This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayikra (5765)
This week's section begins the third book of the Torah, VaYikra which continues where the book of Exodus left off.
The book of Exodus centers around G-d's message to Pharaoh through Moses: "Release My people and they will serve Me"
And here it explains exactly what 'service' G-d was referring to; the animal sacrifices in the Temple.
Therefore now we await and pray for Moshiach to rebuild the third and final Temple (Rambam, Laws of Kings 11;1) so the sacrifices can again resume. Because without them there can be no true service of G-d.
But at first glance this is totally not understood. What have animal sacrifices got to do with G-d or Judaism?
The Jews left Egypt to be free from spiritual and physical oppression and Moshiach will connect all mankind to the Creator. What has this got to do with Temples and animal sacrifices? Even more; aren't animal sacrifices primitive and barbaric? What have they got to do with anything!?
To understand this here is a story.
The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, lived his last ten years in the U.S.A. where he laid the groundwork for the massive, worldwide Chabad outreach movement that is serving the world today.
Even in those days his son-in-law and future successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Sheerson (nicknamed 'The Rama'sh) began to reveal supernatural qualities of intuition and leadership.
For instance, one Shabbat afternoon he was sitting with a group of some twenty Chassidim in a 'Farbrengen' (informal Chassidic gathering) speaking of the importance of loving all of G-d's creatures – beginning with each and every Jew.
"Each Jew" he explained" no matter what he/she does or thinks, is a Holy Temple with the potential to reveal the Creator by observing His Torah. And it is our job to get every Jew out there in the street to realize this."
It was obvious that he was implying that drastic action must be taken and his words made a deep impression. In those days (the early '40s) 'invading' the world of non-observant Jews with Torah was completely unheard of: there was no such thing as 'outreach' Judaism.
So it was no surprise that one of those present expressed his wonder and asked, "What, do you mean we should stop strangers in the street, ask them if they're Jewish and tell them to do the commandments!? They will think we're crazy! Who would do such a thing? How can it be done?"
The Ramash stood up and said "Come I'll show you".
He stood up and walked out of the synagogue and they all followed him.
They stood there outside on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue for a while and watched as people passed by or crossed the busy street. Then the Ramash noticed a woman crossing the street carrying several grocery bags and he walked toward her followed by his small entourage.
He smiled and cordially said good afternoon. When she replied he politely excused himself for being so forthright and asked if she was Jewish.
She replied to the affirmative and he, in the same friendly tone, asked her if she knew that according to Jewish law it was not permissible to carry on the Sabbath day.
She replied that she once heard something like that but she was not, nor had she ever been, nor did she have any intention of becoming religious so it didn't really matter to her.
But she showed no sign of being disturbed by the conversation. In fact she seemed to enjoy speaking to someone who seemed to be genuinely interested in her welfare.
So the Ramash began to explain the great benefits in observing the Shabbat. How really enjoyable and meaningful it is. How it is a special gift to the Jewish people attaching them to the purpose of creation. How it is a day of rest and rejuvenation. How the Jews have been keeping the Shabbat against all odds for over three thousand years and finally, how the Shabbat protects those who observe it.
The woman listened attentively and even seemed to agree. But she glanced at her bags, smiled and raised her eyebrows as though to say, "Very nice Rabbi, but what do I do with these?"
He replied "There is no need to worry about your groceries or your purse. You can leave them here and we will stay and protect them so they will be secure. Then, in a few hours when Shabbat is over you can and get them."
"Oh no, Rabbi." She replied "I couldn't do that. I wouldn't want to trouble you. And I don't really know who you all are. But thank you for your concern. Good Shabbos." And she began to leave.
"Excuse me" he said to her quietly. "When I said that observing the Shabbat protects us I mean not only those who observe it but also their families as well."
The woman stopped, became very serious and she looked at the Rabbi with tear-filled eyes.
"Rabbi" She said "I have a son in Germany in the army and I am terribly worried about him. It is very important to me what you just said. Do you mean that if I keep the Shabbat G-d will protect him?"
The Ramash replied, "I'm sure that G-d will protect him whether you observe the Shabbat or not, but certainly your observance will help."
"And you will stand here and watch my things?"
"Yes" he replied, "You have nothing to worry about. After the Shabbat just go into the office of that Synagogue and your things will be waiting for you."
The woman thanked him, put all her bags down, turned to the other young men, thanked them as well, said "Good Shabbos" and left. A few hours later she returned, took her things from the Synagogue office and the story ended.
The Rebbe demonstrated how all Jews really want to hear about Judaism if we just to go 'out' of ourselves a bit and present it to them in a caring way.
But there is more.
Several months later the woman returned to the office, told the secretary what had happened that Shabbat and asked if she could speak to the Rabbi that spoke to her back then; she wanted to thank him.
When the Ramash appeared she became very emotional.
"What you did that Shabbat was a miracle, Rabbi. I don't know how it happened but it was a miracle! Just look!"
She produced an envelope from her pocket, took out the letter and said, "It's from my son in the army in Germany. He wrote it the day after that Shabbat. Listen to what it says" and she began to read:
"Dear Mom. You don’t know what a miracle it is that I am alive, writing this letter. I am still shaking and can't believe it myself. Yesterday about twenty five of us were sent out on a 'simple' expedition. The area was supposed to be clear of enemy forces but when we were about an hour from the base an entire battalion of Germans surrounded us and bullets and mortars were flying and exploding everywhere. They had heavy machine guns and it was hell on earth. There was no where to take cover and we were sitting ducks. I saw my buddies, Joey, Sam, Mickey, being blown to pieces, bleeding to death, screaming for help it was terrible. I figured that I would never see you again. I even said Shma Yisroel and waited to die. But the bullets and bombs kept missing. I just covered my head and prayed, then suddenly from nowhere came our reinforcements! I was saved!!
Mom, all our men were killed! Everyone except for me. It was a miracle! I thank G-d that I am alive and hope to G-d this war will be over soon and I'll be home."
The Remash just smiled and said "I am sorry to hear the others died but happy to hear that your son is well. And I hope that the both of you will continue keeping the Shabbat and bring more blessing into the world."
Now we can understand the importance of the Sacrifices in the Temple and their connection to the Exodus and to Moshiach.
The purpose of the Jews; the reason they left Egypt and were given the Torah and its commandments, was and still is, is to teach all mankind the truth; Namely that G-d creates all being and the Torah is His blueprint. (This is also the message of Shabbat as in our story. And why, in the Ten Commandments, Shabbat is connected to leaving Egypt (Deut. 5:15).)
The Egyptians were spiritual people; they could change sticks to snakes and water to blood!. Similarly, all the religions of the world today worship spiritual forces or beings.
But for the Jews this over involvement with the world, even the spiritual world, is enslavement.
Judaism worships the CREATOR of the spiritual as well as the physical and the Creator is 'more interested' in this PHYSICAL world than in the spiritual!
This is the message of the sacrifices.
Namely, G-d 'cares' very much about each detail in THIS world and gave the Jews the ability to abandon the selfishness of Egypt and bring blessing to even the animals, by transforming every detail in creation to G-dliness in the Holy Temple according to the Torah.
That will be the main accomplishment of Moshiach and why he will rebuild the Temple.
We just have to go out and 'sacrifice' of our selves a bit; like the Ramash did in our story.
The cause of our bitter 2,000 years of exile and destruction of the Temple is selfish lack of brotherly love. And only by unlimited love of our fellow man and especially our fellow Jew will the Third Temple be built.
Today, just one more good deed, word or even thought can join all the self-sacrifice of the Jews since Abraham and tilt the scales to bring....
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