Thursday, February 02, 2006

Parshat Bo & Yud Shevat

Parshat Bo & Yud Shevat

Rabbi Bolton on tour Feb 2 -13.
Full information here:

This week's section tells of the last three plagues and the Exodus of
the entire Jewish nation from Egyptian slavery.

Strangely, the Jews prepared for this monumental event in a seemingly
very inappropriate way:

All Jewish males had to undergo a painful and debilitating operation
and then eat a full meat meal: they circumcised themselves and then
had to eat from the Korbon Pesach - the Pesach Offering, just hours
before beginning an arduous desert trek.

Who would do such a crazy thing? Why did G-d want them to do it? What
sense did it make?!

Also, this coming week we celebrate the Tenth day (yud) of Shvat; that
date of the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (1950) Rabbi
Yosef Yitzchak and the date, one year later, that his son-in-law
succeeded him.

Is there a connection?

To understand this here is a story.

About 250 years ago in the Ukraine, Jewish education was a big
problem. Gentiles had the option, which they often took, to leave
their children unlettered but not the Jews! That a Jewish child could
be illiterate and unable to approach the wonderful, holy Torah was

In fact, education was so ingrained in the Jewish soul that even
non-observant parents, which began to be more and more common, often
hired Torah teachers for their children.

One such Jew lived in a small village. He was well-off financially and
personally considered himself to be far above the antiquated Torah and
it's commandments but for some reason, that he himself couldn't figure
out, he wanted his children to learn Judaism.

The teacher he hired happened to be a young married Chassid, that we
will call Yankel, who had to leave his wife and three children far
away to come to teach in this village with an agreement that he could
travel home twice a year; Tishre and Nissan, for the holidays.

But as the month of Tishrei approached his boss started to have
regrets. True he didn't have much patience for Judaism the rest of the
year but Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur were different! He was sick of
the old farmer that usually led the prayers in the town and wanted
Yankel to stay in the village and lead the prayers on the High Holy
Days. But an agreement is an agreement and in any case he couldn't
stop Yankel from seeing his family.

But he was surprised to hear that Yankel had no intention of going
home. Rather he said that he was going to Liozne see his Rebbe, Rabbi
Shneur Zalman of Laidi the (first) Rebbe of Chabad.

His boss couldn't figure out why Yankel would want to go see a Rebbe
when He was a rebbe himself! Everyone in the village called him 'Rebbe
Yankel'. What did he need a Rebbe for?

Yankel even tried to explain it to him; something about the Moses of
each generation and a general soul, but he didn't understand a word.
Yankel seemed to be a normal, intelligent young man. Why would he
forego a visit to his family to see some Moses?

Yankel didn't give up. He tried again and again to explain but his
boss was too seeped in the mundane for anything to penetrate. Until
finally Yankel just said, 'Listen, if you want to know what a Rebbe
is, then why don't you just come to Liozne with me. It will be an

It was all too spiritual for the boss and at first he refused. But
after several days of hearing Yaakov ramble on, his curiosity got the
best of him and he took up the invitation.

Yaakov was especially glad not only because it might awaken his boss'
Jewish soul but also because he wouldn't have to walk for five days;
his boss had a horse and wagon.

When they arrived in Liozne his boss was surprised to see hundreds,
maybe thousands of Chassidim that seemed to know and respect Yaakov
and that were friendly to him as well. They shook his hand warmly,
spoke openly and in general the atmosphere was happy and positive.

He accompanied Yaakov to the place where they were staying but that
night he saw that Yaakov, instead of just falling exhausted into bed
as he did, seemed to be preparing for something. He was looking in his
Siddur (prayer book) praying and swaying back and forth with such
concentration that his boss had to interrupt and ask him why.

Yaakov explained that tomorrow after the morning after prayer, would
be his turn to enter for 'Yechidut', a private audience, with the
Rebbe and he is thinking about it.

His boss didn't understand a word but the next day they woke early and
when Yaakov went to stand in line for Yechidut his boss also stood
there for a while and then went back to the room to eat.

When he finished he returned to look for Yankel and when he didn't see
him, decided to stand in line for 'Yechidut' himself. He wasn't aware
that each of the Chassidim there had been preparing intensely
sometimes for years for this moment that they would be with the Rebbe,
in fact he had never been aware of anything spiritual his entire life.

Finally he was next! The Rebbe's door opened and the Chassid who had
been in before him came out. The Chassid had obviously been crying but
he wiped his eyes, grabbed another Chassid and began singing and

The boss entered, closed the door behind him and there he
was...standing before the Rebbe. The room was quiet and very solemn
but besides that he didn't really see anything special. So he just
stood there. After all, he thought to himself, he had put a lot of
time and effort to come here, now the Rebbe has to do something.

The Rebbe looked up at him and said, 'Nu?' (usually Chassidim give the
Rebbe a note with their name and request or question but he gave

'What, Nu?' Yankel's boss couldn't figure what the Rebbe wanted.

"What nu?" The Rebbe asked rhetorically.

