This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Balak (5761)
This week’s section stars one of the biggest anti-Semites of all time; Bilam.
Interestingly enough, he makes the clearest prophesies regarding Moshiach in the entire Torah.
Mimonidies (Ramba’m), in the last chapter of his all encompassing, legal work "Yad Ha Chazaka" even learns from Bilam, that anyone who does not desperately await the "second" and final Moshiach (King David was the first Moshiach) is a total sinner.
Is Moshiach really so important? If so why did this have to come from Bilam?
Here is a story that I hope will help explain:
In Russia there was a small town called "Sroailov" (Jewtown), whose spring waters were reported to have miraculous powers.
Rabbi Yisroel of Ruzin (nicknamed "The Holy Ruziner" cir. 1800)once happened to pass through this town, and wondered about its unusual name and its spring.
He asked, but no one knew anything, until finally someone suggested that he ask "Old Sasha". Old Sasha was over a hundred years old, and if anyone knew it would be him.
The Tzadik found the old man's dilapidated house, knocked on the door, and when he heard a weak answer he entered.
The room was barren except for an extremely old man dressed in a strange fur garment, resting in an old bed in the corner. He was lying on his side facing the entrance, but at the sight of his visitor his eyes widened in surprise.
He propped himself up on one elbow squinted to get a better look, and said "EEHH? My G-d!! Your face is like his!!" He was trying to sit up. "Yes, Yes! Just like Sroail's !!"
"Hello my friend! May G-d bless you!" The Tzadik said, "Please, you don’t have to get up." He pulled up a chair next to the bed. "What can you tell me about the name of this town, and about...."
Sasha was sitting up now, back against the wall "AHHH! I have waited for this day!!" he said. "Of course I'll tell you everything."
And Old Sasha began his story:
"Over eighty years ago, there were only a few families here and I used to tend their sheep. Nothing unusual ever happened, until early one morning the sheep were grazing in a new field, when suddenly I heard this strange splashing sound from the other side of a hill. I climbed to the top of the hill, got down on my stomach, peeked through some bushes, and saw a man bobbing up and down immersing himself over and over again in a spring. I didn't even know that spring existed, and I certainly had no idea what he was doing in there. But when he came out and got dressed, I got a glimpse of his face and....well it was shining, just like yours.
A little later I saw him sitting far away on a high rock wrapped in some sort of white robe, just his face sticking out, with a small black box tied on his head, swaying, talking and swaying and singing to the sky for hours.
And the next day he did the exact same thing.
The next time I brought the sheep home I asked my uncle Ivan about it, and he told me that this man must be a "Sroail". The priest said they are a lazy and cursed people that refuse to believe in our god, and we should pray for their salvation and keep away from them.
I understood what my uncle said, but it didn't make much sense. This "Sroail" didn't look so lazy or evil to me. In fact he looked like he was working pretty hard, and some times I felt so good when I saw him, that I took out my flute and played a song.
Anyway, a while later, one quiet winter afternoon, the sheep suddenly began to run and bleat like crazy for no reason and nothing I did calmed them down.
Then I turned around and saw the problem; about a hundred yards away, stood a huge forest wolf, yellow teeth glistening in the sun. He was immense. Twice as big as any of my sheep. I never even imagined anything so huge and awful could exist. He paid no attention to me, none at all. He just approached the flock at first slowly, then with a frightening burst of speed, he leaped up grabbed one by the throat, and in moments dragged its twitching bloody carcass into the woods.
Almost insane with fear I ran home and told everyone what happened. For the next few days my uncle and two others accompanied me. But after a while they had things to do, so they gave me a whistle to blow if I saw the wolf again and left me alone.
Sure enough a day later he returned. But this time he wasn’t looking at the sheep....he was looking at ME. Approaching in that same slow way like he had done to the sheep a week earlier.
I was so afraid I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even find the whistle, and it wouldn't have helped anyway, they would never have made it in time. My only hope was Sroail.
I turned; and there he was on the rock!! I screamed and screamed: "SROAIL!! SROAIL!! HELP ME!! HELP!! PLEASE, SROAAAAILL!!"
I turned back. The wolf stopped, eyes blazing with death,staring deep into my soul. I was hypnotized by those eyes I couldn’t look away, petrified with fear, unable to breathe, certain that as soon as I so much as moved my eyes my body would be the next to be dragged into the woods.
A shudder ran down my spine and I began to cry.
Suddenly I heard a voice behind me. "Don’t be afraid my friend, he’s not alive. Come."
Sure enough, it was Sroail. He took me by the hand, led me to the wolf and pushed him over, frozen in his awesome pose.
"Strip off his fur and make a coat for yourself." He said. "Make it strong because you will live a long life."
Afterwards everyone, even the priest, agreed that we were really wrong about Sroail and that he was a holy man and that we should repay him.
When I told them about the spring, and how I noticed that sometimes on the ice around it there were blood marks from his feet, the priest said we should put furs there and make a fence so no animals would drink from the water. It would be a holy spring.
After a while Sroail stopped coming, but about a year later another miracle happened. My uncle had an only son called Steffen that he loved with all his heart. Steffen got very sick with high fever, and the doctor said he would die. Poor uncle Ivan began going insane with grief, tearing out his hair, until someone showed up with a glass of water from the holy spring and gave the boy to drink. Almost immediately the fever dropped and the next day he was better.
As soon as the word got around, people started coming to live here until, after a while there were over three hundred families. That's why it's called Sroailov."
The Holy Ruziner understood that "Sroail" was none other than the Baal Shem Tov.
This answers the questions we had above:
The uniqueness of the Jewish people can be found in the reason G-d created the world (see first Rashi in Breshis).
G-d made the world in such a way that darkness comes before light. Namely the creation itself "darkens" the truth and makes it appear that there is no Creator and certainly no G-dly meaning in nature.
The Jews are supposed to remove this darkness.
In fact, every Jew has a feeling called the "G-dly Soul" (inherited from Abraham) that all such darkness MUST be replaced with light and true G-dly meaning (by using the Torah properly).
This, in a nutshell, is what Moshiach will accomplish. He will direct, teach, and inspire all the Jews do their job.
Just as "Sroail" had to paralyze the murderous wolf to reveal both the uniqueness of the Jews and the healing powers of the spring, so to, through our taming the forces of darkness within us as well as outside of us, will be revealed the light of HaShem and the healing powers of the Torah.
But it isn't so easy.
The forces of darkness (like the infinite G-d that creates them) are also infinitely powerful as we can see from the world today. Especially the opposition to Moshiach! (That is why all the Jews opposed Moshe and later King David was opposed by all the prophets, and then the Baal Shem Tov etc.)
So where do we get the power to transform darkness?
The answer is, from the darkness; from Bilam himself!
True, Bilam was the archenemy of Judaism, but hidden within him, and in every obstacle to Moshiach, (in fact the very reason for their existence), is found the power to ACTUALLY transform it to light.
(This power, called the "essence" of the soul "Etzem HaNeshema", is even higher than the G-dly soul and is revealed by standing firmly, ignoring all obstacles, and doing what is necessary to bring Moshiach, )
That is why Bilam made the clearest prophecies about Moshiach.
That is what the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe revealed when he stood alone against Stalin and his entire regime. (The 12th and 13th of Tammuz is the anniversary of his miraculous freedom from Stalin's prisons). The result was the massive outreach movement that is transforming all Judaism and the entire world today.
And that is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe wants to reveal in EVERY Jew. The light and power of
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