This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Balak (5766)
This week we see what happens when someone tries to curse the Jews; their curses turn into blessings. Here we read how Bilaam, the greatest curser of all times, ended up making the greatest blessing possible: the coming of Moshiach.
In fact, the clearest prophecies regarding Moshiach come from Bilaam's evil mouth.
But at first glance this is not understood. Why devote an entire section of the Torah to a disgusting anti-Semite? Why didn't Moses just bless the people and be finished? Why did these blessings have to come from curses?
Also, this coming week will be the Twelfth and Thirteenth of Tammuz; the "Chabad" holiday celebrating the miraculous release of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe from sure death in Stalin's prisons.
Is there a connection?
We can understand this by the following story that my wife heard just recently from the woman it happened to. (It also appears in HaGeula #310.)
Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, the chief rabbi of the city of Migdal HaEmek in Israel, had a lot of good deeds to his merit. He helped tens of thousands of people and could have been a candidate for the Chief Rabbi of Israel if he had had the time.
But all his merits didn't help. Neither did the tens of experts they had seen because all the doctors in Israel agreed: his sixteen-year-old daughter Chaya would be half-blind for the rest of her life. Her right eye would never see again and she was lucky the left one still did.
It happened some twenty years ago when her school, Bait Chana in Tzfat, went on a class trip that included a hike through a forest.
The hike was great fun. The girls were walking in single file through the woods, listening to the wind in the trees, the birds singing above them, and the bubbling brook somewhere in the distance when something caught Chaya's attention.
She stopped briefly while the girl in front of her continued walking and pushed a large branch forward as she walked. As it snapped backward, at that very moment, Chaya ran forward and, as from nowhere, it struck her full force.
She let out a scream, fell to her knees in pain, and almost passed out. Blood was streaming from her face as the girls lifted her and rushed her back to the entrance of the park. Her right eye immediately became grotesquely swollen and her entire face was distorted.
A half-hour later in the hospital, the doctors stopped the bleeding, took x-rays, and determined that the only thing that might help was an operation. But only an expert could decide.
The next day her father took her to an expert, and the day after to another, and two days later to yet another. In fact, for weeks they ran from doctor to doctor and heard the same prognosis: the damage was too great, no operation could help, there was no hope.
She took pills to alleviate the pain and wore sunglasses to block out the light but the eye was swollen, painful, and constantly running with tears. Her life was miserable, her face was disfigured, and it seemed that it would be that way forever . . . if it didn't get worse!
Rabbi Grossman was so involved in the tragedy that he almost forgot about his tens of Torah institutions called Migdal Ohr that provided for and educated some one thousand children. Hundreds of paychecks and bills that had to be paid!
And then there was exactly what he didn't need: in the middle of all this confusion, it was time for him to travel to the U.S.A. to look for new supporters and convince the old ones to donate more.
Then someone suggested to him that if he was going to New York anyway, maybe he should take his daughter to a very famous eye doctor there. He was perhaps the best in the world and maybe he might be able to help her.
But Rabbi Grossman had serious doubts. First of all, ALL the doctors in Israel agreed that nothing could be done . . . and they couldn't all be wrong. And his daughter had suffered a lot and was in no shape for such a long trip.
He decided to fax the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask his advice.
The answer came almost immediately: "Yes. See the doctor here."
Two days later, Rabbi Grossman and his suffering daughter were on the plane to New York. The only thing seeing her through the pain, discomfort, and embarrassment was the blessing the Rebbe gave for seeing the new doctor.
But before visiting the doctor, Chaya wanted the Rebbe to bless her personally.
They landed that night and the next morning she and her father were standing at the entrance of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Rebbe's synagogue-headquarters in Crown Heights, with well more than a hundred other adults and children waiting for the Rebbe to arrive.
The Rebbe's car drove up and the Rebbe got out, entered the building, gave out coins to the children to give to charity, and turned to Rabbi Grossman.
"Rebbe!" Rabbi Grossman said, overcome with emotion."I want a blessing for the complete recovery of my daughter!"