"I will tell you. Sometimes it could be that a Jew who doesn't learn
Torah and doesn't care much about the commandments can come to do
sins. For instance…" and the Rebbe proceeded to list, one at a time,
all the sins that the Yankel's boss had done in the last few years.

The boss couldn't believe his ears! At first he was startled, how
could he know!? But then he realized what happened; it was Yankel! He
must have told the Rebbe all this!! Why, that snake!!

As soon as the Rebbe finished he turned, walked out the door and began
looking for the culprit; the informer!!

By the time he found Yankel he was burning mad. He grabbed him and
began yelling. 'How could you stab me in the back?! I've treated you
well and even brought you here… and you told the Rebbe my sins!!? Why
I'm going to..." but he saw that Yaakov was bewildered.

"What? Me? I would never! G-d forbid! What, I told your sins to the
Rebbe? Why, how could I know if you did sins?? How could I possibly
know? Just think! And even if I did, I wouldn't tell the Rebbe! G-d
forbid! That is loshon hara (slander).

"Well, if it wasn't you then who could it be!!" his boss sputtered.
"It was you all right! You can forget about working by me again!
You're lucky I don't punch you. Just keep away from me from now on!"
And he turned in anger and stormed away.

But after a few minutes it dawned on him that what Yankel said made
sense. But on the other hand, how did the Rebbe know? Why did he tell
him? What did he want? It was too confusing. He decided to leave.

Meanwhile Yaakov stood in line again to the Rebbe, told him what
happened, how now was out of a job and asked him to help.

So a few moments later Yankel's boss, who was in his room packing his
suitcase, heard a knock on his door, opened up and saw a Chassid
saying that the Rebbe wants to see him.

In a few minutes Yankel's boss was back in the Rebbe's room listening
to the Rebbe explain that not only had Yaakov never told him anything
but in fact all he said was that it's possible for one to do sins not
that anyone actually did them. And even if someone did do all those
sins they could easily be corrected.

For the first time in his life Yankel's boss didn't feel like a boss
and he didn't like the feeling… but he sensed it was the truth.
Suddenly he noticed the Rebbe. This man obviously cared about him and
wanted him to be a Jew. He had been fooling himself and the Rebbe was
peeling off his foolishness.

His eyes began to fill with tears as the Rebbe told him that from now
he would have to change his attitude to G-d and the Torah and learn to
act and think differently.

Yaakov's boss left the room a humbled man as though the Rebbe turned
on a light that showed him that his life had been in the shadows; a
complete bluff. He remained in Liozne, became a genuine Baal Tshuva
and came home a happy Jew.

This answers our questions.

When the Jews left Egypt it wasn't just for political freedom, in fact
after Egypt had been decimated by plagues they could have remained
there and themselves been bosses.

Rather they had to leave the Egypt within them.

That was the job of Moses; to make the Jews leave not only the
external but also their internal, spiritual, personal Egypts. Namely
their false egos and unwillingness to love, fear and trust the

That is why they had to circumcise themselves and sacrifice the Pesach
Lamb. The Egyptians were the epitome of egotism; famous for their
licentiousness and idolatry, and the Jews had been under their evil
influence for over two hundred years!

And just as the Rebbe made Yankel's boss in our story remove his
falseness before he could reveal and internalize the truth of Judaism
so Moshe did to all the Jews.

The circumcision negated the desire for licentiousness (with the Mila)
and the Pesach offering the desire for idolatry (the lamb was
worshiped in Egypt); Moses removed the barriers to believing in G-d
and Moses His servant.

And even more; the eating of the Pesach offering was the first time in
history that anyone had ever actually used the mundane physical act of
eating meat to reveal the inner will of the Creator in this world as
well as raise the consciousness of the person eating it to a higher
spiritual level.

And more yet: this circumcision just before the journey and the
slaughtering and eating of the god of Egypt before the very eyes of
the Egyptians requied much self-sacrifice (M'sirut Nefesh) faith and
optimism; exactly the qualities necessary to bring Moshiach and take
us from the exile we are now in.

This is what the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe did. He opened the
channel of M'sirut Nefesh, faith and optimism for our generation by
single handedly defeating Stalin's forces in Russia and later the
coldness and indifference of American Jewry.

As his successor pointed out in his acceptance 'speech'; ours is the
seventh generation of Chabad Rebbe's (beginning from Rabbi Shneur
Zalman). Just as Moses, because he was the seventh generation from
Abraham, built the Tabernacle and revealed G-d in this world so will
our generation, the generation of Moshaich, merit to see the Third

Just as Moses took the Jews out of their physical limitations and
connected the Creator and the creation, so Moshiach will take all
mankind from even spiritual limitations!!

The world will be filled with the knowledge and realization of not
just spirituality but rather of the Creator Himself; the source of all
spirituality. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that if we open our eyes
we will see that Moshiach is here right now!!

It all depends on us to remove our apprehensions, false ideas and
false egotism, and do all we can to reveal....

Moshiach NOW!!

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
Kfar Chabad, Israel
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