This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shoftim (5765)
This week's section includes three very interesting and seemingly totally impractical laws: to listen to prophets, to appoint a king and to make three additional 'cities of refuge' for unintentional murderers bringing the total to nine.
The Torah is the book of life and every idea and word in it is practical and vital. But here seems to be a big exception. Everyone knows that these three; kings, prophets and cities of refuge simply don't exist anymore.
So what does it mean to us?
The simple answer is: Moshiach (the True Jewish Messiah).
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides - the "Rambam") in his fourteen volume masterpiece explaining all the laws of the Torah, explains that the Moshiach will be a king (who will spiritually rule the entire world), a prophet (who will never make a mistake) and finally, will add three cities of refuge in addition to the six already enumerated elsewhere.
And these three cities are essential:
In fact, when the Rambam brings his proofs for believing in Moshiach the third one is that he will make 'Cities of Refuge' (Deut. 19: 8,9)
[The first proof is "G-d will return all the Jews etc" (Deut. 30:3-5). The second is the prophesy of Bilam "I see him but not now, I view him but not near"(Num. 24:17.18)]
At first glance this is not understood;
Is Moshiach really so important? If so, why don't we hear more about him? And what has he got to do with cities of refuge?
Here is a story that might help understand.
I met Yoron (fictitious name) a year ago at a Chassidic Farbringin in Tel Aviv. He was a young, Chassidic-looking fellow replete with beard, tzitzis and a positive look on his face. You could tell from a mile away that he was a Chabadnik.
But he told me that how he got that way was nothing short of a miracle.
Yoron had been a typical Israeli soldier; brought up on all the Zionist ideals and willing to do anything to succeed. And he did. Although he didn't like to talk about it he finished at the rank of master sergeant with honors and a rosy future before him.
So he did what every red-blooded, young Israeli does. Like all his friends did after finishing the army. He packed his bags and bought a plane ticket to get as far from Israel as possible.
In his case it was Thailand.
There was no stopping him, his parents didn't even try.
Of course they didn't want him to go; so many of his friends got lost out there. One was stuck somewhere in a cult in India, another got married to a girl in Denmark, a third was in jail in Australia. In fact they themselves had tens of friends and family strewn all over the world.
But they were powerless; they knew there was really no reason for him to stay… Israel had nothing to offer him. In fact in a way they sort of envied him; at least he had a dream.
So Yoron kissed his parents good bye, gave his brother a hug and flew into the horizon.
He called home from Thailand once a week or so but, as they feared, after a year he announced that he decided to cancel his return trip and stay 'a bit' longer. He found a job, had a lot of friends, was having a great time and he even knew the language a bit. He didn't tell them about his Thailandi girlfriend.
Judaism meant nothing to him. Less than nothing. It was pure bigotry and the reason everyone hates us. Except for being circumcised and putting on the Tefillin his father specially bought him at his bar Mitzva, he never had done anything Jewish and he never would. He would melt into the world.
But he didn't take Chabad into account.
It seems that one of the pastimes on Passover for the tens of thousands of Israelis wandering aimlessly in the mountains of Nepal and Thailand is the Passover Seder that Chabad makes in Katmandu. (Today there are many more places as well).
Yoron didn't take it seriously the first year he heard about it, but this year when a group of his friends said they were going he decided to join … for 'kicks'.
When he arrived he was pleasantly surprised; there were hundreds of Israelis just like himself. Some were setting the tables, others were preparing the food, others were cleaning up the grounds; everyone was busy doing something to prepare for the big night.
He even enjoyed the 'Seder' ceremony that came later. The Rabbis that led it were young and energetic and they explained each detail with fresh ideas from their 'Lubavitcher Rebbe'.
But one thing he couldn't stand was their explanation of the Exodus.
They quoted the Rebbe as saying that G-d took the Jews from Egypt in order that all mankind, for all time, should know that the Jews are not part of the creation (like the Egyptians and the other nations) but rather they are G-d's chosen people and are 'part' of the Creator Himself!!
This was too much!! In fact it made Yoron so angry that he stood up in the middle of the Seder and yelled that it was pure bigotry.
But the Rabbi answered, "Listen, I know it sounds that way but you have to remember that Judaism teaches that G-d is very near. He creates the entire world, including each and every gentile constantly! You can't get much closer to G-d than that!!
"While according to their religions, G-d is so far away they need middlemen to approach Him.
"So in a way we are created for the gentiles; to teach them how good and close G-d really is!”
The answer calmed him down a bit but he didn't swallow it.
However he did like it when they talked about 'spiritual auras' and said that the only way Jews can activate theirs is by putting on Tefillin
He liked it because he just so happened to have packed his Bar Mitzva Tefillin in his knapsack before he left. He really didn't know why he did it but they didn't take much space and were a memento of his past etc.
So a few days later he put them on, just to try it, and .... he felt something different. Maybe it was the aura?
He found himself putting them on whenever he had a quiet moment, and just bask in the spiritual light etc. But nothing major changed in his life. In fact he became more and more determined to stay in Thailand.
It was on one of his climbs in the Himalayas that all this changed.
He was hiking at the head of a group of ten or so of the locals. It was the third day, about two thousand feet up, when they climbed to a ridge and a fantastic, panoramic sunset spread before their eyes. It was awesome, a once in a lifetime view … a perfect moment.
He motioned for his entourage to stop, took off his pack, took out the Tefillin, put them on, closed his eyes and just imagined the vibrations passing through his body.
But when he turned back to the rest no one was there! They had disappeared! He was confused. Where had they gone in just a few seconds?
He called out a few times but there was no answer. He was alone high above the world with only the wind whistling over the mountains, his Tefillin on his arm and head and no entourage! It was too weird!!
Then suddenly he got the shock of his life. They all peeked out from beind the big boulders where they were hiding!!
When they saw him put on the Tefillin they ran for cover!
These people were usually fearless. Not only that, they knew that he was their friend and all he did was put on two black boxes! Why did they hide??
The only thing that made sense was the Rebbe's explanation:
They suddenly felt that he was part of the Creator.....and they were part of the creation.
A few days later Yoron was in the Chabad House in Thailand asking questions and a few weeks afterward he was learning Torah and Chassidut in the Chabad Yeshiva in Ramat Aviv.
This answers our questions.
Moshiach will be the most important person ever to walk the face of the earth and only through him will be realized the goal of Judaism.
He will transform the world to a haven of truth, peace and order and will return all the Jews to Torah and its commandments. All through his qualities of prophesy and kingship.
Just like the Lubavitcher Rebbe did to Yoron and his gentile friends; they all felt that G-d chose the Jews to bring blessing and meaning into the creation.
That is why only Moshiach will add three Cities of Refuge to the six already mentioned in the Torah and why it is a proof of his coming.
Because these cities are a commandment that will only be fulfilled when Moshaich will bring people see the real purity and goodness of the Creator.
Then all the Jews will be so devoted to truth that even the smallest personalty fault will cause its possessor run to these new cities for refuge as one who has unintentionally 'murdered' his G-dly soul.
But, unfortunately, there is too little excitement about Moshiach. The Rebbe said time and time again that every instant of our lives and ALL our energy "Kol Y'mai Chaiyav" should be devoted ONLY to bringing....
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