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FRUMToronto Articles Parsha Pearls

Devrei Torah relating to the weekly Parsha.

Blog Image: Thoughts.JPG
Reb Shlomo Zalman- B'har / B'chukosai

These parshios are so full of messages of love and closeness with Hashem and with our fellow Jews, it makes it difficult to choose what to tell you. B’EzH I am making the right choice.                                                                       

The gemara (Kiddushin 20) links the parsha of B’har by telling a story of downfall. Briefly, a man cannot withstand the admittedly formidable challenge of the Shmittah year and does business with the produce of his field during that year. He gets punished for his lack of faith and eventually loses all his money. Finally to sustain himself, he has to sell himself as a slave and finally allows himself to be sold as a servant in a idol worshipping temple. To stoop so low as to daily serve the needs of the pagans, one would think that the Torah would tell us to castigate and ex-communicate and shun this man, but ’au contraire’, the Torah commands us as a community and as individuals to do what it takes to redeem him from this servitude to pagans, and return him into the bossom of the Jewish community.                                                                                               
At the edge of a cemetary in Tiberias, is the grave of a man named Mendel Shuv (a.k.a. Veider). Here is his story.              He grew up in a fine home in Hungary. In his teen years he was a very bright rabbinical prospect learning in one of the yeshivos. He truly was excelling at his studies, but he did have one flaw - he was over-confident and overly ambitious. After receiving his Smicha, he was anxious to fulfill his life long dream of becoming a Rabbi of a community, a leader. But perhaps because of his youth or perhaps because his arrogance and self-interest showed in his behavior and manner, he got rejected by every prospective community for whom he tried out. Anger welled up inside him to the point where he suddenly burst; he threw away all of his life as a Jew and converted to catholicism. He, consumed by feelings of rage and revenge, was determined to raise himself to the heights of the catholic church hierarchy where he would be able to make major trouble for the Jews. He studied at the seminary diligently and rose to the rank of cardinal. Now his demonic plan could really begin. Anti-semitism in the 1930’s in Europe was quite open and Hungary was no different. "Iron Cross" groups were all over the country attacking Jews, burning Jewish businesses, spreading libels etc. Cardinal Mendel Shuv, from his now very powerful and influential position, gave speeches of encouragement and justification to these young anti-semites and tremendously increased the suffering of the Jews in Hungary. Then, World War 2 started. The Iron Cross remained strong even before Hitler took over Hungary, but the cardinal himself began to feel insecure. The nazis would look for all Jews, even converted cardinals. His paranoia grew with each passing day and with the news of how Jews were being rounded up and sent to be murdered. Finally one night he had a horrific nightmare. It was all driving him insane.                                                                                                                               
One morning he broke free - he snuck out of his plush church office, changed out of his robes, and knocked on the door of the Skulener Rebbe Z"TL ( a man famous for his kindness and generosity especially to orpans, widows, the poor and displaced). "I want to return to Judaism" the tormented looking man told the Rebbe, "I am Mendel Shuv."                                    
Mendel spent a lot of time with the Rebbe. The Rebbe did not toture him per se but in no uncertain terms, made Mendel understand the enormity of his sins. Not only did he inflict great suffering on Hungary’s Jews for a number of years, but the consequences of his deeds were still hurting the Jews. Mendel’s contrition and sorrow knew no bounds and he spent the rest of his lifedavening and doing the most heartfelt of T’shuvas. Near the end of his life he moved to Eretz Yisrael, to Tiberias, where he continued his life of brokenhearted T’shuva and was buried there - a true Ba’al T’shuva.                                                
In one of his conversations with his mentor, the Skulener Rebbe, who had sternly but gently helped him turn his life around, asked him, " R’ Mendel, you did what you did - you slammed the door on Judaism, you became a complete apostate, converted to a religion that has persecuted us for 1500 years and rose in their ranks to a priest and finally a cardinal. But why didn’t you go all the way - why did you never change your name from Mendel Shuv ?" I’ll tell you Rebbe, he said with tears running down his cheeks, " I kept the name ’Shuv’ because I always knew deep in my heart that I would return( ’shuv’ in Hebrew means to return )."                                                                                                                                   
This is what we see from this story in the parsha. It may look like someone has sunk to the lowest depths, working for pagans, even becoming almost the pagan high priest, but we are still commanded to try and bring them back, to lend a hand and redeem them. Even more important and poignant for us is the other side of the coin. If the terrible ’cardinal Shuv’ always had this deep inner knowledge that he could never close the door completely on Yiddishkeit, that he was not ’lost’, certainly we, regarding anything that we do which is not good, should never consider ourselves ’lost’. We should never think that we cannot change ( e.g. I’ll never be able to conquer my desire to speak loshon hora or I’ll never be a learner ). The Jewish neshama within us is very powerful and is always ready to return to its source - Hashem.                                                                   
I hope this was a good story and important message of love and hope as we approach our annual acceptance of the Torah.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Have a wonderful Shabbos everyone. I love you all, ’d’            

Posted 5/15/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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