This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Eikev (5761)
This week's section contains one of the most important paragraphs in the Torah. We are commanded to say it twice daily, and it is written in every Mezuza and every pair of Tefillin:
"If you do what I want; to love G-d and serve Him with all your heart and soul, then I will give the rain when you need it and you will gather up your grain, wine and oil and your animals will have grasses etc. (11:13)”
It is the second paragraph of the three-paragraph "MOTTO" of Judaism; "Shema Yisroel."
But seemingly it poses a few problems:
Firstly: Isn't it a bit disappointing that all the Torah promises for serving G-d with all your heart and soul, is grain, wine and oil?! Why not something a little more exciting like everlasting bliss or salvation?
Secondly: The Talmud explains that this promise of "gathering your grains", etc. is a punishment!
Ideally, Jews are supposed to be occupied only in serving G-d. But here it's telling us that if they serve with ONLY their entire heart and soul (and NOT with all their MIGHT as well, as it says in the first paragraph of "Shema") then they'll have to do the gathering themselves. What's so bad about ALL your heart and soul?
Finally: These words were spoken by Moshe (all of Devorim was Moshe's words). If so, why does he say "If you do what "I" want "I" will give the rains, etc."?!
He should have said: "If you do what "G-D" wants, "G-D" will give you!!”
I would like to answer all this with a story.
Reuven was in trouble. Big trouble. Five years had passed since he last paid the rent on his farm. Somehow the Baron was so busy that he overlooked Reuven's little farm year after year. But the miracle came to an abrupt end one cold snowy winter day, when a large fine carriage drawn by four splendid horses stopped before Reuven's old house. The driver opened the door, and out stepped a huge man in an immense white fur coat with high shining leather boots and a long curled moustache...the Baron himself.
He strode angrily through the snow, down the path to Reuven's door, and gave it two mighty blows with his fist. When Reuven opened up, he grabbed him by the front of his shirt, pulled him outside, shot a steely look at him as though he was some sort of insect, pushed his forefinger repeatedly into poor Reuven's chest and bellowed: "If I don't have ALL THE RENT in a week....DO YOU UNDERSTAND? ALL THE RENT IN ONE WEEK!! You and your family are sleeping in the....” his nose was touching Reuven's as he lifted him off the ground, then threw him on his back and screamed "...SNOW!!!"
The Baron stormed back down the path, and as Reuven was brushing himself off watching the carriage fade into the horizon, he knew that he was in big trouble. His only hope was the Baal Shem Tov.
He set out immediately in his wagon, and early the next morning he was in Mezibuz waiting in line to see the great Tzaddik.
When he entered the Baal Shem's room, he almost forgot what he wanted to ask. So great was the simple holiness there. But when the Master looked up at him from behind his desk, poor Reuven began weeping, "My family, my wife and five children will be thrown in to street, they'll all die of cold and hunger. Ooy Rebbe!! Save me!!"
The Besh't handed him an envelope, assured him that he had nothing to worry about, and gave him instructions:
"Give this to the Baron as soon as possible, but DON'T OPEN IT UP!"
Reuven was so overjoyed, he wanted to fall to the floor and kiss the Besht’s feet. He thanked him profusely, ran outside, jumped into his wagon and was on his way to the Baron's castle. It was a ten hour trip, and after a few hours of travelling alone in the beautiful Polish countryside, he began wondering. What could the Besh’t possibly have written that would calm the Baron? And in what language? Could it be that he also had such a convincing command of Polish? Usually he only spoke Yiddish. But he pushed these stupid ideas from his mind, and prided himself for ignoring his foolish urges.
"I must put my complete trust in the Tzaddik", he said to himself. "After all, the Baal Shem NEVER made a mistake."
But a few hours later he was still battling. He had taken his mind off it a hundred times now, but his curiosity was conquering him. "What possible harm could it make to just PEEK??"
