25 Adar 5781 / Tuesday, March 09, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayakhel - Pekudei
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Bereshit: Using Our Innate Abilities    

Bereshit: Using Our Innate Abilities

Instead of using my true abilities for your own benefit, you tried to break my back with chopping wood and shoveling manure...


And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good (Breishit 1:31).
Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) is known as the wisest of all men that ever walked the face of the earth. Yet, how could he criticize Hashem's world and say that it was devoid of all substance, "Futility of futilities" (Kohelet 1:2), in direct contradiction to the Torah?
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that the task of a Jew in this world is to free his or her brain from foreign wisdom, which prevents the Jewish mind from its source of vitality, namely, the Divine wisdom of Torah. It is this wisdom of Torah that leads to the awe of God and to happiness in the heart (see Likutei Moharan I:5). As such, the more a Jew seeks the Divine wisdom of Torah, the happier he or she will be. Unfortunately, the opposite holds true as well – the more people clog their brains with foreign wisdom, the unhappier they will ultimately be.
In light of Rebbe Nachman's above teaching, there is no contradiction between our Torah passage at hand and between Kohelet's utterance, "Futilities of futilities." Our Sages teach us that Hashem created the world using the Torah as a blueprint; therefore, when the world is governed according to Torah, and specifically when a Jew lives his or her life according to Torah, everything is good, just as Hashem created it. But, when the world is used in violation of Torah, it becomes a futility of futilities. Consequently, the Torah and the Divinely-inspired Kohelet are in perfect harmony with one another. With Hashem's loving guidance, the following parable will help us understand this principle:
The King's son was brilliantly knowledgeable in all the life sciences and secrets of creation. More than anything, he was an expert physician. One day, he went for a walk to breathe fresh air and to stretch his limbs. Inadvertently, he left the palace grounds and roamed off into the woods. The sun set rapidly in the western horizon and the prince lost his sense of direction. The harder he tried to find his way out of the woods, the more he lost his way. Night fell, and he was forced to camp out in the wild.
The prince awoke at daybreak and found himself surrounded by a group of forest ruffians, a band of fugitives and thieves under the leadership of Gunther, their ruthless scar-faced leader.
Gunther sadistically reduced the gentle prince to a slave in forced labor. He mercilessly forced the prince to do backbreaking and degrading tasks. Gunther's ulcer and his constant heartburn contributed even more to his nasty mood and demeanor. The arch criminal had never met a physician that succeeded in relieving his constant discomfort. Lacking proper care, his health deteriorated from day to day.
One day, while the prince was forced to chop wood under the heavy guard of two armed bandits, a blood-curdling yell reverberated throughout the forest. Gunther's ulcer was acting up, and the acid burns on the walls of his stomach made him feel like he was burning in the fires of purgatory. His screams sounded as if they too originated in the bowels of the nether worlds. One guard shrugged his shoulders and said to the other, "We had better steer clear of the old man – his ulcer's got the best of him today."
The prince laid down his ax. "Take me to Gunther," he told the guards. "I'm a doctor – I can help him."
"You lazy good-for-nothing," they chided, "you just want to avoid your work. Pick your ax up and keep chopping!"
"I don't envy your miserable selves if your leader discovers that I could have helped him and you refused to allow me," said the prince. A chill of fear crept up their spine, so they hurried the prince to their leader.
The prince made a potion of forest herbs and bark tea. The dubious Gunther felt almost immediate relief. In the coming days, the prince prepared a special diet for the ruthless leader and cured him altogether.
"Why didn't you tell me you are an expert physician when we first brought you here?" demanded Gunther.
"You bound my hands and feet, and wouldn't let me say a word," answered the prince. "You treated me like a slave without even asking who I am! Instead of using my true abilities for your own benefit, you tried to break my back with chopping wood and shoveling manure. Your own cruelty extenuated your suffering. So you see, by using me as a slave instead of my true abilities as the son of the King, you destroy yourself…
The prince symbolizes of the People of Israel. The thieves of the forest are the nations of the world and Gunther is their ruthless leader who tyrannically tries to tear the Jews away from Torah and to enslave them or force them to act like non-Jews. But, whenever the tyrant – be it Pharaoh, Haman, Hitler, or Sadaam Hussein – tries to enslave the Jews, he and his nation are destroyed. If the tyrants would have had the sense to allow the Jews to pursue their lifestyle of Torah observance, the world would flourish as Hashem planned, and everything would be good. But, when Jews are torn from Torah and become slaves to foreign ideas or cultures, the entire world becomes a futility of futilities, and everyone suffers.
When the Jewish People devote their lives to Torah, the world flourishes.
May Hashem return the entire Jewish people to Torah, speedily and in our days, Amen.

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