This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeira (5766)
This week we continue to live with Abraham, the father of Judaism. in an action-packed portion.
One of the most bizarre episodes here is how G-d annihilates an evil cluster of cities called "Sadom and Amora" through an Angel. But equally as strange; before sending the Angel He says to Himself....
"Can I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do?" (18:17)
The Torah then tells us in length how Abraham unsuccessfully pleaded and bargained with G-d for mercy on the cities with no results.
This apparently makes no sense.
First of all, why did G-d HAVE to tell Abraham? G-d is not a person that HAS to do anything. But secondly, it had no purpose! In the end G-d destroyed the cities anyway despite Abraham's arguments. And G-d certainly must have known it was going to come out that way. So why did He have to tell Abraham.
To understand this here is a recent story.
Three weeks ago Friday afternoon, less than one hour before Shabbat I was driving back home to Kfar Chabad from Tel Aviv after a successful hour of putting Tefillin on non-observant Jews in an popular outdoor artsy marketplace.
It was late and, with no time to waste, I took a bit of a short-cut that was definitely not a major move, involved absolutely NO danger to anyone, meant I, and those in my car, would arrive home almost ten precious minutes earlier. It just meant going over a solid white line.... So I did it!
The policeman jumped out into the street from behind a bush and motioned to me to pull over.
The spider caught the fly.
I opened the window, admitted my guilt, requested that he dispense with me as quickly as possible because of the approaching Shabbat and said a Psalm.
He told me to get out of the car, he wanted to check the computer if I had other offences and by the time I got to his car he was already industriously writing the ticket.
He looked at my driver's license, stopped writing for a second and said (in Hebrew), "You are Tuvia Bolton, huh? That name is familiar. Where do I know that name from?"
"Aha!! (I thought to myself A ray of hope!! He is a human being after all).
and answered as jovially as possible, "Maybe from jail?"
"Jail!?" He looked at me in wonder. "Yes" I replied "Heh heh" I've been there to read Magilla and light Chanuka lights and put Tefillin on the prisoners, not as a prisoner myself. Heh heh."
He just looked down and continued writing.
He finished the ticket and turned to get out of his car. "You are from Chabad, right?"
'Yes, yes!" I said eagerly hoping he would tear up the ticket. But he didn't.
He got out of his car, stood up and mechanically handed it to me and said,
"I had a big miracle from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. A big miracle."
"Nu" I said to him. "I already have to pay a fine, so at least give me something to take home for my money."
I knew it would take precious time but I figured that, 1) maybe it would be a good story and 2) while he was busy telling it he wouldn't be able to give
tickets to anyone else.
"It was twenty years ago, 1986" He began. "I was a motorcycle cop on my way to save someone trapped in an overturned car when suddenly an Arab from Gaza slammed into me from the side and flipped me and my bike over a guardrail into a 14 foot-deep ravine.
"It was a miracle that they got to me in time but my spine and neck were broken and they thought I'd be paralyzed for life. The doctors operated and succeed in returning control to the left half of my body but my entire right side was dead.
"I mean dead, dead. My leg and arm dangled up and wilted until they were like sticks. The right side of my face with my eye and mouth drooped down like some monster. And everyone kept telling me how lucky I was.
"This went on for four years. The doctors all said there was nothing more that could be done so I went to all sorts of seers and fortune-tellers and wasted a fortune.
"Then, after four years of this our family doctor called and said that he had read about how there was a operation that might help me being developed in Germany. It was still experimental but he said that because my situation was deteriorating and something had to be done fast, that I should try my luck.
"I contacted them and the operation was scheduled in two weeks.
"The date approached. I was nervous but kept telling myself that anything would be better than being half-dead. anything.
"Then, a few days later on Friday a friend brought this young Chabad rabbi to my house. He said that he told him my story and the Chabadnik suggested that I write a fax to the Rebbe of Lubavitch.
"I told my friend to do me a favor and get him out of my sight immediately.
I had already spent enough money on charlatans, I hated religious people, couldn't stand thesight of them and as far as I was concerned he could jump
in the lake. I wasn't wasting another penny.
"But he explained that he didn't take money and he would even fax it for free, I agreed. We talked for a few minutes, I got the general idea and finally I wrote: 'I want health and livelihood, signed my name and faxed it off from the fax in my house.