After ten hours, the Baron's castle loomed up in the distance. "Made it!" he said to himself as he parked in front and got out. But as he was walking toward the massive castle door a horrible idea crossed his mind:
"What if the Baal Shem made a mistake and gave me the wrong envelope!! What if it's EMPTY!! Wow! Good thing that I thought of it before it was too late!"
The envelope wasn't even sealed; he just lifted the flap and took a "peek". Aha! Sure enough the letter was there. Just another little look here... and before he knew it he had pried the letter partially open without really removing it from the envelope, and was twisting his head around trying to discern a letter or two.
"Gevalt!!" he whispered to himself. The paper was....blank!!!
Suddenly the door opened and the Baron himself was standing before him.
"Brought me the rent, Jew? Well, that was quick wasn't it! Let's have a look!" He snatched the envelope from Reuven's hand and took out the "letter".
Reuven was expecting that any moment he would explode in rage. But after several minutes of pregnant silence, the Baron looked up from the letter and said in a very friendly tone. "All right, Jew. I'll forget about the debt. Clean slate O.K.? But from now on I want the rent on time every month. Do you understand? I won't be so lenient next time". And he slammed the door shut.
Reuven ran back to his wagon and headed back to the Baal Shem. IT WAS A MIRACLE! The next day he was standing in the Besht’s room full of gratitude.
"Tell me exactly what happened." Said the Baal Shem.
"It was incredible! The Baron actually wiped off the entire debt and let me go!! I’m a free man! Rebbe! You saved my life and the life of my family how can I.....”
The Baal Shem didn't look pleased, "He erased the entire debt? That's all? Tell me, did you open the letter?"
"Well, umm umm” Stammered Reuven sheepishly, "I didn't really open it.... that is I did take a small peek, just to see that there was no mistake."
"Ahhh! Why did you look!?" exclaimed the Besh't. "Couldn't you control yourself? If you would have left that letter alone, the Baron would have given you the entire farm as a gift, forever!"
This answers our questions.
The purpose of the Jews is to reveal G-d in this physical world, and make the world holy. In other words; to show the TRUE meaning in every physical thing by bringing Moshiach
But this can only be done through a true leader. For instance in Moshe's time; although there were many great holy men that had seen G-d (the entire nation "saw" G-d on Mt. Sinai) only Moshe realised the true value of this PHYSICAL world and that it is higher than all the spiritual heavens.
Only he really knew that in heaven WE get pleasure, but here G-D gets pleasure from our deeds.
(Therefore Moshe wanted so desperately to enter the land of Israel and had such opposition from the people; they wanted heaven and he wanted only to please HaShem here on earth).
That is why the "Shema" doesn't mention the rewards of Heaven. Because compared to the spiritual treasures of each physical creation heaven is nothing.
For instance; grain, wine and oil represent three levels of Torah interpretation each deeper than the other. "Grain" is the revealed Torah, "wine" the secrets, and "oil" the essence of HaShem in the Torah. You don't get that in Heaven.
Now we can understand why "heart and soul" are not enough. Serving G-d with all your "heart and soul" means serving totally, but on your OWN terms. But "all your MIGHT" means going out of yourself; serving on MOSHE'S terms. (That is why Moshe, Dovid, and Moshiach are all KINGS, because a king brings people to do things above and even against their understanding and abilities)
That is why Moshe says, "I want" and "I give" when he was really referring to G-d. Because Moshe himself was the true example of "All Your Might"; he did NOTHING on his own (see Bamidbar 16:28). Even his speech was G-d's words coming through his mouth.
That is the meaning of our story. Because our hero Reuven did things on his own terms rather than on the Besht's, he missed out on a bigger blessing; the whole farm could have been his.
Similarly in our generation; in all his writings (a virtual ocean) the Lubavitcher Rebbe looks at the world completely different from anyone else.
Here, in this world, says the Rebbe, is the place where we must think ONLY about bringing Moshiach and we must do it with all our heart and soul and might.
And the Rebbe himself is the best example.
Only then will be revealed the true meaning hidden in each and every creation. Science, technology, art, media and all mankind will all announce the Oneness of G-d with all their might. Then the entire "farm" will be ours, forever!
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