This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeitzei (5765)
This week's section begins with Jacob going to sleep.
At first glance this is not very interesting. But Rashi, the foremost commentator of the Torah, tells us that, in fact, this was the FIRST TIME Jacob slept in fourteen years because he had been busy learning Torah!(28:11).
Furthermore, our section (31:38) tells us that Jacob did it again; he didn't sleep at all during the twenty years he tended the sheep of his uncle, Lavan.
Does this make sense?
Is it possible to fight off sleep for fourteen years (not to mention twenty)!? And why would anyone even WANT to do such a thing?
To understand here is a story.
Some twenty years ago Rabbi Moshe Kotlarski, one of the Rebbe's most trusted emissaries, was sitting in his home in Crown Hights when he got an urgent call from the Rebbe's office.
Reb Moshe was used to it. He had been sent by the Rebbe on urgent missions throughout the world and he was ready for anything.
Sure enough when he arrived at the office they told him that the Rebbe wanted him to immediately set off for Curacao, a small Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.
He hurriedly went home, made travel arrangements packed his bags and that very day was on his way. What was he supposed to do there, who he was supposed to find, where he was supposed to go he didn't know but he was sure it would work out, it always did.
When he arrived in Curacao he picked up his bags, caught a taxi and asked to be taken to the Jewish section - to the synagogue. The driver took him through the winding streets of the city and stopped before a small building with a Star of David on the door.
The Rabbi was a bit perplexed. He had heard that although there were very few Jews in Curacao and they were barely observant, nevertheless there was a large beautiful synagogue there where all Jewish tourists were automatically taken. This couldn't be it.
As he got out and paid the driver, the door of the Synagogue opened and a middle aged man who had obviously been crying came out wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. When he looked up and saw he was standing face to face with a bearded rabbi his eyes opened wide in amazement and his mouth dropped open.
"Who are you?!" he almost whispered. "Are you from...from...the Lubavitcher Rebbe?"
"Yes" answered the Rabbi, almost as surprised as the man, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me. But how...who are?!"
Before he could complete his sentence the fellow fell upon him hugging him with all his might weeping and saying, "This is a miracle! My grandmother was right! A miracle from G-d."
Then he released his grip, stood back, grabbed the Rabbi's hand and began pumping it up and down. "Shalom, Shalom Ubracha! Ahh!, I am the father of Eli Grossman. You are the one my grandmother spoke of in the dream from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Please come to my house! This is a miracle!"
Of course the Rabbi had no idea what he was talking about but he followed. In minutes they were sitting in Mr. Grossman's house and he told his story.
"I live here in Curacao because I have a good business here. But I also have a big problem. Very big. This country, like all the other South American countries, is Catholic. And I have a son. His name is Eli. He is a bright boy and he wants to learn but all the schools and all the teachers here make problems for him.
"For instance the prayers; All the rooms have crosses and religious pictures which is possible to ignore. But when it comes to the prayers all the teachers, especially the principal of the school, suddenly become religious, at least where my Eli is concerned, and they make him a lot of trouble. He doesn't want to pray with them.
"You know, Rabbi, we are not religious people at all, not at all. But somehow my Eli he is different than we are; he is very proud to be a Jew.
"Anyway, I don't know how he did it but he actually made it to the seventh grade. Maybe the teachers thought that by acting nice they would change him or something but now they started getting mean. The children in the school also began calling him names and even beating him up, and there was no one to complain to. The principal and teachers encouraged them.
"So Eli found his own solution. Every morning after I drove him to school he would wait till my car was out of sight and then would run away and spend the day at the golf course where no one would notice him.
"But eventually it came to a head. The principal called me and told me that Eli wasn't attending and I should speak to him. But it didn't work. I tried to convince Eli to go along with them. Not to make problems and just to do what they said. But he didn't say anything.
"The next morning he took his books, went to the school, entered the principal's office and announced that he was officially dropping out. He left the books on the table and left the room.
"The next day officials from the government knocked on our door. They announced that every child must attend school; children that refuse are placed in government schools which are much worse. Eli must make up his mind. Public school or government school.
"But he held strong. And my wife and I also did. Rabbi, like I say, we are not religious people. My grandmother in Russia was very religious but here it is different, we had to be modern. But now something started to change in us.
"I suddenly began to feel proud to be a Jew. To want to fight like my Eli. But then I reminded myself that I would be losing everything; my clients would stop coming and my friends and neighbors would hate me. I was confused I even started to cry.
"Then last night I had a dream.
"I dreamt that I was a young boy sitting on my grandmother's lap. She hugged me, looked deeply into my eyes and said, 'my beloved, if you ever find yourself in trouble, the Lubavitcher Rebbe will be able to help you.'"
"This morning when I awoke I remembered the dream. It was the first time I ever heard this name; 'Lubavitcher Rebbe', but it stuck in my mind and I had this feeling that if I went to the synagogue and prayed everything would be alright. So I went to the small Synagogue.
"When I arrived it was already afternoon and the door was locked. Luckily the janitor was there to let me in. The place was quiet; I took a seat and probably for the first time in my life actually prayed to G-d. I prayed for a long time. And it worked!! Here you are!!
"But somehow the Lubavitcher Rebbe must have told you to come yesterday, before I prayed. How did he do that? Who is he?
Reb Moshe explained that the letters 'Rebbe' (RBY) stand for 'Rosh Bnei Yisroel'; The Head of the Jewish People. And just as the head feels the body, the Rebbe feels for every Jew in the world.
But what Rabbi Kotlarski could not explain was why the taxi driver didn't take him to the big synagogue but rather to this place and exactly at the time when Mr. Grossman happened to be there.
If it wasn't for these 'coincidences' he could have wandered for days without finding why he was sent.
That very day Rabbi Kotlarski enrolled Eli in the summer camp of Gan Yisroel in New York and several months later, when the camp finished, he enrolled in the yeshiva system of Chabad in New York.
Today Eli is a full fledged Chassid and his parents are observant Jews.
This explains why Jacob didn't sleep. He was busy preparing the way for the "Heads of the Jewish People". [G-d later changed Jacob's name to 'Yisroel'. So his children, who births are related in this week's section, were "Bnei Yisroel" and he was their first ''Head"].
The job of the Jewish people is to reveal G-dliness in this world, something like how it was in the Holy Temple. But it takes a Rebbe, a Jewish 'Head' to CONSTANTLY awaken and inspire them to do it.
And that is what Jacob did the fourteen years he learned Torah and twenty years he served Lavan: gave future Jewish leaders the power to constantly awaken Jews throughout the generations. Like the above story and the following one.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe once told an admirer, a basketball trainer that had become a Baal Tshuva, that he should get more sleep. The trainer replied, 'But you yourself don't sleep! How can you tell me to sleep?"
"I" answered the Rebbe with a smile, "don't sleep because I worry about you and millions like you. But you should get more sleep."
And through our constant service we will soon merit to be led by the ultimate Jewish leader: the Moshiach. As the Rambam writes, "here will arise a King over the Jewish people that works in Torah and strengthening Judaism".
We NEED Moshiach NOW!!
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