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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech (5763)
Each word and idea in the Torah is eternal. But, could it be that the opening sentence of our section is an exception?
"You are standing TODAY, ALL OF YOU, before HaShem your G-d."
The word 'Today' here means the moment we are reading this. But today it doesn't seem that the Jews are all standing together.
One of the biggest problems of the Jewish people is their lack of unity. Because of it the Second Temple was destroyed and we have been in torturous exile for some 2,000 years! And it seems to get worse as time goes on.
If so, what is G-d trying to tell us with this sentence? It seems to be impossible that the Jews will ever be standing ALL TOGETHER.
To understand this here is a story that happened some sixty years ago.
Rabbi Chiam Chaikel Miltzki was crippled, and the doctors were considering amputating one or even both of his legs. But amazingly, despite his disability and constant pain he was the Dean of Yeshiva Chai Olom in Jerusalem and spent most of the day teaching, learning and silently suffering.
No one knew the cause of his illness; he never spoke about it, until one awful evening...at the wedding of his first son.
The wedding hall was filled with joyous music and laughter when suddenly someone pounded on the table and announced that some of the honorable rabbis present would be invited to say a few words. And his turn came.
It was impossible for him to stand and his voice was weak but he waited for complete silence and then began.
"Some fifty years ago when I was about fifteen I learned in a small yeshiva of thirty boys in the city of Stotchin.
"It so happened that there was this drunk called Itche that used our learning room as a sort of hotel. He would sleep for a while, then wake up, have another few drinks and go back to sleep again. We called him Itche der Shikker (Issac the Drunk) but he was a quiet fellow, and never disturbed us or made trouble so we paid him almost no attention.
"Then one cold rainy night someone pounded on the door a few times and before we could get up from our studies to answer the door burst open and in came a man totally drenched, covered with mud from head to toe, and wailing about how his wagon had just overturned and was killing his horse. He begged us to stop learning and help him overturn the carriage before the horse died.
"But after a lively discussion we decided that learning Torah was more important, who knows if it would help etc. and we announced that we weren't leaving. The wagon driver whimpered and moaned but finally realized he had no choice and he left to look elsewhere.
"No sooner had he closed the door behind him then Itche the drunk suddenly sat up on his bench, looked as us menacingly and said in a surprisingly sober voice, "You'd better go and help him or none of you will be able to walk again."
"Of course, besides making a few jokes at his expense, we paid no attention told him to shut up and go back to sleep.
"But a half hour later the wagon driver returned, almost insane with weeping and begging and this time we decided to go have a look. But when we got there it was too late, the horse had already died.
"The next day Itche the drunk came up to me privately with a crazy request. He told me he was going to die that evening and he wanted me to come to his house and be there with him in his last moments.
"I told him I thought he was crazy but I decided to go. In any case I had a lot of material to go over in the Talmud and what difference did it make where I learned?
"Late that night I found my way to his house. It was no more than a one room hovel and when I entered I saw he was already sleeping on some boards in the middle of the room. So I sat for an hour or two learning Talmud by the light of a candle until I decided I had enough and got up to leave.
"But suddenly he opened his eyes, looked at me and said that at exactly four A.M. he would die and afterward he wanted me to ask the burial society to bury him in the plot next to the Holiest Zadik in the graveyard and he gave a name... (the full name was not given in the story).
I replied incredulously, "Itche, you don't even put on Tefillin! How will they ever agree to bury you in such a prestigious place?"
"He just pointed to a box in the corner and said that in that box are his Tefillin and some of his writings and that he was sure that when the members of the burial society saw them they would agree to bury him there.
"Sure enough, it was just as he said; at exactly four A.M. he returned his soul to its creator and when the burial society saw his things they were, to say the least, very surprised and impressed. The writings were the Torah ideas of a prodigy and the Tefillin were of the highest quality.
"And they were even more surprised to find that there was an empty burial plot in the exact place he had mentioned, although they had passed that area a hundred times and were certain that it was not available. It seems that Itche was a hidden Tzadik!"
Anyway, a few weeks later suddenly he wasn't able to walk. And so it remained.
At this point Rabbi Miltzki broke down crying, apologized to the crowd, saying he didn't know why he told the story, and the wedding was suddenly transformed from joy to mourning.
But, he was lucky he told the story. It just so happened that a Chabad Chassid, Rabbi Leib Friedman was in the crowd that night and when he came home from the wedding he wrote a letter to the Rebbe about what he had heard.
Two weeks later he received an answer!
The Rebbe wrote that if he wants to walk again he should take upon himself to learn the daily portions of Torah, Psalms and Tanya (called "ChiTaT" Chumash (Five Books of Moses), T'hillim (Psalms) Tanya) established by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson, and encourage others to do as well.
And in the merit of those three books and of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe who suggested apportioning and learning them will stand him on his feet.
Without hesitation Rabbi Miltzki did what the Rebbe said and began encouraging others as well and it worked! Within several months he was standing and a year later he was walking again.
This answers our question. How Is the Torah message of Jewish unity eternal and relevant today.
True, the Jews are divided. But that is only externally, in fact G-d wants them to be that way; He created each human with a different 'face' and personality.
That is what the Torah is telling us; the only way these different qualities can work in harmony and unity is if we are "Standing BEFORE (which also means 'inside') HaShem your G-d"
Namely, if we concentrate on the 'INSIDE' of this apparent disparity we will see unity: HaShem alone really creates us, enlivens us, and chose us ... All together as one.
But as the Rabbi in our story discovered, to accomplish this health and unity we need 'Chitat' and the merit of its holy authors: Moses who gave us the Chumash, Dovid who wrote T'hillim and the Baal Shem Tov whose ideas are explained in the Tanya.
So too these three Tzadikim are the forerunners of greatest leader of all time: Moshiach.
Moses and Dovid are each called 'First Redeemer' (Moshiach will be the last) and the Baal Shem Tov began the 'Teachings of Moshiach' (Chassidut).
And, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe said many times; Moshiach is already here! All we have to do is open our eyes.
In the merit of Chitat….just one more good deed, word or even thought from ONE person will tip the scales and change the ENTIRE world for good. And we will all be 'standing' and even 'walking' upright to the Holy Temple in the Holy Land… with Moshiach NOW!
Wishing all our readers a Good, Sweet, healthy, happy NEW year with....
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