"That Saturday night some nine hours after Shabbat my fax rang and rattled,
it was an answer from the Rebbe's office. My wife took it and read aloud
word for word:
"Do not make the operation, it is not necessary. With G-d's help you will return to work as before"
"I grabbed the letter with my good hand, read it again and saw red! 'This is who they call a great man?' I yelled 'what a faker! I didn't say anything about any operation! You know how he knew about the operation?!
It's simple. That young rabbi must have written and told him! That's how!!
It's so transparent! And, what?! He writes that I'll return to work?! It's a stupid, cheap trick!! He writes it to everyone and if it happens to come true once in a thousand he squeezes you for money!!!'
"I crumpled the fax and threw it angrily in the trash.
That was Saturday night. Two days later, early Monday morning at about six a.m. my phone rang. I rolled over, still three-quarters asleep and picked it up. "Nuuu, who is is?" I mumbled.
The voice on the other end said.... 'this is Eddy from the traffic police, we're making a new group and we want you to be part of it."
"Just what I need" I said to myself, 'a practical joker first thing in the morning! I just slammed the phone down and rolled back over to try to sleep.
"But suddenly I realized that something was wrong!! I had picked up the phone with my RIGHT hand - the one that had been paralyzed!!
I thought that maybe it was a dream, mabye I was going crazy, but after a few seconds I realized that.... there was my right hand! I was holding it up before my face and moving it!!
The phone rang again and I picked it up but this time it took a bit more time because I watched my hand and couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"Hello! Did you just slam the phone down on me!" Said the angry voice on the other end. I explained that I thought it was a joke but before I could finish he told me that if I was interested I should appear in the station on Wednesday and hung up.
"When I drove to the station it was the first time I drove a car in four years. All the cops were new there and not one recognized me which probably explains the confusion of how they called me.
"Anyway, they checked me up, took blood samples and x-rays and told me to return on Sunday for the results and, to make it short, they accepted me.
That is why I'm standing here now.
"But when I showed the doctor my old x-rays and he asked, "wow, who is this poor fellow?" I pointed to my name and to myself he almost fell over. He exclaimed. "I see it but what I see is impossible - on this old picture there are broken bones and scars from your operations. But on these new pictures all this is gone! It seems that this Rebbe gave you a new body!
"If anyone asks me" the policeman concluded his story, "I say the Lubavitcher Rebbe is alive today, this very moment! If he could give me a new body for sure he's here in his."
The story was so inspiring, especially because I was actually seeing the miracle standing before me, that I looked him in the eye and exclaimed. "And just like it was with you, so The Rebbe will suddenly appear and EVERYONE will come back!" and we hugged each other right there in public!
I stepped back and said. "My friend, I don't know how much this ticket is but it's worth every penny!!" and he replied with a smile, "ticket? It's a warning!! A warning!"
I wanted to shake his hand and say something like, 'wow another miracle!'
but when I looked up he was already back in the street with a furious look on his face pulling someone else over.
Now we can understand why G-d had to tell Abraham about the approaching destruction.
Abraham's purpose in the world was to 'open the channels' of Judaism and reveal the Creator in the creation.
He was the first to serve G-d with self-sacrifice, the first to do a G-d given commandment, the first to spread the ideas that G-d is one, that He creates, enlivens, provides and cares for each creation constantly, that He 'wants' and even reacts to our prayers, praises and service etc.
But here G-d wanted something else. He wanted Abraham to open an entirely new channel that would save the Jews throughout the generations and eventually save even the entire world:
Namely that evil people could be saved in the merit of righteous ones.
It wasn't so important that his prayers weren't answered here. Here Abraham opened the spiritual channels so that some five hundred years later Moses could save the Jewish people in the desert despite their sins, the Lubavitcher Rebbe could save Jews by his own merits and Moshiach will save the entire world (Prov.10:28) and turn them to worship ONLY the Creator.
So the practical lesson here is twofold. First: it's not so difficult to bring Moshiach; Abraham, Moses, the Rebbe and all the Tzadikim in between have laid down the 'telephone lines' all we have to do is just dial. and
second: we can't fail. Every good deed, word or even thought at least opens another channel to....
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