This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Balak (5760)
The word Torah means ‘teaching’. The Torah is not just a history book or an interesting piece of folk literature; rather every idea, word and even letter therein comes to teach us something.
If so, what is the Torah trying to teach us by naming an entire chapter after an evil anti-Semite?
Also, we should understand why this story is in the Torah at all; there are no commandments learned from here, there isn’t even much of a moral lesson. There are no noble characters, no one repented or even changed for the better. Even Moshe’s name is not mentioned until the last paragraph (which really is more relevant to the next Torah Parsha; ‘Pinchas’).
It’s true that Bilam blessed the Jews, but that is also seemingly no ‘big deal’.
After all, G-d creates everything, including Bilam, every instant; certainly
Bilam had no chance to contradict his Creator and curse the Jewish people.
It’s reminiscent of the joke that is told about a man that once walked into a Rabbi’s office, put $50,000 in cash on the table and asked him to put a death curse on his next-door neighbor.
The Rabbi, who was a holy man, realized who he was dealing with and he immediately agreed. He closed his eyes, mumbled some words under his breath, smiled, looked at the man and announced, “It’s done!” as he slid the money off the table into his desk drawer, his yeshiva needed the money desperately.
The man smiled victoriously but just as he turned to leave the Rabbi gave him a look and put into his mind thoughts of repentance. Fifteen minutes later the man was back in the office. “Listen, Rabbi I changed my mind. Maybe I was a bit hasty. Listen … you can keep the money but … ehh … can you reverse the decree? I mean … death is a little severe, maybe I made a mistake!
“Too late.” the Rabbi answered shaking his head solemnly. “But… for another fifty thousand I can bring him back.”
“Please, Yes… Yes .. Please I’ll do anything. Here!” He took out another stack of money from his briefcase and began counting. And sure enough …a miracle!! When he arrived home his neighbor was still alive!
But really it is not so simple.
When G-d gave the Torah, He so to speak, limited Himself. For instance, one of the high points of Rosh HaShanna is the ‘additional’ or ‘Musaf’ prayer. In this prayer, we bring sentences from the Torah to ‘force’ G-d to be a King, to remember us, and to listen to the Shofar. Because once G-d gave us the Torah He set for all eternity what His infinite will is, and even He ‘has to’ (so to speak) abide by His rules.
So here; Bilam knew exactly how to find and magnify the faults of the Jewish People. This was his genius and he did his evil job so well that he proved that even according to the Torah, HaShem had to comply with his curses. He had a closed case against Am Yisroel
Bilam was the spiritual opposite of Moshe. Moshe’s genius (and the genius of the Moshe of every generation) was to reveal the good and the holiness hidden deep down in every Jew. But it seems that here, even the prayers of Moshe could not help.
That is the lesson of our parsha; Bilam ‘forced’ G-d to reveal for the first time the heretofore concealed, ultimately infinite love for His Chosen People: love which is above all reason, even the reason of the Torah; undying Love as infinite as G-d himself.
That is why this parsha contains the clearest prophecies regarding Moshiach in the entire Torah.
Because Moshiach is nothing other than an expression of this love.
As we say in the end of the first blessing of Shmone Esre : “He (G-d) will bring a redeemer (Moshiach) for ‘His own sake’ with LOVE.”
The meaning of “His own sake” is referring the ‘piece of G-d’ found in each and every Jew. (something like the Holy of Holies in the Bait HaMikdosh).
The Lubavitcher Rebbe calls it the ‘Moshiach’ in each of us. And one of the main accomplishments of Moshiach will be to awaken, this pure ‘Moshiach’, G-dly soul in every Jew and thereby illuminate the world with good.
This Shabbos will be the twelfth of Tammuz, the date that, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, (the Moshiach of his generation) was released from communist prison in Russia. He was arrested and sentenced to death because he advertised and encouraged the most anti-communistic idea possible; outreach Judaism.
I heard from older Chassidim here in Kfar Chabad that in Communist Russia people were afraid to even THINK against Stalin (of cursed memory). In fact Stalin killed over twenty million of his own people because he suspected they were thinking treason.
In this atmosphere the Previous Rebbe not only thought, he actually set up a vast outreach network of teachers and Chassidim, and inspired them to risk their lives to provide Torah education, kosher meat, circumcisions, mikvas etc. etc. to other Jews … because he believed that every Jew is holy.
Because of his release on the 12th of Tammuz 1927 and eventual settling in the U.S.A. in 1940 where he launched the worldwide Lubavitch outreach program, all the Jewish outreach movements in the world exist today.
It’s all in order to reveal that hidden holiness that Bilam was forced to speak about, that the books of Chabad Chassidut are devoted to explaining, that Rebbe Yosef Yitchak began to put into action and that the present Lubavitcher Rebbe will reveal completely in the coming of Moshiach NOW!
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