This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Ki Tavo (5763)
This week's section begins with the words "When you come in to the land that G-d has given you."
Here we read how Moses, before the Jews enter Israel without him, instructs the elders to inscribe the ENTIRE Torah TRANSLATED INTO 70 LANGUAGES on twelve mammoth stones and leave them there near the bank of the Jordan River. Then to do it again and leave the next twelve rocks in the middle of the river (which split to allow the Jews to cross). And then do it a third time on twelve more rocks to be left as a monument in Israel itself.
What was the point of all this? What has it got to do with entering Israel? In fact what does it have to do with anything?! Who would ever read such stones (especially the ones in the river)?
Even more; According to the Baal Shem Tov the Torah is referring here not only to the first time the Jews entered Israel over 3,300 years ago but also the last and final time they will do so in the complete redemption when Moshiach will educate and gather Jews from the four corners of the earth to the Holy Land. (The ONLY way it can happen according to the Maimonides and his commentators (Rava’d, Bait Yosef, Radba’z) Laws of Kings 11:1)
What has this got to do with writing the Torah on 36 boulders?
Here is a story to help understand:
This story occurred in the middle 1960’s. Thousands of Jews were crowded into the huge synagogue of the Chabad Chassidim in Brooklyn New York to hear the Lubavitcher Rebbe speak in Yiddish for several hours. And although it was Shabbat and he didn't use a microphone somehow everyonesingle person heard every word he said.
Not only religious Chassidim but all sorts of Jews filled the crowd and even those who didn't understand a word of Yiddish were hypnotized by the awesomeness of the man. It was said that he could do miracles, tell the future and that he never made a mistake, some even said he was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting thousands of years for.
Mr. Dovid Asulin came to see for himself and, although he didn't exactly believe all the stories, he was glad he came. He was born in Morocco where everyone believed in Tzadikim; uniquely holy Jews who were more G-dly than human. So all this wasn't completely new to him. Although, since he moved to France twenty years ago he had almost forgotten about Judaism, now surrounded by all these religious Jews he felt totally at home.
This was his first visit to America, he was going for business, and his friends told him that if he wanted an unforgettable experience he had to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And they were right.
After about two hours of listening, everyone began singing a lively melody while many people from the crowd formed a line down the middle of the room to the Rebbe and when they reached him he would give each one a bottle of vodka.
Mr. Asulin didn't understand that the bottles were only for those people that were making special events throughout the world and that these people had handed in a bottle before Shabbat. He thought that everyone was entitled to a free bottle. So he got in line as well!
When it came his turn and he was face to face with the Rebbe, the Rebbe smiled, gave him a large bottle and said in French, "This is for the wedding."
He was amazed; how did the Rebbe knew he spoke French? That was astounding, it just verified all the other stories he had heard. The Rebbe certainly had uncanny powers!
But one thing for sure...it also proved the Rebbe could make mistakes; What he said about for the wedding was clearly wrong. Dovid had been happily married for years!
A week later he returned to France, unpacked, and when he showed his wife the bottle they had a good laugh over what the Rebbe said. But when he visited his local Chabad house (Rabbi Chiam Malul in the city of Cartel) the Rabbi and assured him that the Rebbe is never wrong and in time he would see that it was no mistake.
"Rabbi Malul is certainly a bit brainwashed." David jested to himself, "But he is a nice Rabbi, very smart and dedicated. So what if his Rebbe made a little mistake." and forgot the entire incident.
Months later he happened to open the cabinet where he had put the bottle and it reminded him of his experience in Brooklyn. "You know" he said to his wife, "It's a shame that this should just remain unused. Let's make a party, invite all our friends and family and give them all to drink a Le'chiam. It will be fun for everyone and a blessing as well. And I'm sure they will all come. Rabbi Malul said we should use up the vodka before Passover."
They began making plans. At first they thought of making the party at their home but at the last moment decided it would be less trouble to move it to the small wedding hall of the local synagogue (in Rancee near Paris) and to have it catered by a local kosher restaurant.
