This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Devarim (5765)
This week we begin the last of the five books of the Torah.
The word Torah means 'teaching' and the Chassidic masters showed us how every word and idea in the Torah is a living lesson how to see the G-dly purpose in all things.
For instance, this week's section begins on a very sour note; Moses, just before he dies chastises the Jews severely for each of their sins in the 40 years they were in the desert. But it ends on a good one: Moses comforts the people before they enter the formidable land of Canaan, "Don't fear your enemies because G-d will fight for you."
What can we learn from this? What was the purpose of reminding them of the sins of the previous generation - isn't this depressing? G-d must be served from joy!!
Here is a personal story that I hope will help to explain.
A few years ago I was taking a taxi from Kfar Chabad to Kfar Saba. It was night time with about a half an hour left in the trip and I struck up a conversation with the driver.
We began talking about the weather and how it affects the taxi business then moved to family; he had three children, two of them married, then to politics; he had no political affiliations, and finally to Judaism.
I asked him if he did any of the commandments like making Kiddush on Shabbat or putting on Tefillin on the weekdays and he shook his head no.
He said that after his Bar-Mitzvah, he used to put on Tefillin every day. But after a few months his friends convinced him that there were better things to do and he dropped it. That was over thirty years ago.
Since then he never did any of the commandments, didn't believe in G-d and had no intention to change.
At first I had no idea what to say. I suddenly remembered that I once took a class in University called 'Philosophy of religion" where the 'cons' of G-d's existence appealed to me much more than the 'pros'.
But nevertheless I blurted out a proposition; "If I prove to you that G-d exists will you consider putting on Tefillin again?"
He told me that he had read books, heard lectures, asked Rabbis and religious people and came to the conclusion that everything just 'happens' and has absolutely no meaning except what we make it, it's all luck. Hitler would have been right if he won etc. In other words; no G-d!
But, after all, he had nothing better to do and we were sort of hitting it off, so he said he was willing to listen.
I really didn't know what I was going to say until suddenly G-d helped me and threw an idea in my mind.
I asked him his name he told me it was Moshe. Then I asked him how long he had been a taxi driver and he answered fifteen years.
"Nu, Moshe" I continued. "You have probably seen all sorts of taxi drivers in fifteen years right?" He agreed.
"For instance, you must have seen fat drivers, thin drivers, calm and nervous drivers, angry and pleasant, fast and slow, old and young, right?"
"But Moshe, did you ever see a blind taxi driver?"
"Blind? That's crazy!!" He answered shrugging his shoulders. He glanced at me to see if I was serious. "Blind driver?" He shuddered as he said it. "Can't be such a thing!!"
The question startled him, a blind driver was suicide, no one would do such a thing!!
"Well" I continued "what would you say if I showed you a blind taxi driver, several of them. Totally blind that have been driving full speed for over fifty years with only had a few relatively minor accidents."
His eyes were glued to the road and he didn't answer; he just silently shrugged his shoulders and shook his head 'no'. "What are you talking about?" He muttered.
"Nu, Moshe. What do you say? Completely blind, full speed, for over fifty years with no tricks or outside help or gadgets. If I showed you such a thing would you agree it’s a miracle?
He glanced at me again, was I joking? Was I nuts?
"Alright" he answered "Yes, I'd say it’s a miracle, okay? Now, what street did you say you wanted in Kfar Saba?" He wanted to change the subject.
"Listen Moshe, I want to say something, are you listening?" (I discovered you have to say this in Israel for people to really take you seriously and not just wait till you stop talking so that they can talk.) Are you listening?"
"Yes, sure" he replied. When I was sure he was, I began,
"The blind taxi drivers are the Prime Ministers of Israel: They have no idea where they are going but they drive full speed, and they have been doing it for over fifty years! And they are still on the road!! What do you say?"
He didn't reply for about five minutes but then finally at a stop light he turned and looked at me again in a different way.
Then a few minutes later he said, "You have a point there" (Yesh MaShehu b'zeh)
He turned on the radio but he wasn't listening, he was thinking. There was ten minutes left to the ride and at the next stoplight he tilted his head to the side, narrowed his eyes, raised his eyebrows and turned to me with a slight smile.
When we finally reached my destination he said, "You know, you have something there. It doesn't and does make sense at the same time. I thought of it in the Gulf war when the scuds were falling but I forgot; it's a big miracle and we're in the middle of it."
He shook my hand and said, "I suppose I could put on Tefillin again, maybe just tomorrow, wouldn't hurt."
This is the lesson of our section.
Moses repremanded the Jews not in order to make them depressed but rather that they see the great kindness of G-d; that despite their sins and follies (like the blind taxi-drivers) they were still alive, were about to enter the Holy Land and even had G-d's promise that He would protect them.
And so it is today.
This coming week we are confronted by two difficult events: the ninth of Av and the evacuation of Gush Katif (G-d forbid). The first should be the most painful because the Temple is the essence of Judaism and 'every generation that the Temple is not rebuilt it is as though it is destroyed anew'.
In other words; this year marks the almost two thousandth time that our precious Holy Temple has been destroyed!!
But, in fact, it's difficult to really feel bad, even though the destruction is because of our sins and the Temple is so important.
For a simple reason; if two thousand years ago they didn't appreciate the Temple and if, since then, no generation succeeded in doing what is right to get it rebuilt. Then how can we be expected to do it? And who says we are or really at fault? Maybe it was just nature?
So that is why HaShem is arranging this absurd, self-destructive Gush Katif tragedy. (which is a tragedy for the Arabs as well as it puts power in the hands of anarchists who have no desire to benefit even their own people). This time we can't fool ourselves by saying that the Babylonians of the Romans are doing it, or it's something of the past.
Thousands of Jews are being exiled (G-d forbid) BY THOUSANDS OF OTHER JEWS.....NOW!!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained the reason and solution to Knesset member Rechavam Zeevi of blessed memory (a personal friend of our family who was later murdered by Arabs).
"I was astounded to discover that there are Jews in Israel that don't know what 'Bnei Yisrael' means. Namely that Jews are all the sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe. You have to do all you can to educate the Jews in Israel what it means to be Bnei Yisrael."
And this generation is the only one that can do it!
It says in the Midrash that when Moses was on Mount Sinai G-d showed him all the future generations, and when he saw our generation his heart fell. He couldn't believe it was possible for such simple Jews to muster up such deep soul powers to serve G-d under such debilitating and impossible conditions!!
That's right! When we think for a moment that we are really the chosen people and that G-d ALONE is protecting us (for instance; over six THOUSAND mortars and missiles have fallen in Gush Katif in the last three years and almost all of them missed!) we can draw tremendous powers to show the entire world that we are children, servants and emissaries of the CREATOR, above ALL THE POWERS OF CREATION!!!
Then we will have the courage, ability, identity and blessing to do all the Lubavitcher Rebbe says to bring blessing to all mankind and transform these days to JOY and CELEBRATION with.....
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