This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Haazinu (5761)
This story takes place some 800 years ago in Spain, and its hero is an apostate Jew called Abner.
Abner had once learned in a Yeshiva (Talmudic Center). But not just an ordinary one; he had once been among the more successful students of one of the greatest, holiest, and most famous Torah Scholars of all time, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman known as the "Ramban".
But nevertheless, Abner unexplainably "converted" one day to Catholicism, and in no time became both a powerful Church official and successful landowner to boot.
He built himself a large mansion, and was treated by all the people in his area like a king. And all this success he attributed to his hatred of Judaism.
One day when he was sitting in his royal court surrounded by friends and admirers, he happened to hear that today was Yom Kippur, (a fast day and the holist holiday for the Jews). Suddenly, in a wave of fury, he ordered that his ex-teacher, the Ramban, be brought before him.
An hour later, the venerable rabbi was dragged in, hands bound, by two husky guards, and made to sit at a beautifully set dinner table that had been placed at the center of room for the event. At first the terrified Rabbi thought that they were going to force him to eat, but Abner had other plans.
He had a pig brought into the room, personally slaughtered and roasted it, and then pompously sat down opposite the Rabbi, and began his forbidden meal with exaggerated gusto and relish.
Needless to say, Rabbi Moshe was heartbroken to see a Jew purposely sinning, (Slaughtering, cooking and eating are all forbidden for a Jew on Yom Kippur) especially in such a brazen way, and especially one of his past pupils.
"Why?" Asked the Ramban with tears streaming from his eyes trying to look away, "What drove you to be so bitter? What made you hate the Torah so?"
Avner looked deeply into the Rabbi’s eyes, he wiped his mouth with his napkin rose from his seat, leaned forward on the table, and answered slowly and deliberately,
"You did, Rabbi"
"I?" The Ramban was startled, "I? Oy Oy! HaShem forgive me! Perhaps, perhaps I said something you misunderstood? Why didn't you speak up back then? What, what was it that I did?"
Daggers were shooting out of Abner's eyes as he leaned forward even closer and said venomously, "You once said in one of your lectures that everything in creation; every action, every person, everything that ever was, is, and will be is contained in the Song of Haazinu! (Dvorim 32:1-52).
I thought to myself, 'That is certainly the most foolish exaggeration in the world. How can it be that one chapter in the Torah contains everything?!! It’s nothing short of crazy! He must think we are pretty gullible!'
Little by little I became very bitter. I reasoned, that if you really believed such nonsense, then maybe everything you said was nonsense. It wasn't long before I stepped out of your little dark world, and found a new world! A big bright world! Just look at me now, Rabbi. Look around you. Open your eyes. All this is because of you! Ha Ha!!"
Abner was really pleased with himself, and the crowd around him was eating it up. He sat back down, took back his napkin, stuck it in his collar for a bib, and began cutting another piece of meat as he continued his monologue:
"I really owe you a big thanks, Rabbi. So that's why I invited you to my little thanksgiving meal. Ha Ha! Perhaps you'd like to have some meat. It's really delicious. You don't know what you're missing Ha Ha Haaa!!"
The Ramban, without hesitating replied. "Ahh! That is the reason. Well what I said is true! Absolutely true. Everything IS in Parshat Haazinu".
"If so" Avner again jumped to his feet in rage and shouted mockingly. "If so, then can you tell me where I, Abner the apostate, am found in Haazinu, Great Rabbi?!!"
"Give me a moment." The Ramban answered. "Please untie these bonds, and I will show you".
Abner ordered that the ropes be undone. The Ramban stood, rubbed his wrists where they had been tied, and then walked to a corner to pray to G-d for inspiration. After a minute he returned to the table, asked for a Chumash (Pentetuch), opened to this week's section, pointed to sentence 26 and said, "Please read aloud!"
Abner started reading: "Amrti Af'aihem Asbita M'enosh Z'crom" (I said I will inflame my anger on them I will erase their memory from mankind)
"You became angry at G-d, correct Abner?" said the Rabbi, "You wanted to erase the memory of G-d and His Torah and replace it with THREE gods. Correct? Well please have a look at the THIRD letter of each word in this sentence," And Abner saw:
R …. A …. B …. N …. R
"This is where you appear. And notice the letter "R" before your name? Well it stands for Rabbi. The Torah is telling you that it's never too late for you to return Rabbi Abner."
Abner turned white, he just stared at the sentence. The room was silent. For some reason it clicked in his brain.
After a frozen minute, he suddenly screamed "NOOO!" as he swept his arm across the table sending everything crashing to the floor. His eyes bolted out of their sockets as he looked up and stared at the Rabbi's imploring face.
"GET OUT OF HERE!" He screamed.
No one understood whom he was talking to.
He stood and turned to everyone in the room like a madman and screamed again "I SAID GET OUT OF HERE! ALL OF YOU" EVERYONE! NOWWW!"
When the door slammed shut after the last person had left, he fell to his knees and began weeping, sobbing like a little baby, his face buried in his hands and after a long while he looked up and said:
"Rabbi Rabbi! Tell me; is it really not too late? What should I do? How can I erase my sin?"
"It's NEVER too late. That's what the Torah is telling you, and it's also giving you advice; "You must leave here, you must erase from mankind your memory. Change your name, go to a place where no one knows you, and begin a new humble life."
This is the Song of Haazinu. The song of hope for the Jewish people; Reminding us that although up to now we have denied our identity and rebelled against the very G-d that has been protecting us, nevertheless He still loves us (see Rashi 32:7 and 32:43) and will send Moshiach.
And then we will all listen – Haazinu - to a new song. The song of the Third Temple with
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