This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Nitzavim (5761)
This week's section begins with Moshe declaring to the Jewish people:
"You are standing (Nitzavim), all of you today, in front of G-d" etc.
Rashi says that the word "Standing" means the Jews will "firmly" exist forever, and "Today" means not just back then when Moshe said it, but even now.
Later on in the section, Moshe makes a very amazing prophesy.
"G-d will return all your exiles...and gather you from all the nations that G-d spread you out there." (Obviously referring to after the destruction of the second Temple, which was the only time the Jews were spread among many nations). "Even if you are spread to the ends of the Heavens, from there I will gather you".
Does this have a connection to the beginning of the section? If so why has this not yet been fulfilled? And why does it say to the ends of the HEAVENS?
Here are two stories that I hope will help explain.
It was the day before the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanna in the town of Lubavitch, Russia, and Fival was going insane with worry.
His debts had reached unbearable proportions, and his lone asset; his hotel, hadn’t had a guest for almost a half a year. The night before, his tormented soul didn't let him sleep. And now, at the crack of dawn, he was already wandering the deserted streets of Lubavitch in aimless gloom like a madman .
Suddenly he heard a voice call out to him from on high.
"Fival, what is wrong? What brings you here?"
Startled, Fival looked up to see that it was none other than the Rebbe Maharash (the fourth Rebbe of Chabad. Called the MaHaRaSh meaning "our teacher the Rav Shmuel", because the Chassidim never called the Rebbe by his first name). He was standing on the second floor balcony of his home looking down at him like a king, but with the eyes of a good friend, waiting for him to answer.
Fival was terribly embarrassed to have stumbled into the Rebbe's yard, and had an urge to just run away, but he couldn't hold back his sorrow.
"Aaai, Rebbe, what will become of me, oy Rebbe! I have so many debts I'm going crazy! REBBE HELP!!"
"But what about your hotel?" Asked the Rebbe
Poor simple Fival was trying to hold back the tears as he just waived his hand and shook his head blurting out, "No good!".
The Rebbe became silent for a moment and then spoke in a very quiet voice, but Fival heard every word clearly.
"Fival, I see a lot of people coming to your inn for the Holiday. It's still early in the day; you still have a lot of time. Prepare for at least one hundred guests."
Simple Fival did not believe his ears. "One hundred, Rebbe? OOOH! Thank you Rebbe, thank you!!!"
He stood for a moment as though putting himself in gear, then yelled out another few "Thanks" to the Rebbe and ran out of the yard stumbling over his feet as he went. He went directly to the butcher shop and from there to all the other food stores.
Somehow he convinced each storeowner to just give him another chance, and an hour later returned home laden with parcels. He woke his wife, told her the good news, ran outside and hired a few of the locals to help with the preparations, and after several hours of joyous hard work everything was prepared for the onslaught of guests.
Ahhh! What a pleasure it was to see all the steaming pots and pans that filled his small kitchen, each one filled with a nice potential profit. And any second now the guests would be arriving.
But they didn't. It was already five in the afternoon. In two hours the holiday would begin and there was still no sign of any guests.
"Don't worry Fival! You always worry." his wife chided him. "Have faith in HaShem".
But at six she began to worry also, and at six thirty they were both in a panic. Fival ran in and out of his house, first looking up and down theroad in both directions for guests, and then back inside to check the pots
"Are you sure you heard the Rebbe correctly?" His wife began nagging him. “Are you sure the you really saw the Rebbe? What will we do with all this food? We have nowhere to put it all, it will spoil, Fival. Fival why aren't you answering me!!? It's a quarter to seven!!" But Fival was just sitting with his head in his hands.
Suddenly, ten minutes before the holiday the door burst open and several Jews frantically rushed in shouting, "Have you got a place for us to sleep!!?"
Fival took his head out of his hands, half-heartedly looked at them and asked. "How many are you"”
"About three hundred all together! We were on our way to Vitebsk but we took a wrong turn. Do you have a place?"
It seems that his wife had been yelling at him at such volume that neither of them noticed the multitude of wagons that had arrived.
The guests had to settle for cramped rooms and smaller portions of food, but miraculously everyone was tremendously satisfied, and after the holiday they paid Fival royally for his hospitality.
Fival went to the Rebbe to thank him. He had to wait a few days to get an appointment, but when he finally did, he couldn't help asking the Rebbe why he didn't just tell him that the guests would arrive so late and save him the tension and aggravation.
"I was looking from very high" (He knew that Fival would think he was referring to his second-floor balcony) explained the Rebbe. "From there even large distances seem very small".
The second story is about a hippy called Sam. Sam was brought up in a typical American non-observant Jewish family, and when he entered University, he quickly threw off the little Jewish identity he had.
"Religion is restrictive, G-d is nature, The Torah is unreal, pleasure is everything" were his mottos.
But it wasn't long before he was tired of drugs and wild parties, and was drawn to more lasting, "spiritual" pleasures. He joined a cult that was a mixture of nature worship and pure idolatry, and felt right at home.
His parents had long ago given up on him, and didn't even know where he was. And he meanwhile became progressively more involved in his new cult, that slowly revealed itself to be a branch of a very organized missionary movement following the Gospels.
The big day was arriving. Sam would be initiated into the inner-circle of believers. But part of the ritual involved building a large fire on an altar. This extraordinary experience was to save his Jewish life.
As he was searching through the forest for twigs and fuel for his "magic" fire, he noticed an old page from a newspaper entangled in some weeds. A bit surprised to see such a thing in the middle of the forest, he added it to his bundle, but as he did, he noticed a picture of a white bearded rabbi with interesting eyes.
He didn't pay it much attention, but when he finally got back to the altar and unpacked his bundle he noticed it again. This time he looked at it for a second, again noticing those eyes, and then stuffed it into the wood on the altar and struck the match.
But, although it seemed to be a calm day, a wind blew the match out, and then the second. "Strange" he thought to himself as he tried to figure where to stand, to block the wind from blowing out the next match.
He then saw the picture again peeking out from between the pieces of wood. He plucked it out of the woodpile, stuffed it in his pocket, told his peers that he was going into the woods to collect more fuel, and when he was sufficiently far from the others, took out the picture and read the caption.
"A New Year's Message from the Lubavitcher Rebbe".
Those eyes seemed to be begging him to stop and think before going too far.
He stood in the woods just staring at the picture for a few minutes. Then turned and walked silently back to town.
A few months later he was walking down a street on the campus, and saw the same picture on the front of a building called "Chabad House". It wasn't long before he was learning Torah with Rabbi Daren - the Chabad House manager on Campus. A few months later decided to live like a Jew.
This answers our questions: True, Moshe prophesized the gathering of the exiles, but he did it from very "high up". From there even great distances seem close.
But this is where we come in; our job is to be firm "STANDING" and bring this revelation "TODAY". In other words, do ALL WE CAN, even one more good deed TO BRING MOSHIACH NOW!
But we aren't alone; we have the help of the Rebbe and of all the Tzadikim of all the generations.
Together with them, very soon we will se even those that are at the ends of the spiritual "heavens" like Sam in our story, will return "home".
There is another explanation of "Today"; it means Rosh HaShanna.
May we all firmly stand together this Rosh HaShanna and cry out with all our hearts and souls:
G-d. Please start ruling the world in a revealed way! Send the Moshiach NOW!!
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.