"Amen!" answered the Rebbe. "You will merit to raise her to Torah, marriage, and good deeds!" Then he turned to Chaya, stared intently at her for several long seconds and said, "A complete recovery!"
The Rebbe went into his room and closed the door. Rabbi Grossman asked his daughter if she felt she could wait for a few minutes while he went to the synagogue to pray and when she agreed, he left her alone.
Suddenly, about two minutes later, for no apparent reason, her eyeglasses came apart. They just fell off her nose in two pieces. She tried to somehow put them back together but it was impossible.
She was confused, ashamed, and even thought about calling her father out of the synagogue. People were looking at her. But suddenly she felt that something was seriously wrong. Her eye stopped hurting.
She gingerly touched it and it seemed that the swelling went down and it wasn't watering. And it didn't hurt.
In fact, she was beginning to see!
Or maybe not. Maybe it was a mistake; she was overwhelmed. She covered her left eye to see if it wasn't just her imagination and . . . it wasn't. She could SEE!
Her father came out from the synagogue and couldn't believe it; his daughter looked exactly as she did a month ago before she wenton the trip. The swelling was gone, her eyes were normal, and open, as though nothing had happened!
"No need for the doctor!" she said joyously, "Both eyes work!"
But they talked it over and decided that if the Rebbe said they should visit the doctor, there must be a reason. It would be expensive but the Rebbe was never wrong.
Later that day they were sitting before the doctor in his office as he was examining the papers and x-rays she brought from Israel and scratching his head in confusion.
"I don't understand," he said to Rabbi Grossman, squinting his eyes in disbelief. "Are these x-rays of someone else? What is going on here? I mean, I just checked your daughter and there is nothing wrong with her eyes. Is this some sort of joke?"
"No," answered Rabbi Grossman, "this is her portfolio all right. See the date at the bottom? It was just a few days ago . . . before she saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
"Ahhh! The Lubavitcher Rebbe!" said the doctor, as he closed the folder. "Well, that explains it. Why didn't you tell me? With the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the picture, anything is possible."
The doctor, from curiosity, even made another set of tests to check the history of the cells of her eye to see if there had ever been any trauma but they too showed nothing. Scientifically, nothing had ever occurred to her eyes.
The Rebbe transformed the past as well as the present and future!
Now a normal, thinking person might ask:what is the point of all this? If the Rebbe erased the problem, then why did G-d make the problem in the first place?! Wouldn't it have been better if she never had gotten hit with the tree?
Similarly with the Previous Rebbe: Why did he have to be imprisoned just to be released?
But the answer is that the ONLY way to arouse and reveal the essence of the soul and the essence of G-d's power in the world is through obstacles.
Indeed, only a power above nature, above even the spiritual, can overcome and even transform difficulties and "curses" to blessings. And this is the job of the Jews: To reveal this power of transformation to the world.
That is why the Ten Commandments begin with "I am G-d that took you from Egypt."
The Jews were "chosen" to reveal the G-dly power that will take all mankind from all limitations (Egypt-- Mitzraim in Hebrew--means "limitations" and "obstacles").
But the only way to arouse and reveal this power is by first being imprisoned and confronted with Egypt.
Precisely as in our story: Chaya's trauma revealed great miracles through the Rebbe.
That is why the Previous Rebbe had to experience, overcome, and transform the arch-evil Stalin.
And this is why the blessing of Moshiach came from the transformed curses of Bilaam.
The arch-evil Bilaam was the ultimate obstacle. G-d gave him spiritual powers equal to those of Moses! ( Bamidbar Rabba 14;34 etc.). And precisely because of this he evoked the ultimate blessing of Moshiach that will transform all evil to good.
The time has come, however, for Moshiach to actually transform all the curses and misfortune in the world to blessings and joy. There is too much suffering, too much confusion, and too much darkness.
It depends on us. We can bring Moshiach even one instant sooner by doing more good deeds, learning about Moshiach, putting more positive energy into our lives, and doing all we can to bring . . .
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