This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeitzei (5764)
This week's section opens as Jacob (Yaakov) was fleeing from his evil brother Asav who wanted to kill him for stealing their father's blessings for victory and success.
This is very problematic. It seems to imply that that the evil Asav desired and valued these blessings while Yaakov, by running away seemingly doubted the victory and success they promised!
Then it tells us of Yaakov and his perilous and frustrating tribulations at the hand of his crooked father-in-law, Lavan, who tricked him into working non-stop for twenty years, cheated him hundreds of times and tortured him day and night.
This is also very problematic. After all, Yaakov was only doing G-d's will raising twelve sons who would become the Twelve Tribes. He was establishing the Jewish people! Why so many harsh difficulties?
But the most important question of all: what does this almost four thousand year old, seemingly negative story have to do with us today?
To understand all this, here is a story.
Boruch was in trouble. His daughter was twenty five, getting older every day and he had no dowry to offer a prospective groom. In fact he, as all the Jews in the area, barely had enough to live on.
And it was all because of the cruel Poritz (Landowner) who not only charged ridiculously high rent but also regularly imposed strange fines and taxes on the Jews to cover his lavish life style and gambling debts.
To top it all off, one day a matchmaker came up with a good suggestion for his daughter!!
Oy! A good suggestion!! But all poor Boruch had to offer were debts! And the 'suggestion' himself was in the same economic bracket.
With no alternative Boruch set out by foot to see the great Tzadik (Holy Jew) Rebbe Elimelich of Lezinsk [One of the foremost pupils of the Magid of Meseritz, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov] for help.
Boruch was very timid by nature; maybe too timid, and he hated to bother the Rebbe but now he was desperate and the Rebbe, who like Moses had the power to miraculously free Jews from 'Egypt', was his only chance.
Two days later he was standing before the holy Tzadik humbly pouring out his heart. Just to stand before such a holy genus was a humbling experience how much more so to beg like a pauper.
The Rebbe heard the story and smiled assuringly, told him that there was nothing to worry about, took three ten-kopek coins from his desk drawer and put them on the table before Boruch as if to say…. 'Here's what you've been waiting for'!
Boruch looked at the coins and almost began to cry from confusion. Something crazy was going on here. Thirty Kopeks was close to nothing. There was no possibility that Rebbe misunderstand what he said. But thirty kopeks?! A wedding with one musician costs at least a thousand Kopeks. What could he possibly do with thirty Kopeks?!
But, reminding himself that the Rebbe certainly knew what he was doing and hoping that the Rebbe didn't notice his dismay, he took the coins as though they were worth millions, forced a smile, said thank you, and tried his best to look grateful as he backed out of the room.
Trodding slowly on the road back home he couldn't help, as always, thinking negative thoughts. What would he tell his wife and daughter? What would he say to his friends? To the groom? The groom's family? The matchmaker? This was the end!! No one can make a wedding with thirty kopeks? Just as he left the city boundary he heard someone yelling in the distance from behind him.
"Hey, Hey there!! Hey, Stop!!"
He turned to see one of the Rebbe's Chassidim running after him waving his arms. "Stop!! Hey!! Stop!!"
'Aha!' he thought to himself. "The Rebbe had been testing me! He wanted to see how I reacted. What a fool I was for doubting!!! For sure here is the rest of the money!!!" The Chassid arrived and was still huffing and puffing as he spoke.
"The Rebbe sent me…… to say that he gave you …... He wants you to…….. to give back one of the coins. That's what he told me to tell you…….. I should take back one of the coins. He gave you too much."
Boruch was too numb to react. He mechanically took one of the three coins from his pocket, handed it over, the Chassid put it in his own pocket and then with a brisk 'Thank you, have a good journey' ran back to the city leaving the perplexed Boruch alone to resume his trip... ten Kopeks poorer.
Now he was really confused. But the idea popped into his mind…. There is a Chassidic saying "Think good and it will be good." For sure these bad thoughts weren't helping… and slowly they were driving him insane!
An hour later, trying to keep positive, he saw up the road a group of three young ruffians huddled over a bonfire off to a side. "Oy!" he though to himself… "This means trouble!"
But instead of cowering as usual he put his hand in his pocket, felt the coins, remembered his resolution, pictured his Rebbe's face and stood straight, smiling.
The gentiles looked up and approached, one of them holding up a leather bag. "Hello there Jew! Want to buy a good purse?"
