This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Mishpatim (5765)
This week's Torah section begins with the law of the Jewish servant (Eved Ivri).
The word 'Torah' means 'practical teaching'. In fact, the Torah is such a timely instruction-book that all the problems facing Jews at any given time are answered in that week's Torah section.
So this week's section must contain the solution for today's problem:
Millions of murderous 'Palestinian' Arabs are threatening war and claim that the land of Israel is theirs.
And sure enough, later in this week's section is found a solution! If the Jews abstain from idolatry (Avoda Zara, literally 'Strange Service') their enemies will fall:
"Don't worship their gods... etc. and G-d will bless your bread and water and remove sickness etc. Your enemies will flee from you... I will drive them out of the land etc." (23:24-31)
Idolatry brings defeat!
But at first glance this is not so.
Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are all idolatrous yet they have billions of followers. whereas religious Judaism is small and threatened.
And what has this to do with the Eved Ivri - the Jewish servant?
To understand this here is a story.
Reb Yehuda Schwartz, a Chabad Chassid in France, was a truck driver for Daniel Amram's (another Chabad Chassid) meat importing firm in Paris.
Reb Yehuda's job was to distribute kosher meat throughout France. As our story begins he was driving a large truck that Amram had just bought second-hand from a well known used car company.
He sensed something was wrong when he began the trip; the brakes and steering wheel seemed to be unusually stiff, but he told himself that it was probably because the truck had been refurbished before sale. He loaded up and drove off.
Near the end of the day he was riding on a bridge high above a river at about fifty miles per hour when it happened. He began braking for a traffic light in the distance, but when he pushed on the pedal it just sank limply to the floor and stayed there! He had no brakes!
He had to think fast. There were cars in front of him. He tried downshifting but he was going downhill; to fast to help, still going fifty, in a second he would plow into the car in front of him. To the left was oncoming traffic, there was no time. He had to act fast.
He grabbed the steering wheel, yelled 'Shema Yisroel' and, at the last moment, turned it sharply to the right. The truck swerved crazily and shook, hit the curb and flew. His safety belt held him down but he bounced wildly as the truck plowed through the barrier- railing (lucky no one had been on the sidewalk!) and arched over the water!! In a second he would plunge into the cold, murky current far below - he could almost feel the impact! He braced himself and prayed to G-d for help and shuddered.
But the truck didn't fall! It just hovered in the air - in mid-air!!
The next day all the newspapers in France carried the picture of his truck, balanced like a seesaw on the edge of the bridge half way through the railing over the water.
It was a miracle!!
But it was an expensive one. The city of Paris presented Daniel Amram with the bill. Damages to the bridge were over ten thousand dollars, the towing was another thousand and the traffic ticket another thousand - not counting the damages to the truck.
Daniel was used to miracles and was thankful for this one too - but now he was angry. That used-car company had signed and sworn that the Truck was in 100% working order. If anyone was to blame it was them!
He took them to court.
A week later he appeared in court for the pre-trial hearing accompanied by his lawyer. It wouldn't be an easy case, he would have to prove that the brakes didn't work when they bought the truck, but he was ready for a fight.
The defendant entered the courtroom alone - an elderly, well-dressed gentile. He glanced at Amram as the charges were read.
But to everyone's surprise, after hearing the charges, the old man turned to the Judge and announced that, although he was wealthy and could easily win the case by hiring the best lawyers in France, because he sees that his opponents are Chassidic Jews he decided to forfeit and will pay all damages including the fine.
Daniel was amazed; such a miracle he never expected. The Judge and police were so surprised and impressed that they cancelled the fine on the spot and the case was dismissed.
As everyone was leaving the courtroom the gentile walked over to Daniel and said that he would be willing to have the truck towed to his garage, some three hours away, and fixed at his expense as well. He even offered that when the truck would be finished, to take Yehuda the driver back with him to pick it up the next time he would be in Paris.
Daniel could not believe his ears, but afraid that the fellow might change his mind he just smiled, shook the man's hand, said 'thank you' over and over again and kept quiet.
Three weeks later the old man returned to Paris and picked up Yehuda. About an hour into the ride back to the garage he turned to him and asked "You are a follower of Lubavitch aren't you? And so is your boss Mr. Amram. Correct?"
