Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Parshat Vayeitzei

Parshat Vayeitzei

This week's section tells the story of how Lavan; the arch-evil charlatan,
duped the holy founder of Judaism, Yaakov into working non-stop for twenty

Interestingly the Torah tells us that instead being punished for this crime,
Lavan is left in peace while Yaakov after wasting twenty years of his life
has to settle for a mere fraction of his due.

This does not seem fair, and certainly not very Biblical. Where is the
divine retribution? Where is the justice? How could Yaakov get such a raw
deal and why does the Torah tell us about it? What is the point? Why didn't
G-d just do a few miracles?

Here is a story printed in the weekly leaflet HaGeula (Toldot 5766) that
might help us understand.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pevzner is the manager of a large complex of Jewish
schools in the heart of Paris called 'Sinai' where over one thousand
children learn.

As could be understood such an outstanding achievement was accompanied by
many harrowing experiences but possibly the shakiest of them occurred just a
few years ago.

Over seventeen years ago in 5749 (1988) the Lubavitcher Rebbe declared that
year to be the 'Year of Building'. Hundreds of Chabad institutions took this
declaration as a prophesy and, certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that
they would succeed, began projects that were completely beyond their normal
realm of imagination. And they worked!

In that year thousands of buildings were begun and/or finished. But one of
the most impressive examples was that of Rabbi Pevzner.

He announced a multi-million dollar project that only a miracle would
finish. And the miracle occurred.

The Rebbe announced that he would give a one hundred dollar bill to whoever
donated money to the project and the donors flocked in.

In no time some ninety percent of the costs had been covered and Rabbi
Pevzner was able to proudly go to the Rebbe with pictures of the finished
buildings and names of the benefactors before the year was over.

But strangely enough when he presented it all to him, the Rebbe seemed to
show no sign of satisfaction. In fact, of all things, he seemed a bit
worried. He took a dollar bill in his hand, held it out to Rabbi Pevzner
and said,

"There still remain debts. Here is a dollar for the debts."

Rabbi Pevzner couldn't understand what the Rebbe meant. Of course there
were some debts but they were almost gone, it was only a matter of time till
the same miraculous spirit that brought the ninety percent would bring the
last ten.

But Rabbi Pevzner took the dollar. Little did he know that it was to be the
lifejacket that would save him.

Thirteen years passed and although the debt never really got paid (as soon
as money came in other debts replaced it) it didn't grow either. It was not
unusual for an institution of that size to have such a reasonable debt and
the Rabbi gave it no thought whatsoever.

In fact the number of pupils in 'Sinai' increased and increased and were
coming from such a wide area of Paris that the board of directors of the
school decided to expand. Plans were made, licenses and permissions were
given and allocations and donations were pledged to build a branch on the
outskirts of the town.

Then, suddenly France turned over. The Moslems became militant and
anti-Semitism again reared it's ugly head in the streets and in the media.
Donors retracted their pledges, the ministry of education cancelled funding
and the Government turned a deaf ear.

Overnight the debts began piling up and after a few months the situation was
unbearable with no end in sight. Teachers, lunchroom, electricity, upkeep
all required money and there was none. The majority of his pupils were poor
and had been paid for by the government. And then there was the new
unfinished expansion project that he still owed a fortune for.

Every week brought more debt until after a year and a half 'Siani Schools
owed no less than TEN MILLON EURO!!

It seemed obvious that the schools would have to close; there was simply no
possibility to pay such an amount and to continue was impossible.

Rabbi Pevzner had personally borrowed millions to keep the institutions
going and would have to borrow more, but from where? Not only would no one
give him a loan, his creditors were hounding him for their money back! The
government stepped in, appointed a board of investigators and they decided
that it was obvious that Rabbi Pevzner had no choice but to declare

But he was given a reprieve. It seems that the government court was not
interested in closing him down so quickly. If he went bankrupt no one would
get what was owed them and, after all, this was an institution that had been
working successfully with no motives of profit for years.

They agreed to keep 'Sinai' running for twelve months on government funding
to give him a chance to come up with the money.

But nothing happened. The anti-Semitism increased, the debt remained, and
the days passed.

He gathered all his teachers, workers and pupils and with tears in his eyes
informed them that he had tried everything. He begged them to increase their
prayers and then, choking back the tears told them that without a miracle it
was only months until the end.

Then he remembered the dollar.

Suddenly he remembered what the Rebbe said and it was clear to him he was
prophesizing precisely this catastrophe he was going through now. It was
like a flash of pure light in the stark murky reality surrounding him. The
Rebbe was never wrong!

Sure enough the very next day something happened!

