Thursday, January 12, 2006

Parshat Vayechi

Parshat Vayechi

Rabbi Bolton will be appearing in Chabad Houses in
Las Vegas, California and elsewhere in three weeks time!

Details to come, G-d willing.

This week's section begins on a strange note: The Patriarch Jacob on his
deathbed gathers his twelve sons around him for a final message but he
didn't succeed.

The Talmud tells us (Pesachim 56a) that Jacob wanted to reveal the end of
days to his sons (i.e. the date of the arrival of Moshiach) but the Shechina
(G-d's presence) left him and he wasn't able to"

Does this make sense? First of all, what is so important about the date when
Moshiach will arrive? Second, why couldn't he tell? It's only a date,
certainly he didn't forget it! And it couldn't be that G-d told him not to
reveal it. Exactly the opposite - the Shchina departed from him!

Perhaps we can understand this better from the following story. (Otzer
Sipuri Chabad vol. 8 pg. 62)

The first Chabad Rebbe; Shneur Zalman of Liadi was a known miracle worker
and Tzadik. Just as Moses did some three thousand years earlier (Rambam,
Y'sodi HaTorah 8:1); the miracles he did were only to help people,
especially Jews, and to better the world. In fact this was the way of all
those Tzadikim who followed 'Chassidut'; the way of the Baal Shem Tov.'

But in general the Chassidim tried to 'bother' the Rebbe with only spiritual
matters, like how to better serve the Creator. Only rarely did they come to
him with mundane issues, unless they had no other choice.

For instance, once there was no rain in the area of Liozne. The farmers had
spent all their resources; money, time and energy, plowing and planting but
without rain it meant nothing. The fields lay barrenly plowed; parched and
drying in the sun with only the farmers' tears to irrigate them. Prayer,
fasting, charity, good deeds, more prayer.. the farmers tried everything but
the skies remained deathly pale and clear. Their only recourse was the

Five of the older farmers, who were also Chassidim of the Rebbe, were
selected to travel to Liozne and the next day they were in the Rebbe's
office pleading for their lives and those of all the children, women,
orphans and widows in their village and the surrounding area. There were
also thousands of gentiles that would suffer.

But the Rebbe did not answer. In fact, he didn't react at all. He just sat
silently, almost ignoring them, looking to the side as though to say there
was nothing he could do.

The farmers stood almost paralyzed looking at the Rebbe with eyes begging
for mercy, hoping against all hope that he would say something or even
glance at them. But it didn't happen.

After several minutes one of them quietly began to back up toward the exit
and they all followed suit. Once outside the room they closed the Rebbe's
door and all burst out crying. They were helpless.. even G-d didn't seem to
want to help.

But it just so happened that the Rebbe's grandson, Menachem Mendel
(nicknamed the Tzemach Tzedek who was a young man at the time and would
become the third Rebbe of Chabad) and two other well-known great Chassidim,
one of whom was Rabbi Issac of Homel a known Tzadik, were sitting nearby
learning Talmud together with great vigor but stopped when they heard the

They stood and approached the farmers and asked for an explanation. "How can
it be that you fellows are sad? Who cries after leaving the Rebbe!? Every
Chassid that comes out of Yechidut (private meeting with the Rebbe) is happy
and dancing!! Why are you different?"

But when they heard the explanation they fell silent in deep thought. The
Rebbe's grandson broke the silence.

"Don't worry!" He said with certainty, "I just thought of a solution that
will surely work."

He called to the fellow that had been chosen to be the Rebbe's assistant
that night; a simple but devoted Chassid who had been given charge of
letting people into Yechidut, and said.

"My friend! We three Rabbis constitute a judicial court and you must. we are
commanding you to. follow our orders."

The simple fellow had never been in such close proximity to such great and
legendary Chassidim and was awestruck. He shook his head in amazed
agreement. The Rebbe's grandson wrote something on a paper, handed it to him
and said:

"Remember, one who disobeys a judicial court is punishable by ostracism from
the community (Shamta). Therefore we command you to read to the Rebbe what
is written here.