Schwartz answered to the positive.
"So I thought! Well, how is your great Rabbi Shneerson? I hope he is well.
Ahh! I see you are surprised. Well it so happens that I know your Rabbi very well."
He saw that Schwartz was all ears and he continued.
"You see during the war, things were terrible here in France. Everything was upside down. But I decided that I wouldn't succumb to the insanity and I enrolled in the Sorbonne to learn mathematics.
"It was there that I got to know your Rabbi. He was in my class. He was truly a different type of human being. Besides being very polite and charming, he was incredibly intelligent and there was something royal about him. He didn't speak much but when he spoke everyone listened. And the most incredible thing was that he never seemed to listen in class or even look at the lecturer, he was always reading some Hebrew book that was on his lap.
But he always knew the answers.
"The classes were very difficult but in those terrible times our financial situation was worse. In fact the only way some of us, me included, could make ends meet was by going into the country early every Monday morning and buying baskets of produce that we would sell wholesale to the vendors for market day. But it meant we had to miss the Monday lecture which was the main lecture of the week.
"So the first time your Rabbi Shneerson saw that we were missing, he took notes for us in great detail and gave them to us when we returned. It was terribly kind and thoughtful of him and in fact if it wasn't for him none of us would have passed.
"Well, at the end of the semester the final test was so difficult that the professor announced that he would give us five hours to finish instead of the allotted three. So we were all surprised when your Rabbi gathered all his papers after a half an hour, put them in the envelope and handed them in.
"Everyone was watching. The professor must have figured that he didn't know the answers so he pulled out the papers and had a look. Well, when he saw they had all been filled out he scoffed aloud and said incredulously to the Rabbi before the entire class, "What, were you cheating or is this some sort of sorcery?"
"The Rebbe just looked at him, did not say a word and left the room.
"Well, you can imagine how amazed everyone was when the tests were checked and it was discovered that the Rebbe had answered everything 100% correctly!!
"It was the talk of the University. In fact on graduation day the professor actually apologized to him in front of the entire student body. But even that professor could not contain his wonder. On the stage, as he was giving him his diploma he asked if he could please explain how it was humanly possible for him to finish the exam so quickly and accurately?"
"I'll never forget the Rebbe's answer. He said
"'The Jewish people have a book of wisdom called the Talmud and one who learns it properly can understand all answers to the test.'"
This answers our question.
The answer to the Palestinian problem is the Lubavitcher Rebbe; a true Jewish leader.
That is what is hinted at by the law of the Jewish servant.
In essence every Jew was created only to be a Jewish servant - of the Creator. As G-d told Moses to tell Pharaoh, "Release my people so they can SERVE ME."
But it takes a true Jewish leader, to arouse them.
That is the meaning of G-d saying in the beginning of our section: "When YOU
(Moses) take a Jewish servant!" (21:2): Every generation needs a Moses to arouse the Jews to be servants.
And what does the Creator need servants for?
To transform this physical world a holy place. For this reason the Torah was given and the Jews were created.
And any motive apart from this. even the most spiritual like going to heaven, is not really serving G-d but serving one's self. In a very fine way it is also idolatry ('Strange Service')!
True, idolatry can be very enticing, pleasurable, profitable, and even spiritual but it is nothing but selfishness; part of the problem and not of the solution.
So this is the advice of our section: If you, Jewish people, become Jewish servants and do not do 'Strange Service' but rather follow the leader of the generation, then G-d will eliminate all your enemies and solve the Palestinian problem. (Just as the problems in our story were solved).
And what does the Rebbe say?
1) That every Jew must realize that he/she is a servant of G-d. That is why we must learn the Torah and do the commandments: to make the world a better place.
2) That according to the Talmud and Jewish law (Aruch Chiam 329) it is
forbidden and dangerous to give even straw, no less land, to enemies that threaten any Jewish settlement.
3) According to the Talmud the army, not politicians, must be allowed to
protect the Jews.
4) According to the Talmud it is the obligation of the Jews to be
pro-active (rather than being on the defensive) and teach all non-Jews in the world (Palestinians included) the seven Noahide Commandments. ONLY this will bring lasting peace to all mankind.
Soon, very soon, we will all be dancing with...
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