This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Eikev (5763)
In this week's section we find the well known saying, "Man does not live by bread alone."
This was said by Moses who, in his final message to the Jewish people before they enter the land of Israel, was reminding them to be grateful to G-d for miraculously feeding them Manna for forty years in the desert. The whole sentence goes like this:
"He (G-d) tortured you and starved you and gave you Manna.... in order that you should know that not by bread alone does man live but by the word of G-d does man live." (8:3)
But, at first glance, this seems to make no sense.
First of all, if Moses is trying to remind them of how great a gift the manna was why does he connect it to torture and starvation?
Even more, the Manna didn't torture and starve the Jews! Exactly the opposite! The Manna kept the Jews alive for forty years. Perhaps they became bored with it, but certainly it didn't torture or starve them.
Also how did Manna teach them that man can't live on bread but only from the word of G-d? The Manna seems to teach exactly the opposite! That G-d's word isn't enough and THAT is why they had to eat physical Manna every single day.
To understand all this all here is a story.
Rabbi Yisroel of Ruzin, a genius, miracle working, Chassidic leader who lived some two hundred years ago, was known as the 'Holy Ruziner' because of the intense G-dliness that emanated from his every action, word and even thought. His thousands of followers said that visiting him must have been very similar to visiting the Holy Temple as it put new joy and meaning into every moment of life.
But there were many G-d fearing, highly intelligent Jews that didn't believe in all this. They rejected him and all the other Chassidic 'Tzadikim' as well.
Such a person was Rab Yho'shua Charif. He had been one of the most brilliant students in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Akiva Eiger (one of the all time Torah giants and who opposed the Chassidim) and also one of Rabbi Eiger's relatives.
But as fate would have it this Reb Yho'shua Charif married a woman whose entire family were Chassidim, followers of the 'Holy Ruziner' and they, as well as she, pressured him constantly to at least visit their holy leader and have a look.
At first Reb Yhoshua refused outright, but when they didn't let up, he hit on an idea that he hoped would both get him some peace and quiet and might even wean his in-laws away from the Chassidim as well!
His idea was as follows: In the course of his Torah learning he had found an apparent contradiction between the Talmud and the Zohar (basic Kabala book) regarding the difference between vows (Nederim) and oaths (Shavuot).
The Talmud explains that vows only are valid if they deal with existing things while oaths apply to even things which do not yet exist; for instance fruits that have not yet grown or money that has not been earned.
But the Zohar explains it exactly the opposite way; that oaths are limited to existing things while vows are not.
For several years he had been asking other Torah scholars to explain this apparent contradiction but none of them could.
He decided that he would agree to visit this Rebbe on the condition that he answer this question, but with one hitch. Rather than verbally asking he would only THINK his question. If the Rebbe was such a super-Jew as his in-laws claimed then he should be able to read his mind AND answer the question as well. But if not they would leave him alone.
They had no choice but to agree. So Rab Yhoshua, keeping his end of the bargain, traveled with his father-in-law to the Rebbe and the next day when they arrived and finally entered the Rebbe's synagogue it was packed with a lot of other Chassidim with the Rebbe sitting at his table before them totally oblivious to all of them. This went on for almost fifteen minutes and all the time Rab Yhoshua was thinking about his question as much as possible.
Then one of the more important Chassidim by the name of Reb Leib, entered the room. The Rebbe invited him to sit down next to him and began engage him in conversation and everyone leaned forward and strained their ears to hear.
The Rebbe said, "True, people don't respect me as a learned person. Although the truth is that I finish all the books of the Talmud once a month.
"But my grandfather the Magid of Mezeritz was recognized by everyone as one of the greatest Talmudic geniuses in the world and never the less once one of his enemies; a Misnaged who opposed the Chassidim, decided to test him by thinking of a question to see if the Rebbe could both read his mind and answer it.
"The question was about vows and oaths. The Talmud says one thing about them and the Zohar says another.
Rab Yhoshua couldn't believe his ears! The Rebbe continued;
"Well, My Grandfather gave one answer but I'll say an answer of my own.
"You know the souls learn Torah in heaven. There is even a 'Heavenly Court' (m'tivta d'rkeia) to decide important matters. Well, the Talmud (Baba Metzia 86a), written over a thousand five hundred years ago, tells us that once there was an argument in heaven between the heavenly court and G-d!
""The Talmud relates that when they couldn't come to a conclusion they decided to call in an arbitrator from the living to decide who was right and they decided on Rabba Bar Nachmani. He heard both sides of the argument and decided that G-d's opinion was correct!
"But surprisingly, the Ramba'm (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) in his masterpiece on Jewish law which is the last word on such matters decides the law not according to G-d's opinion! The law is like the opinion of the heavenly court.
"The only way to explain this is that G-d desired that the opinion of the Rabbis (providing they are true Rabbis) can, at times, override His!
"So it is in our case regarding vows and oaths," the Holy Ruziner concluded. "The Zohar is stating the opinion of G-d while the Talmud represents the heavenly court!! So there is really no contradiction. That is my answer."
Then he turned to Rab Yhoshua and said, "Nu young man, are you ready to be a Chassid?"
Rab Yhoshua Charif not only became a Chassid, but he was one of the Ruziner Rebbe's most devoted followers.
This answers our questions.
Rab Yhoshua in our story became a Chassid not because the Rebbe was smarter than him or because he was impressed with his spiritual powers. In fact, those things can even be done through magic or other occult powers.
He became a Chassid because he realized that the Rebbe's wisdom and spirituality was not an end in itself but rather a VEHICLE for revealing the greatness of the CREATOR.
In other words, the Rebbe himself was only a means for advertising G-d. Something like the first Jew, Abraham.
And this was also true of the Manna.
The Manna was a miraculous bread from heaven and the more the Jews ate of it the more they realized that it was only a vehicle for something totally beyond them; the infinite kindness of the Creator.
Therefore while it satisfied them PHYSICALLY, it 'tortured' them spiritually with a constant 'hunger' for the infinitely good source of all being.
That is the 'Word of G-d' in the Manna that tortured them and made them hungry.
This is especially important in our days. The Lubavitcher Rebbe called our generation a totally NEW era. Ours generation marks the end of the exile and the beginning of the days of Moshiach.
Now a tremendous hunger for meaning is sweeping the entire world. Entire populations are completely changing their priorities in life and myriads of Jews are seeking true Judaism.
This was the purpose of the Chassidic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, called Chassidut; to bring a new hunger to the Jewish people so that they and all mankind after them will not be satisfied with anything less than the true revelation of the Creator in His creation that will be brought by Moshiach.
As we say three times very day three in the Alenu prayer and as the Rambam writes in the end of his masterpiece of Jewish law "Yad HaChazaka"; 'Then the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like water fills the ocean."
But it's up to us.
It's up to us to do everything in our power to make it happen sooner but it won't take a lot. We are standing on the shoulders of giants; thousands of years of Jewish self sacrifice. Now, even one more good deed, word or even thought can tip the scales and reveal....
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