When the Chassid read what they had written on the page he began trembling
from head to toe and almost fainted. He couldn't do it! He wanted to say no
and walk away, but a Judicial court! He had no choice.

He entered the office of the Rebbe and when the Rebbe looked up said meekly,
"Rebbe, I have been adjured by a bait din (Torah court), your grandson, Rab
Issac and another to read this to you, and if I don't do it I could be
punished." He looked intensely at the paper so as not to see the Rebbe's
face, cleared his throat and read:

"If you are able to help the farmers that just left your room and you don't,
then you are a thief. Why not give them what is due to them? And if the
reason you didn't help them is because you can't, then how can you accept on
yourself to be the leader of thousands of Jews?! You are a fraud! '

The Rebbe folded his arms on the table before him and lowered his forehead
on them for a long moment. what seemed to the servant an eternity. He just
wanted to silently back out of the room. but he was afraid.

Suddenly a cold wind rattled the window and the the room became gradually
darker. The skies were becoming overcast with clouds! The Rebbe sat up for a
few seconds, seemed to be in another world and repeated the scene a second
time. But this time small drops of water began pattering on the window pane.
The Rebbe did the same thing a third time and a minute after he put his head
down rain began pouring in torrents.

Outside the Rebbe's room the farmers saw the rain and ran into the street
arms raised and faces to heaven, weeping and hugging each other, drenched to
the bone, dancing and falling in the mud.

Rab Issak of Homel looked to the Tzemach Tzedek, turned his palms up
questioningly, shrugged his shoulders in amazement and asked for an
explanation; where had he learned that trick?! And how could he have been
so certain that it would work!?

"It was simple" the Tzemach Tzedek answered, "It is written explicitly in a
story found in the Talmud in Tractate Taanit, page 24b.

"Once there was a drought and the farmers went to the great Amora (holy wise
men after the time of the Mishna) Rav Pappa to ask him to pray for rain. Rav
Pappa declared a fast and everyone prayed and fasted. It was a difficult
fast and in fact Rav Pappa himself became so weak that had to eat some
porridge to keep conscious and continue praying. But after all this the rain
didn't come.

"At this point another Amora, Rav Nachman bar Ushpazti came up to him and
said sarcastically, "Rav Pappa, maybe if you eat yet another bowl of
porridge do you think rain will fall them?!" The Talmud tells us that Rav
Pappa was ashamed and rain began pouring.

"I always wondered" The Tzemach Tzedek continued, "What the Talmud was
teaching us with this story, certainly it can't be encouraging one scholar
ridiculing another, G-d forbid? But just now, suddenly I understood what it
means. Rav Pappa was the leader and holiest man in his generation but
sometimes such a Tzadik gets so pure and removed that he has no connection
to this world and has to be brought down to give blessings. That is what
Rabbi Nachman did. And that is what I did to my grandfather, the Rebbe.
That brought the Rebbe down to the physical world of people and events."

This is the lesson from our section.

Yaakov wanted to tell his sons that the time for the redemption was now. He
wanted to draw down to them the power, blessing and ability to change
themselves and the world: to reveal the Oneness of the Creator in the entire
creation and bring Moshiach immediately.

But he became so spiritual and removed at this intensely holy moment that
the 'Shechina'; namely the ability to make this extra measure of G-dliness
dwell (Shochain) into his sons, departed from him.

And, unlike our story, there was no one to 'bring him down to earth'.

This is the job of the Baal Shem Tov and his teachings of Chassidut (if you
have never learned Chassidut please visit your nearest Chabad House): to
bring G-dliness down to earth; into our minds, hearts, daily lives and even
our most mundane matters.

Namely, to return the world to real consciousness (Tshuva); so that even the
most distant Jews, the most distant recesses of our Jewish souls and
eventually the entire world, will awaken to a true desire for Moshiach and
the awareness of the Creator that he will bring.

This is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe announced time and time again: The time
for redemption is here!! The goal of the Baal Shem Tov and all the Tzadikim
after him has been completed.

We have the power, the blessing and ability to manifest Jacob's fervent
desire and bring....

Moshiach NOW!!

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
Kfar Chabad, Israel

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