what he saw; that the woman was pure and innocent because there were no sins written on her face. But unfortunately he was wrong. The woman is, in fact, forbidden to her husband and was not innocent at all according to the Torah.
Just that when she saw Rabbi Avraham's holy countenance and the repentance
that she did previously, erased every trace of the sin!
From now on, wrote the Tzemach Tzedik Rav Avraham must never make legal decisions according to his supernatural senses. ('Migdal Oz' pg. 203)
This is the deeper meaning of the commandment in this week's section for proper Judges. Of course everyone must be honest, but a Judge even more so.
The entire welfare of the Jewish people, indeed of all mankind depends on proper Judges who make proper Judgments.
In fact in our daily prayers we ask G-d to heal the sick, give us success, protect us from our enemies etc., but the only prayer that we ask G-d to remove from us "misery and moaning" is in the prayer that He give us proper Judges.
And the ultimate judge will be Moshiach.
Both Temples were destroyed because everyone relied on their own feelings and judgments (like Rabbi Avraham in our story) and refused to listen to the Judgments of the Prophets and the true leaders.
Especially the second Temple when everyone judged their fellow Jew negatively for no reason . a fault that continues to keep us in exile till this very day.
This is the message of the Lubavitcher Rebbes, the true Judges of our era:
The ONLY thing that will rebuild the Temple, bring Moshiach, and gather the Jews is unconditional LOVE for every Jew.
In the language of the Tanya (chapt. 32): "To draw every Jew with thick ropes of love" to the observance of G-d's Torah and its commandments.
Then we can be assured that, G-d willing, Moshiach will rebuild the Temple THIS Tisha B'av (it is completed and waiting in Heaven to descend to its place in Jerusalem!!); and HaShem will transform our mourning to Joy and Happiness!!
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