A group of Israeli Newspaper reporters came to visit his institution as part
of a report they were doing on France and to his amazement the official that
was showing them around was none other than one of the most outspoken
opponents of orthodox Judaism, the wealthy and influential Baron David
D'Rothschild of the famous Rothschild family.

But miraculously the Baron was treating the Rabbi like his best friend. He
was smiling, laughing and putting his arm around the Rabbi's shoulder at
every opportunity as though nothing could please him more than the Rabbi's
company! In fact Rabbi Pevzner even managed to set an appointment with him
for the next day in his office.

It seemed that this was the breakthrough he was praying for! But he was in
for a bitter surprise.

It was all a show. It seems that the Baron had some sort of political reason
to pose publicly as a friend of Jewish Orthodoxy, but privately was a
completely different story.

When the Rabbi arrived at the Baron's office the Baron's secretary told him
bluntly and in no uncertain terms that he, and all other Rabbis in the world
could jump in the lake and they would never enter the Baron's office.

It seemed that even the Rebbe's dollar couldn't help.

The precious months passed and the situation got worse. If it wasn't for
that dollar Rabbi Pevzner would have gone mad. He had tried everything!
Where would he get a ten million euro donation? He could do nothing but go
on spreading Judaism and try not to think of it. But it was impossible.

Then, just as he thought that things couldn't get worse, they did. He got
invited to a formal government dinner.

He hated official government functions, especially the dinners. They were
boring, pompous, false, extravagant and exactly the opposite of everything
he stood for. He had nothing to do there but force smiles and shake hands,
he couldn't even eat the food and especially now with his life's work
crumbling before his eyes he was certainly not in the mood for parties. But
he had to.

And when he arrived he saw it was worse than he thought; It was a large and
gaudy affair hosted by none other than his 'friend' Baron Rothschild!

The Rabbi wanted to turn back and head for the exit but before he could move
the Baron zeroed in on him and began his fawning act again. He hugged him
warmly, smiled like a clown and posed with his arm around him whenever

Suddenly the Rabbi got a bold idea.

He pictured the Rebbe's face handing him the dollar, mustered up his courage
and said in a loud enough voice to be heard,

"Tell me my friend, why is it that now you are so friendly when just a few
months ago you refused to even see me?"

The Baron was confused. He paled, faked a smile and whispered to the Rabbi
"Don't tell anyone about what happened. Listen, tomorrow morning I promise
that if you call my office I will make a time to see you."

And so it was; two days later he was sitting before the Baron in his plush
office. But he was so apprehensive that all he could manage to do was be
friendly and hope the Baron would change his anti-Semitic attitude. Until
Rothschild himself finally interrupted,

"Rabbi, we both are busy men and there is no point wasting time. Tell me
what you want!"

Rabbi Pevzner poured out his heart and when he was finished Rothschild
lifted the phone, called a close friend, a retired economist, briefly told
him the story and asked if he would be willing to investigate the case.

The economist accepted and when he met the Rabbi the next day he revealed
that he too was an assimilated Jew who happened to know a bit about Judaism.
Everything he saw in 'Sinai'; the order and joyous atmosphere, the hundreds
of children of all ages, the devoted teachers and workers and the incredible
debt seemed to make a deep impression, but it was impossible to tell.

No one knows what he reported to the Baron but it was enough to cause him to
make a meeting with the bankruptcy officials and promise that he; the
rabidly anti-religious Baron Rothschild, would personally....cover the

That's right! He personally promised to give five million euro from his own
pocket and arrange allocations to pay the rest!!

One week before the deadline, the Rebbe's dollar brought Ten million euro
and at least two estranged Jews a bit closer to Judaism.

This answers our question.

The reason that Yaakov left Ber Sheva, which was a place that was friendly
and conducive to serving G-d, and went to Charan,(28:10) which was the
opposite, was in order to purify the world.

In Ber Sheva he would never come in contact with the difficulties that the
Jewish people were chosen by G-d to transform into holiness. But in Charan
there were plenty.

This is signified by the stones that he put around his head (28:11) that
miraculously transformed into one stone (28:18): Yaakov's job in the world
and that of the Jewish people is 'unify' the entire creation, including the
evil Lavan (Torah Ohr 23:a), with the Creator.

But this takes much painstaking and time consuming work.

That is why Yaakov was willing to labor for twenty years. He wasn't a fool
and he wasn't after the material profits; he was preparing the world for the
Jewish people to bring Moshiach and make this world a heaven on earth.

Something like how Rabbi Pevzner in doing the work of the Rebbe had a
positive effect on even his opposition and miraculously solved all his
problems so we will see, in an infinitely greater way, that the entire world
will be perfected with the immediate arrival of....

Moshiach NOW!!

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
Kfar Chabad, Israel

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