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 Ki Teitzei (5765)
This week's Torah portion contains more commandments than any other. One of them is how to divorce one's wife; a document must be written etc.
Interestingly the Talmud (Gittin 90a) teaches that divorce is bad. In fact G-d hates it so much that every time a woman is divorced the Holy Temple Altar sheds tears.
This is very strange. What is so bad about divorce? Sometimes things just don't work out between people and divorce allows them to begin new lives.
And on the other hand, if divorce is bad and G-d doesn't like it, then why does He permit it? It should be forbidden!
To understand this, here is a story.
The Baal Shem Tov (Besh't for short) was a more than just a great Torah scholar, Kabbalist, Jewish leader or a pioneer - he was a new type of Jew.
A Torah scholar is one who separates himself from the mundane and devotes his life to the living, infinite wisdom of the Holy Talmud.
And Kabbalists are also involved in spiritual matters far from involvement with the masses.
On the other hand, leaders and pioneers as important as they are, are not necessarily spiritual people.
The Baal Shem Tovunited the entire body of Torah law and the deepest secrets and mysteries of Kaballa with leadership of all the Jewish people; from the greatest scholars to the most simple Jews.He was a forerunner to Moshiach.
Here is an example:
The Besh't had many pupils and some of them were scholars of the highest caliber. But it so happened that one had a lot of difficulties at home - with his wife.
No matter what this Chassid did or said she did all she could to make his life miserable. She would belittle him in public and anger him in private. She refused to cook, clean the house, take care of the children or treat him with anything that vaguely resembled respect or consideration.
With her friends she was polite and normal but as soon as he came into her sights she became volatile.
To make things worse she had a robust voice that could be heard at great distances and she used it generously. So the only peace he had were his few precious hours in the synagogue or at work.
His friends made suggestions to improve his lot; to buy her presents, to spend more time at home, to answer with praises, to get her friends to talk to her. But it all failed miserably; the only solution seemed to be divorce.
No! He would give it another try....he needed a miracle! And he was sure that HaShem would make one. He went to the Besh't for advice. If anyone could make a miracle it would be him. But he was in for a disappointment; the master said nothing. He evaded the question completely.
But our hero did not give up. He wrote desperate letters to the Baal Shem begging for help. With the same results.
He took the hint. Obviously the Besh't was indicating that he should divorce his wife, so he wrote asking the master if that was his intention. The answer was quick in coming.
"Nu!" The Chassid quipped to one of his friends. "At least now I have two things to comfort me; I know what not to do and I know that it can't get worse!! It's as bad as possible right now!!" But he was wrong….
It got worse.
She began throwing things, cursing him with curses that curdled his blood and following him to the synagogue and to work…. It was unbearable.
He wrote again to the Besh't begging for him to change his mind, and again and again until finally the Besh't invited him for a private audience.
Our hero entered the Besht's study and stood sheepishly before this spiritual giant. He wanted to just apologize and back out of the room buthis wife'slast string of curses was still ringing in his ears. The Besh't opened up a small piece of paper, put it on the table before him and spoke.
"You can divorce if you really want to, but first I want you to go to this village and ask for anyone who knew this man." he pointed to the names on the paper as he spoke. "This manis no longer alive, but you should know that you are his gilgul (reincarnation)."
The Chassid took the paper, asked where the town was, borrowed some money from friends, took his Tefillin and some clothes and set off with wings on his feet and a song on his lips. Finally he would be free of his wife! For that he would travel a thousand miles!! And for the Besh't he would travel to the end of the world!!
Three days later he arrived at his destination and began his mission;showing people the paper. But obviously they were too young, none of them knew. So he began asking the elders, also with no success but finally one of them directed him to reb Feivel.
Some say Reb Feivelwas over a hundred and ten years old.His hearing, seeingand other limbs didn't work very well but his mind and memory seemed to beas fresh as ever.
Our Chassid introduced himself as a follower of the Baal Shem Tov and asked him if he knew the name that appeared on the paper. The old man couldn't see so the Chassidread off the name in a loud voice.
"Ehhhhh?" Reb Feivel answered, cupping his hand to his ear, "Feffercorn? Feffercorn? Menasha Feffercorn?? The old man spit on the ground with a loud 'Ffooo' and, shaking with rage yelled in a broken decrepit voice.
"Yemach Sh'mo!!! May he rot forever!! May his foul name be blotted out! May his memory be cursed for eternity!!" and he spat at the ground again.
"Why?" asked the Chassid "What did he do??"
"What DID he do? WHAT DIDN'T he do!!!! He did every sin possible, may he suffer for each one!!! He took children from their parents and sold them to the Czar's army. He had men murdered, widows and orphans evicted and confiscated their homes and belongings. May he burn forever!!!"
"Well," said the Chassid "I am his gilgul."
"What!!??" Reb Feival almost fell off his seat. He lifted his long brows so they wouldn't get in his eyes and with difficulty tilted his face up and squinted at the Chassid in disbelief.
"I don't believe it. If I only lived just to see this miracle it was worth it! Feffercorn is now a Chassid of the holy Baal Shem Tov!!!?? A miracle!! A miracle!!! If so, no soul is lost! Everyone will return to the Torah!!"
It took a few minutes but suddenly it hit our Chassid why the Besh't sent him. He dropped his plans for divorce.
This answers our question.
Nothing in the world happensby mistake, everything is according to G-d's plan. And everything that occurs to us is a 'marriage'; we unite with our experiences.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that really everything, even things that seem to be awful like the marriage in our story, can be really good if looked at from the proper viewpoint.
That is why G-d opposes divorce; because our sufferings often come from our misinterpretations and our feelings are not always correct. We must try to always look at things from G-d's point of view, not our own; and not everyone can do that.
[A classic example is the point of view of the founder of Chabad Chassidut, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (whose birthday is on 18th of Ellul, this coming Thursday) toward Napoleon.
While virtually ALL the great Torah scholars and Tzadikim of his generation favored Napoleon with his promises of fraternity, equality and liberty (from the oppressive Monarchies and the Church) Rabbi Shneur Zalman was passionately opposed.
"Napoleon will raise the material glory and splendor of the Jews" he said, "but spiritually it will be disastrous."
And he actively did all he could, against all the other opinions, to contribute to Napoleon's eventual defeat. And only he was right.]
But on the other hand G-d wants us to have free will. To choose for ourselves, even if we make (G-d forbid) all the wrong choices and the Altar weeps.
Because free will is the essence of man.
That is the purpose of Moshiach.
Moshiach will reveal the true holiness and the true free will of the Jews. Then will be manifested; (as the old man in our story exclaimed), "no soul is lost! Everyone will return to the Torah!!"
And even if it may seem at times that everything is wrong, we should (G-d forbid) divorce G-d or G-d has 'divorced' us, we should remember G-d's promise "All else may be forgotten but I will never forget you."(Isaiah 49:15)
We must only choose with our free will to do ALL we can to bring
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.