This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Nitzavim (5760)
Try to remember the first time you ever heard the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah? There are millions of Jews throughout the world that cannot. They never heard the Shofar in their lives. In fact they do not know that they are Jewish … or they simply don’t care. But the Baal Shem Tov taught in a parable that every Jew, without exception, feels the same strange awakening when he hears the Shofar, (he just has to know that it is something Jewish). Here is the Baal Shem’s parable: Once there was a great king that had a mischievous ten-year-old son. The young price had requested from his father several times to let him play with the town children outside of the castle wall but his father refused each time saying, ‘Soon you will be King, and a King must be different’. But eventually the son decided that he was bored and he planned an escape. So one day when no one was looking, he changed his royal garments for some old clothes, hid himself under some baskets in the back of a wagon that was about to leave the palace, and in minutes he was outside, free! It was so simple! He was really free! At the first opportunity he jumped out of the wagon, and was on the way to begin a new life, playing with other children and having fun. It wasn’t long, only a few days, until he ran out of money, but he was enjoying himself and he didn’t want to stop. So he learned how to beg and was soon living each day as it came, constantly on the move so he wouldn't get caught and brought back to the Castle. He wandered from city to city and country to country. The days turned into weeks and the weeks to months and before he knew it, ten years had passed and he had become a strong young man. But he hardly looked like the prince he really was, in fact he barely looked human. His ragged clothes, long dirty hair and fingernails and his strange stare made him look like some wild animal. He had long forgotten about playing games and his only thought was to keep moving and collect money for food. It had to happen sooner or later. He wandered so much that one day he unknowingly returned to the country of his birth. But he remembered nothing. The first place he headed for was the huge castle thinking that there he would get a large donation, but he was in for a surprise. As soon as he began to try opening the gates the guards pushed him away he pushed back and a fight broke out. Meanwhile, every day for the last ten years the king would climb high up in one of the castle towers, gaze into the distance and hope. What more could he do? He had already sent out hundreds of messengers and searchers year after year with no results.
Again today he remembered his son’s angelic face, his warm smiling eyes, and a small tear trickled down his cheek. “Another empty day,” he thought to himself, as he slowly turned to descend once again the tower steps. Meanwhile down at the gate the fight was going fast and furious and the guards were taken surprise by the strength and speed of this wild man. Then, unexplainably, he lifted his head and noticed the old king in the window of the tower. … And he began to cry.
“What is this?” he thought to himself “Am I a baby? Why am I crying? I never cry!” Then, in a flash, it all came back to him. “I remember that building this wall! This is my house! Wait… I am the prince and that man, that old man in the window must be …… MY FATHER!! The KING!!!”
But those few seconds cost him dearly. The guards were striking him mercilessly. He tried to protect himself from the blows but it was too late and he realized that he was about to lose consciousness. So he desperately began crying out to his father; “FATHER, FATHER!!! HELP!!! SAVE ME!! PLEASE SAVE ME!!” But it didn’t work. In the ten years that he was away he had forgotten his native tongue and now his father did not understand him, and he was turning to leave.
Suddenly from the essence of his being, the young man screamed. It came from somewhere deep inside of him, somewhere that was even deeper than all these new awesome memories and deeper than all the pain he was feeling. Even the guards were startled for a moment. First a long piercing scream … then a broken cry.
The king turned. “What is that?” he said to himself, “What is that scream?” He ran to the window and looked down … and their eyes met. “Those eyes!” The King’s mind was racing, “Those are the eyes of royalty! … Those are the eyes of my son!!! MY SON!!”
The King ran down the winding tower stairs to the huge castle gates, pushed away the soldiers and ran outside toward his son. He shoved away the guards and embraced the ‘wild man’ in torn clothes and dirty hair saying, “My son, My son, don’t ever leave me again.” And the prince was home again.
This is the parable of the Baal Shem Tov; The King is G-d. His son is the Jewish people. The Castle is the Synagogue and the scream is the blast of the Shofar. All the year we think that we are just ordinary people and G-d is far away. But once a year on Rosh Hashanah we enter the Shul and realize that it’s not so; we are royalty! The King of all creation is our father! It’s just that something is stopping us, making us almost loose our consciousness; we desperately need the help of the King himself.
But when we try to call out we discover that we ‘forgot the language’ we can’t really open our hearts. And that is the language that Gd really understands.
So we blow the Shofar. The Shofar is a scream from the essence of the Jewish heart “Father, Father, save me!” This is what every Jew feels every time he hears the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah. That is why this week’s section (which always is read just before Rosh Hashanah) begins with the uniting of all the Jews: “You are all standing today all of you …every Jewish person” And the Rebbe explains that ‘today’ here refers to Rosh Hashanah; on this day the Shofar unites all the Jewish people. But too often this feeling is ignored, misinterpreted, or forgotten. And this is the job of Moshiach. The Moshiach will educate all the Jewish people so that no one ignores, forgets, or misinterprets this G-dly arousal. That is what we pray for three times a day: “Sound the Great Shofar and gather all of us”. We are begging G-d to send the Moshiach and accompany him with him a ‘Shofar blast’; an inspiration from above that will arouse the Jewish identity in each and every Jew. Sounds hard to believe? Well it’s already happening. Today myriads of Jews are regaining consciousness. In fact this is one main reason that many people believed (and some still believe) the Lubavitch Rebbe to be Moshiach (See our Torah website) because he began to sound the Great Shofar; an unprecedented worldwide outreach network to inspire and educate EVERY JEW in the world. May this year bring the arrival of Moshiach and may every Jew hear the message that the Shofar carries: “HaShem!! We Want Moshiach NOW!” May you all have a good, sweet, healthy, happy, prosperous New Year together with Moshiach NOW!
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