Torah Fax

Friday, November 5, 2004 - 21 MarCheshvan, 5765

Torah Reading:  Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 - 25:18)
Candle Lighting time: 4:28 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:29 PM

Go East Young Man

Abraham, the first Patriarch, is best known to us as the father of Isaac, our second Patriarch. Many may also recall that Abraham was the father of Yishmael. A less well known fact, mentioned at the end of our Parshah, is that Abraham had six more children.

Yet the Torah draws a sharp distinction between the way Abraham treated these latter children and the way he treated Isaac. Before his passing, Abraham gave "all he had" to his son Isaac (Gen 25:5). To the other children, Abraham gave some token gifts and sent them eastward.

On the surface, Abraham sent his sons away so that they would not lay claim to the Land of Israel, the land that was promised exclusively to Isaac. But, according to the Zohar, Abraham had a deeper reason for sending his latter progeny away and it relates to the nature of the gifts he gave them.

Our sages ask the obvious question: if the Torah says that Abraham gave everything he had to Isaac, what was left to give to his other sons? The Zohar's answer, which is alluded to in Rashi's commentary on the Torah, is that Abraham did not give them material gifts, but rather spiritual ones. Abraham gave them various mystical and spiritual teachings that they took with them to their eastern destination. And, the Zohar concludes, that is why we find a large dose of mysticism in Eastern religions.

(Note: how sad that we find so many of our youth drawn after the teachings of Eastern philosophy! It is because their Jewish souls yearn for spirituality and holiness, something we have neglected to give them in their Jewish education, be it Hebrew school or synagogue sermon. They are drawn after these teachings elsewhere without even realizing that the spirituality that can be found in these religions has its roots in Judaism - right in their own backyard!)

We can now appreciate why Abraham sent his children eastward. He wanted to introduce a dimension of spirituality to that part of the world. The Jewish people would eventually receive the Torah and spread its teachings throughout the "western world," but there was a need to instill a similar amount of spirituality in the east as well.

To be sure, not everything we find in Eastern religions can be attributed to Abraham's teachings. Sadly, some of the elements that have crept into Eastern religions fly in the face of Abraham's monotheistic principles. Abraham's intent was to give them enough of a spiritual basis to "level the playing field," and enable those in the east to choose between paganism and monotheism. In addition, even those nations in the east that have not adopted monotheism, they have nevertheless still retained some of the salient characteristics of Judaism. When Moshiach comes and teaches everyone to serve G‑d, these spiritual underpinnings will make it easier for these nations to "make the switch" and adopt a monotheistic belief system.

If we analyze the unusual turn of events that has occurred in the Jewish community over the last few decades, we can see yet another advantage that has come from Abraham's gift to his "children of the east." Recently, we have witnessed many Jews returning to their Jewish roots. A number of these people have returned only after searching for spirituality in Eastern religions. Having subsequently discovered that the mystical teachings of the East originated in Judaism (their own backyard, as we mentioned above), these Jews have returned to Judaism. Thus, Abraham's mystical gifts to his other sons have turned out to serve as a channel of bringing the children of his main son, Isaac, back to Judaism!

The Zohar also teaches that the popularization of mysticism is a prelude and preparation for Moshiach's arrival. True Judaism is an "action oriented religion" and puts great emphasis on actions over feelings and thoughts, but Judaism is nevertheless incomplete without both. The physical performance of the Mitzvot, as discussed in the Code of Jewish Law, must be complimented with the spiritual feelings that imbue these actions and give them deeper meaning. These deeper insights are found in Mystical and Chassidic writings.

As we stand on the threshold of the Messianic Age, when the mystical teachings of Judaism will be revealed to all, we are witnessing a proliferation of Jewish mystical teachings throughout the world. While we must make sure that all of these teachings are in harmony with the teachings of the Torah (and not of all them are…) it is clear that this proliferation augurs well for the future of the Jewish people and the entire world.    
Moshiach Matters

The Baal Shem Tov teaches, "When you grasp the essence, you grasp [the object] in its entirety."
Therefore, even after G‑d causes the soul to descend and enclothe itself within a physical body, and even when [the world at large] is in a period of exile, the soul is not in exile. (From a Chasidic discourse of the Rebbe)(L'CHAIM) 
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