This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Re'eh (5763)
This week's section opens with the statement of G-d.
"Look, I give before you today a blessing and a curse."
At first glance this is difficult to understand. The word "I" (Anochi) usually represents G-d's kindness and beneficence. For instance the Ten Commandments begin with Anochi.
Similarly the word 'Give' signifies goodness, especially when used in relation to HaShem as the Talmudic saying "When G-d GIVES He GIVES bountifully (Lit. 'with a good eye').
If so this sentence seems to be implying that the 'Curse' is also good! Can this be?
Even more, the nature of G-d is Goodness! He creates, provides for and blesses all being constantly. There can be no greater good than that. Curses come from man.
MAN can reject this good if he so desires. But here it seems to say that it is G-d who is giving the curse?
To understand this, here is a story. (It appears in Hebrew in a new book called 'Rabim Haysheev M'Avon volume 2' by Rabbi Ahron Dov Halperin.)
Shortly after the Six-Day war an Israeli soldier named Yosi Kabilio was driving with four other soldiers on a routine patrol in the Golan Heights when their jeep hit a landmine. It was thrown into the air and landed on its side killing two of them and seriously injuring the rest - including Yosi.
When he woke in the Rambam hospital in Haifa several days later he could only remember the excruciating pain in his legs before he again faded into unconsciousness. But the next time he awoke he looked down to discover
that... his legs weren't there! They had been crushed in the accident and
the doctors had no alternative but to amputate them.
What happened afterwards was even more excruciating.
His friends came to visit him with empty jokes and news to 'cheer him up' when it was only too obvious that they were doing it more from pity than friendship. The visits from his mother and father were worse. His mother would try to say something but she would just begin to weep silently. And his father didn't even try to speak. He would just sit there without saying a word, and that silence was pure torture.
Then there were the army officers that came with their slaps on the shoulder and all sorts of stale sayings that they obviously had used hundreds of times about contribution to the country.
His brothers would come and tell him half-heartedly about how they would find him a job and everything would be all right. And occasionally some official would appear with charts about the benefits he was entitled to as a disabled veteran.
In short, Yosi began to hate everyone in the entire world; he hated the army, the Israeli government, his friends, the visits from his family and even himself.
Then, when he finally went home all his pessimism proved true; There was no work, not for someone like him and no friends either.
He was a cripple. A misfit. An object of pity. People couldn't look him in the eye. The future held nothing for him and no one really cared. He was a loser.
The only ones he could talk to were other disabled veterans but none of them really had much to add. They were all bitter, angry, depressed and basically finished with life. In Israel the strong survived and no one had time for crippled war heroes.
Then, several years later some organization arranged a trip for about fifty disabled veterans to New York and Yosi was among them.
Needless to say the trip was one constant stream of sarcastic comments from the participants; all the interesting sites wouldn't return them to normal and this one-time 'chocolate' wouldn't make up for their destroyed lives.
Then, near the end of the trip some rabbi appeared in their hotel and invited them to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn.
At first there were a few groans and guffaws; what could would it do now, could he make their limbs grow back? But when some of them said they heard good things about this Rebbe everyone agreed, after all, it couldn't hurt.
The next day about fifteen Chabad Chassidim arrived in several busses and in no time all the visitors were transported to the Rebbe's headquarters in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn and then down a ramp into the large Synagogue there.
Here is Yosi's description of what happened.
"We waited for about ten minutes in that Synagogue and then suddenly entered the room a Jew of about seventy years old escorted by two other rabbis, obviously his secretaries.
"All of us fell silent at once. Despite the fact that he walked with a light gait, the authority that radiated from his every step was something that was impossible to mistake. As he passed us he looked at each one individually and waved his hand lightly, then he sat opposite us and again looked at us more intently.
"No one moved. As bitter and full of pessimistic jokes and sarcastic comments as we were, from the second that Rabbi entered, the place was completely silent.
"That moment of silence that he looked at us was short and long. Short because it only lasted a few seconds but on the other hand it contained the entire world. He looked at each of us quickly one at a time and each one felt the same thing: a King and a Leader is looking at us. He had authority that was greater than anything we ever experienced, more than any general or Prime minister. A true King. And then and there we knew that he felt us and knew what each of us had experienced.
"This itself was a new feeling. For instance myself. From the last three years after the accident, I never had the feeling that anyone really knew or appreciated what was happening to me. And behold, here in New York I meet a person that just the way he looks gives me the feeling that he's a king and with one look and a half smile from the corner or his eyes is enough to feel
that he knows exactly where I'm at and what I've been through. He is one
hundred percent with me and feels every feeling and even subconscious feeling that I feel.
"Then the Rebbe began to speak to us in Hebrew. He began by apologizing for his non-Israeli accent and his smile when he said this captivated all of us. In an instant the general attitude changed from bitterness and sarcasm to smiles and even gladness.
"Then he got to the point. He had something to tell us. It wasn't about being religious or anything we expected. Rather he spoke about our being called 'disabled' (Nechim) and said that he opposed the use of the word.
"'Because, in fact, you are not disabled' he said. 'Rather what seems to be a sign of disability is really a sign of uniqueness and excellence. Therefore rather than Nechai Tzal (Disabled Veterans) you should be called M'tzuyani Tzal (Unique Veterans)'
"The Rebbe continued this way for about ten minutes and, I don't know how he did it, but he said exactly the right words at the right time.
"Finally the Rebbe gave a dollar to each of us. He stopped, shook hands, gave a dollar and said a few words to each and every one of us one at a time. I stared at his face as he approached and, what can I tell you, I felt like a small child. When he got up to me he looked straight in to my eyes grabbled my hand between his two hands, squeezed strongly and said only one word.
"One word! It was the word I had been waiting to hear for years and in one second it completely healed me from all the bitterness that accompanied me all that time. Suddenly I felt that it wasn't just him, but all the Jews that are alive or that ever lived saying 'Thanks'. Suddenly I felt that I was really something special; I really had helped the entire world.
"Well, that word changed my life. Suddenly I revealed new powers I never knew I had, even before the accident. I stopped feeling pity for myself and began to live. Within a year I got married, began working as a carpenter in a shop and the rest is history.
"But, what can I say, today I'm a Chabadnik! If one word of the Rebbe could heal me for life then why shouldn't I devote my life to making others feel good the same way."
This answers our question. What seems to be 'curses' are really blessings in disguise.
As the Rebbe said; what seems at first glance to be 'Crippled' is really 'Excellent'.
And one of the main reasons is that such 'curses' force us to stop looking at the world in a small, individual way, and start SEEING life from a new dimention; from the viewpoint of the King.
As soon as we do that we reveal new powers and abilities to do good that we never knew we had. Then we can overcome, and even transform all apparent obstacles and 'curses' into powerful blessings.
This is the job of Moshiach, hinted at in the name of our section 'R'ay' which means 'LOOK' or more exactly 'SEE'.
Moshiach will be a King, a true leader that will bring the entire Jewish people to SEE what we really are (Exodus 19:6) 'A Kingdom of priests and a Holy nation'
All we have to do is follow the advice of the Rebbe and we will all transform this world to a place where we can SEE....
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