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 Behar (5765)
But the section begins on a strange note; G-d tells Moses:
"When you come to the land that I gave you, the land should rest to G-d"
It seems to say that immediately when the Jews enter Israel (not after waiting six years) they should keep the Shmita. When in fact this is not the case. The Shmita always comes after six years of work.
To understand this here is a story I saw in a weekly pamphlet called HaGeula (#253).
The year was 1992 just one day before the Lubavitcher Rebbe was to suffer a debilitating stroke. Thousands of people were standing in line to receive the Rebbe's blessing and a dollar (to encourage the giving of charity).
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pevzner was also in that line with some twenty of his donors waiting to give the Rebbe the keys to the huge multi-million dollar campus that he had just completed in Paris, France.
Three years earlier, in 1989, the Rebbe publicly declared that year to be 'the Year of Building' (Shnat HaBinyan).
Immediately hundreds of Chabad institutions throughout the world began building. But very few, if any, were on as large a scale as Rabbi Pevzner's.
Rabbi Pevzner decided that nothing less than a campus of buildings would do. He asked for the Rebbe's blessing, received it and weeks later had tens of wealthy donors interested in his dream.
The project was immense. Almost more than Rabbi Pevzner had bargained for. There were many crises and difficulties and the Rebbe had to be consulted (he gave large donations as well) countless times.
But after three years of working day and night with almost no rest it was finished.
It was a miracle!
Rabbi Pevzner decided that before the grand opening celebration it was only proper that he and all the donors fly to New York to personally give the Rebbe the good news.
Now the line progressed and finally their turn came. They were standing before the Rebbe! They were all beaming with joy as Rabbi Pevzner stepped forward, handed the Rebbe all the keys to all the buildings and proudly announced,
"Rebbe, thank G-d, the campus is finished. It took us three very difficult years. If it wasn’t for the Rebbe's input we could not have done it. But now, with G-d's help, it is finished, and here are the keys."
The Rebbe took the keys and, with a smiling face said,
"Begin immediately to build a new building."
They all were astounded! After three years of constant work they wanted to rest, or at least to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But the Rebbe was never wrong.
He gave to each of them a dollar (in addition to the hundred dollars he had given earlier to all the big donors) blessed them all with success and a good trip back and they returned to France.
But they were completely confused. If they hadn't been acquainted with the Rebbe's greatness and seemingly infinite knowledge of both Torah and secular matters they probably wouldn't have taken what he said seriously.
What did they need another building for? They still had all the empty old buildings which could be used if more pupils came, which was highly unlikely. The new buildings were more than enough!
But even more unlikely were the chances of getting more land from the city in addition to all they had - in fact it was virtually impossible. The land they already had was acquired miraculously.
But Rabbi Pevzner as a 'Shliach' (emissary) of the Rebbe didn't think in normal terms anymore, he was used to miracles.
He went to city hall, immediately got an audience with the building minister, entered his office and got straight to the point; he needed more land!
He wouldn't have been surprised with a reply like, "More land?? Why Rabbi, you haven't even begun using what you have? or 'Maybe you would like me to give you all of Paris'?"
But instead, the minister stood and cordially requested that Rabbi Pevzner take him for a tour of his new campus.
Shortly afterwards the Rabbi was showing and explaining to him the various buildings and eventually got up his courage and asked the minister if he was a religious man.
The minister said yes and Rabbi Pevzner began to tell him about the Lubavitcher Rebbe ending with the words,
"And the Rebbe wants us to build a new building. That is, an additional new building. And the Rebbe has never been wrong."
The minister turned to Rabbi Pevzner, looked at him very seriously and said. "I have heard of your Rebbe and I understood that he is a very wise man. But now I know that he is also a prophet!"
Rabbi Pevzner was astounded. Perhaps the minister was being sarcastic! But he continued.
"Rabbi, you must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you now. The mayor is going to take all your old buildings. He is just waiting till after the elections because he doesn't want to make enemies, but it has already been decided. Your old school buildings will be destroyed, the land will be taken from you and converted into a new shopping mall and then it will be impossible for you to get new land.
"There is no way that your Rebbe could have known this. It is sheer prophesy! Rabbi, I am a religious man and know a miracle when I see it. You come tomorrow and I will give you the land you request, but you must begin building as soon as possible. Before the elections."
In fact, the mayor lost the elections and the old buildings seemed out of danger, but just a few days afterwards a fire broke out there and destroyed them totally. If it wasn't for the new building there would have been no where to put the new students. The Rebbe forsaw all this over two years earlier!
Rabbi Pevzner got the new plot, built a new building and, miracle of miracles, in a short time it too was overflowing with new pupils that seemed to have come from nowhere!!
I just read a magazine article that explained a few of the ideas of Albert Einstein (this year is the one hundredth anniversary of his theory of relativity). One of his basic theories is that nothing can exceed the speed of light. This, according to Einstein, is a basis axiom of the 'real' physical world.
So we can ask ourselves, how could the Rebbe know things BEFORE they happened - YEARS faster than the speed of light?
In what sort of a world was the Rebbe living??
The answer is that the Rebbe was living in the truely real world; a world not limited by time. A world in which he wants us to live as well.
The Rebbe's world is one in which our good deeds today already project and create NOW the good world of tomorrow!
This is what our portion means by saying that the Shimita year is the first.
In fact the holy 'Shmita' year was AFTER six years of work, but the Torah is telling us that this Shmita holiness must be the FIRST thing on our minds, we must live in the future NOW.
This is what the Rebbe meant when he said in 1992 that we must open our eyes and see that Moshiach is here. A person with, G-d forbid, no eyes cannot see what is ahead. He lives in the past.
The Rebbe wants us to live in his world; the world of Moshiach; a brilliant, wholesome, meaningful future where there is no pain, suffering or ignorance - NOW!
But it all depends on us to do it; to really accept the reality the Jews have been awaiting and praying for thousands of years.
Then HaShem will bring us a truly new world, even more than we dreamed of alluded to by the 'Yovel' (which is higher than the Shmita). If we desire it, it iwill not be just a dream.
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.