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23.06.2013 17:43    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  shiur  

One Minute on this Shabbat with Rabbi Cowen:


The King of Moav, Balak, is in morbid fear of the Nation of Israel. He summons the renowned sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them. First, G-d speaks to Bilaam and forbids him to go. But, because Bilaam is so insistent, G-d appears to him a second time and permits him to go. While en route, an angel blocks Bilaam's donkey's path. Unable to contain his frustration, Bilaam strikes the donkey each time it stops or tries to detour. Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bilaam why he is hitting her. The angel instructs Bilaam regarding what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say with respect to the Jewish People. When Bilaam arrives,

King Balak makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will succeed in the curse. Bilaam attempts to curse three times and three times blessings issue instead. Balak, seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace.

The Nation of Israel begins sinning with Moabite women and worshipping the Moabite idols, and they are punished with a plague. One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe and the people. Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon, takes a spear and kills both evildoers. This halts the plague, but not before 24,000 have died.


Points to Ponder on the Parasha and the Three Weeks of National Mourning:


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one would have thought that Balak was more of a villain than Bilam--after all, was he not the originator of the idea to curse the Nation of Israel--did he not offer immense wealth to Bilam for doing so, and did he not pursue his goal continuously seeking Bilam out, building alter after alter, and finally effectuating whatever he could to induce Bnei Yisrael to sin (as woefully described at the end of this week’s Parsha)?! However, it is clear from the Torah that Bilam is the more wicked one, and our Sages in Pirkei Avot (5:22) reiterate this--with the differences between the students of Avraham Avinu, and the students of Bilam (and not Balak). HaRav Kanievsky teaches that the lesson is clear--the horrible attributes of Bilam overshadowed the wanton attempt of Balak to save his people.

In fact, the Seforno (Bamidbar 22:6) writes as follows: When Balak called upon Bilam he praised him with the words: “Ki Yadati et Asher Tevarech Mevorach, Va’Asher Ta’or Yu’ar--for I know that which you bless will be blessed, and that which you curse will be cursed.” However, Balak truly believed that Bilam was not capable of blessing--for if he was, Balak would simply have called on him to bless his people. Nevertheless, Balak did not want to impinge on Bilam’s honor--having it appear that he could only be a destroyer, and could do no good to anyone. He thus ascribed the power of blessing to him as well, although he believed him to be wholly incapable of it. Balak, then, even in his desperate straits, had a level of personal development about him. Let us bring this lesson home to us as an elevated people--it is our Middot/Attributes that must be our mainstay in life--no matter what the situation. Indeed, our Sages just mentioned to us what it takes to be a student of none other than Avraham Avinu--it is not scholarly achievement or extensive skill or expertise--but the Middot of “Ayin Tovah, Ruach Nemucha and Nefesh Shefalah--a good eye, a humble spirit, and a soul which is not lustful and desirous.”

Let us now take a closer look at one of these Middot for a moment--that of Ayin Tovah. Rabbi Yaakov Salomon, Shlita, pointed out that the Mishna (Avos 2:11) teaches that Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enumerated the praises of his students--Hu Haya Moneh Shivchan--and the Mishna then goes on to recount each one of the respective praises that he used for them. Why, asks Rabbi Salomon would the Mishna take up the time to relate the praise of the students of Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai if the Mishna is the embodiment of Halacha--of Torah She’be’al Peh/The Oral Law? The answer, suggests Rabbi Salomon, is that it is part of our Halacha--to be Moneh Shivchan--to recount the praises of others. This is how we can demonstrate our Ayin Tovah--that we are the students of our great father Avraham Avinu. A ‘lazy eye’ is not only a physical problem (in which the eye could get worse and worse and seriously affect vision)--it is also a spiritual issue if our Ayin Tovah is not properly exercised and exercised time and again. Rabbi Meir Wikler, Shlita, adds that the way to properly express the goodness of others is by relating details in one’s compliments--’specific praise’--for what the other has actually performed or accomplished.

May we suggest that during this period of the Three Weeks, we especially exercise and focus our Ayin Tovah on the circumstances and people around us. It is no coincidence, as it never is, that we have studied the Parsha of Balak and Bilam at this time of year. It is time for fresh focus--looking at our daily situations, and at each individual--in a way that Avraham Avinu would be proud! Ayin Tovah--keep a record of your success!

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