He shook their hands, took the bag and had a look. It was truly a fine piece of work, well sewn with golden inlays. He opened it to have a look at the lining and there was….. money!!! Perhaps twenty notes of large denominations in German currency!! It was a small fortune! The boys probably had no idea what they were but he recognized them.
"Sure, you can have the pictures too." They said. "Just give us thirty Kopeks and its all yours."
Boruch almost passed out! Thirty Kopeks?? Why that is what he HAD! "But Gevald! All I have is twenty!!" He thought to himself and began to get depressed and confused like always. But he the coins reminded him to be positive. He remained calm, closed his eyes and prayed for an idea…. And suddenly he had it!"
"Listen fellows. You know what?" he heard himself say confidently, "I don't have enough for the bag. But I'll give you twenty Kopeks for the pictures."
The boys looked at each other trying to hide their glee, what a fool! Twenty kopeks for paper!! Now they could sell the purse twice!! They took the coins, shook his hand again and gladly let him take the pieces of paper pictures while they held on to the purse and watched him turn and continue his long trek home.
As soon as Boruch was far enough away from them he took out the bills and counted. Twenty bills, each worth the equivalent of five thousand kopeks. It was a fortune!! He was rich!! He and his entire community were saved! It was a miracle!!
But when he arrived home his wife, although overjoyed, reminded him that he couldn't take the money until he was sure it was ownerless.
So a few days later he returned to Lezinsk, first to find out if anyone there knew to whom the purse belonged and if not to give a big donation and invite the Rebbe to his daughter's wedding. But before he reached the Rebbe's house he felt someone staring at him. He turned to look and it was one of those gentile boys that had sold him the 'pictures', but now he was bandaged and beaten. Reb Boruch nodded and the boy began to talk.
"Hello there Jew. You're the one we met with the purse right? Well you'll never guess what happened. As soon as you left we got into an argument about how to divide the coins and the purse, you know, who gets what. Well, somehow the purse fell into the fire and well, that was the end of it. We just left it there to burn. Who would buy a singed purse?
Then, about five minutes later this huge wagon comes storming up from the direction of the city, stops where we are, and who gets out but that devil the Poritz. He was screaming ….. about his purse.
"Well, by that time it was just ashes, only a few strips of metal left and when he saw it there in the fire he started cursing, jumping around and screaming at us like a mad man… for a stupid purse!! He began beating us with his can and ordered his servants to do the same. What a maniac! For a purse!! And he's supposed to be a rich man!
"Then he jumped into his carriage and drove back to where he came from. Lucky you didn't buy the purse and he didn't continue straight. If he would have seen you he probably would have killed you…. He hates you Jews. He almost killed us!"
Suddenly Boruch understood. If he would have had all thirty kopeks to buy that purse, the Poritz would have continued down the road, found the purse by him and maybe even killed him. For sure he wouldn't be rich!
The twenty Kopeks the Rebbe gave Boruch was just enough money to make him rich … and change his attitude about seeming bad luck.
This answers our questions.
The blessings Jacob got from his father were true; he was destined for success and victory. But they could only be activated when Jacob awoke his inner powers (like Boruch in our story) and that could only come through tests and tribulations. .
Jacob was the main founder of the Jewish people. He became "Yisroel" and from him issued the twelve tribes who would be 'Bnei Yisroel". Yisroel implies 'straight' (yshar) to G-d) el. So the job of the Jews is to bring G-d straight into the world. G-d is TRUTH and LIFE. (Yaakov also represents Torat Chiam and Torat Emet; the True, Living Torah)
That is why fled from Asav; because he had not yet withstood the tests in the house of Lavan that would reveal his powers of truth and life to the Jewish people throughout the generations.
But in order to do this he had to first overcome falsehood and death. Falsehood in the house of Lavan and death by his brother Asav, Something like what the hero of our story went through in order to become wealthy.
And this is very relevant to us.
G-d has spread us to the corners of the earth for almost 2,000 years. We have suffered beyond the power of words to describe or the mind to conceive. But we have inherited from Jacob the power to transform it all and reveal the innermost powers of truth and life (Yechida) of each Soul and pave the way for the ultimate world truth, Moshiach, and even eternal LIFE... the Raising of the Dead.
So when we meet with (G-d forbid) obstacles and hardships no matter how difficult they seem, we should remember that we have the power and blessing of the Patriarchs to overcome and even transform them just as a little light can transform darkness.
Just one more good deed, word or even thought it can tilt the scales and bring……
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