This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Ki Teitzei (5761)
One of the 73 commandments in this week's section, is about returning lost items. This is very relevant to the Jewish month of Elul (the last month of the Jewish year, which we are currently in), when everyone is trying to "return" to G-d before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; the Days of Judgment.
In general, that is the job of "Tzadikim" (completely G-dly Jews). To give advice, prayer, inspiration, and help people to return to their true G-dly purpose.
Here is a story about how a great Tzadik, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad Rabbi Shalom DovBer, once needed help to return something he lost.
The Rebbe had just arrived in Petersburg after a long train ride, but when he went to get his baggage, he was dismayed to find that a chest full of precious books that he brought with him couldn't be found in the baggage room.
The Rebbe was very upset, but after the workers searched for over an hour with no results, he had no choice other than to proceed to his dwelling.
Several days later a young Chassid by the name of Avraham Eliyahu Gurarie entered the Rebbe's office with the following sad story:
A few months earlier he had got married, received a sizeable dowry of ten thousand rubles from his wife's family, and promptly lost all but a
thousand of it, in a foolish business deal. At first his wife was just angry, but one thing led to another, and now she was talking about divorce. He broke down in tears and begged the Rebbe to help.
"Here" said the Rebbe, handing him the ticket stub for his lost trunk. "Take this, go down to the train station, and ask them to find my books. I'm sure you will succeed.
The Chassid took the ticket, and excitedly ran to the station. But he was in for a disappointment. The baggage room was locked and deserted. He knocked and pounded on the door and called out, but no one answered.
He couldn't return empty handed, so he wandered around for a few minutes in the empty depot, till he saw an open restaurant. He went in, sat down, ordered a tea, took out a cigarette, and began to smoke.
After just a few minutes, he felt that someone was staring at him. He looked up, and sure enough a well-dressed man was sitting at a table in the empty restaurant looking at him with a friendly gaze. The Chassid nodded hello, and offered him a cigarette, and in no time they began a conversation. But when Avraham told him about the lost trunk the man interrupted.
"Well isn't that an amazing coincidence! I happen to be the manager of baggage and shipping here. You know what? Here, just give me that ticket and I'll fix it up".
He left the restaurant, and in minutes the entire station was reverberated with his yelling and shouting from the baggage room. The workers had been on break, and a few minutes after being yelled at, they carried out all the suitcases and bags, and finally found the Rebbe's trunk in a corner where it had been concealed behind all the other luggage.
When our hero returned with the books, the Rebbe was overjoyed and said,
"Avraham Eliyahu I owe you a favor. If you want your money and happy home back, then I advise you to travel to the city of Korch which is by the Black sea".
Avraham went home and told his wife how he, her husband, had actually helped the Rebbe, and what the Rebbe told him. When she heard all this, her anger temporarily transformed into pride, and she joyously began preparing his suitcase, and baking him enough cakes to last him a few days.
"Maybe he isn't such a bumbling fool after all," she thought to herself.
When Avraham reached Korch he checked into a hotel. Being that it was a hot summer day, he decided to go for a swim in the Sea, before he began walking the streets in search of his savior.
He was sitting on the sand, after having finished his swim, eating from the food his wife had prepared, when he noticed that next to him a Jew was sitting, admiring his fine cakes. Avraham offered him a taste, and in no time at all, he was telling him his entire story down to the last detail of the Rebbe's advice.
"You know what?" His newfound friend replied. "I think maybe I can help. Tomorrow meet me here at this same time....and don't forget to bring some of those delicious cakes with you. It would be a shame to loose a wife that bakes such cakes," he said with a smile.
Things were starting to move fast, and Avraham was exited. The next day found him sitting in the same place by the sea, but this time eating cakes with the man he had met the day before, together with a third man, who appeared to be a successful businessman.
"I heard your story, young man," said the businessman. "And I'd like to help you. By the way, you know these are REALLY tasty cakes. Please give my compliments to your wife. I have a freight car filled with cigarette papers. I'm willing to sell you them for a thousand rubles. That's all you have right?
Well, I think that you can sell them for a good price in Karmanchuk where the cigarette factories are. And if you can't, I'm always willing to buy them back from you. What do you say?”
Our hero saw the hand of G-d in this deal, and promptly handed over the entire thousand rubles without asking any questions. In fact, the
businessman had to force him to go down to the freight yard to see what he had purchased.
The businessman had the freight car sent to Karmanchuk with Avraham accompanying it. When he arrived, Avraham immediately made his way to a relative of his that lived there; a well-known Chabad businessman called Rav Tzvi Gur-Arie, to sell his newly acquired cigarette papers.
But Rav Tzvi was anything but enthusiastic. They really weren't worth much more than what Avraham paid for them. Maybe five hundred rubles more. When he heard how the Rebbe was involved, he raised it to two thousand.
"No deal!" said our hero emphatically. "Either give me the entire ten thousand which I ask for, or I'll go elsewhere!"
Rav Tzvi had no choice than to send him away empty handed. He was willing to give charity, but not eight thousand rubles! And the Rebbe never said that all the ten thousand would come from this one sale.
But Avraham Eliyahu did not lose hope. Exactly the opposite. To everyone he saw, he proudly advertised that he was willing to sell his papers for no less than ten thousand rubles. Of course no one really took him seriously
Until the next day. Someone stopped him in the street and nervously asked,
"Excuse me! Are you the one that is selling the cigarette papers?"
"For ten thousand rubles" Avraham added.
"Here is the money! Let me see the merchandise, and its yours." Said the
They traveled to the trainyard. Avraham showed him the freight car, and received the money on the spot.
He later learned that there had been a fire in of one of the main cigarette paper factories, and all the cigarette producers were desperate.
When Rav Tzvi eventually heard about the fire, he too rushed to Avraham, only to find that he was too late.
"But you can go to the man who sold them to me in Korch" Said Avraham.
But when Rav Gur-Arie got there, the businessman told him that there were no more papers. And really the only reason he sold that carload to the young man was because he had mercy on him.
Meanwhile, our hero returned home with his "lost" dowry, and peace returned to his home. But when he went to the Rebbe to thank him and ask for advice on how to invest his newly returned wealth, the Rebbe just looked at him with a smile and said; "Now we are even. Good luck."
What can we learn from this story?
Even the most righteous and holy of people, even leaders of Israel like the Rebbe, need the help of ordinary people like you and me. (How much more so do we need each other).
Each of us has a holy soul; a G-dly purpose for which we were created. But each of us, whether because of improper education, bad habits, bad environment, character traits or just laziness has to some degree.....lost our feeling to it.
Just as in our story:
• No one likes to suffer such a loss, and everyone is happy to have his true identity returned.
• If we help others to return, in the end we help ourselves.
• Although others can help us, in the end we must learn to manage on our own.
• Our good deeds can help everyone; they can make even the Moshiach come a bit earlier and help EVERYONE to find ALL they lost.
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