The day of the party arrived and the guests began arriving in good spirits. A small band played happy music and people were exchanging greetings and handshakes. But as they were sitting down to begin the meal a Rabbi, the Rabbi of the synagogue, entered the room with a smile, looked around for the head of the party and when someone pointed to Dovid, he took him aside and whispered something in his ear.
Dovid turned to the crowd and said: "The Rabbi needs nine men to join him to make a minyan for prayer (Jews try to pray in a ‘minyan’ i.e. groups of ten or more). It will only take a few minutes, who wants to join me? I'm going to go."
In no time he had the required number following the Rabbi to the next room for what they thought would be prayer but they were in for a surprise.
In the room stood a bride and groom alone; it was a wedding! Jewish weddings also require the presence of ten adult males.
In fifteen minutes the entire wedding ceremony was over. Dovid and the other men shook the groom's hand, wished the newlyweds 'Mazal Tov' and gingerly asked where the wedding meal would be held (they also were wondering why there were no guests but were ashamed to ask).
When the groom answered that no meal had been arranged Dovid joyously announced that, if so, he invited them to his meal in the next room! Dovid's informal party suddenly became a real wedding.
The band played merrily and the men began to dance on one side of the room with the groom and the women on the other with the bride when the dancing finished they all sat down to eat.
Then in the middle of the meal Dovid stood, held up the Rebbe's bottle, cleared his throat for silence to make a toast to the newlyweds and suddenly remembered the Rebbe’s words. Now he understood that the Rebbe wasn't mistaken at all.
Excitedly he wiped his brow, called for silence and related the story.
"What!" exclaimed the bride, "That bottle is from the Lubavitcher Rebbe for my wedding!?" and she burst into tears.
When she calmed down she explained. These were tears of joy! This was her second marriage. Her first ended in a bitter divorce that, coupled with the fact that she decided to be an observant Jew, made her entire family turn against her and to complicate matters her new husband was a convert to Judaism. So neither of them had any family at the wedding.
Just before the wedding she felt so uncertain and alone that she thought she was going out of her mind until someone suggested she write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe asking for some sign that the marriage would succeed. She didn’t get a return letter but she did get the bottle of vodka the Rebbe sent with Dovid Asulin.
"And here you are with the Rebbe's blessing!!"
This answers our questions about the 36 stones.
The entering of the Jews into the land of Israel was like a wedding. Like the bride in our story the Jews felt alone and uncertain; G-d told them that they would no longer have Manna, water from a rock or protective clouds of glory and for the first time they would have to fend for themselves.
The stones, like the bottle of vodka, were G-d's wedding present.
But the stones alone, even with the Torah written and translated on them, meant nothing. In fact in other places we see that when the Torah was translated (into Greek during the first Temple and some 2,000 years after that into German) it brought disaster.
The uniqueness here is that G-d commanded it. And He commanded something that would take a tremendous effort and promise no logical results. Writing the entire Torah and seventy translations on rocks that no one would read!
But G-d was hinting to the Jews that, just as person only begins living a real life after he is married, so the Jews would now begin a real life by overcoming the challenges of the land of Israel.
And the rocks symbolized this goal; to take the entire physical world (rocks) including all the gentiles (seventy languages) and permeate them with the will of the Creator (Torah). And, like the Rebbe's bottle, gave them the inspiration and power to accomplish it. But they also hinted a how to do succeed; following G-d’s will unquestioningly, like a rock; totally beyond understanding.
That is also why the Moshiach will be a ‘King’; because a King must be obeyed totally above and beyond logic. And Moshiach will teach all mankind that the only way to really ‘unite’ with the King of the Universe is ‘above understanding’ ….. like a rock.
But most important; all this is a preparation for the final marriage; as we say in the wedding blessings "Speedily … may there be heard in the hills of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem; the voice of the Groom (which is G-d) and the voice of the bride (the Jewish people).
And it’s all in our hands to make it happen even one second sooner: even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring all the Jews to the land of Israel finally and totally with....
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