Torah Weekly - Parshat Balak

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TORAH WEEKLY

Parshat Balak

For the week ending 16 Tammuz 5761/ July 6 & 7, 2001

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  • Overview
  • Insights:
  • Streets of Heaven
  • Haftara
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    Overview

    Contents
    Balak, king of Moav, is in morbid fear of Bnei Yisrael. He summons a renowned sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them. First, Hashem speaks to Bilaam and forbids him to go. But, because Bilaam is so insistent, Hashem appears to him a second time and permits him to go. While en route, a malach (emissary from Hashem) 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 malach instructs Bilaam regarding what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say regarding the Jewish People. When Bilaam arrives, King Balak makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will succeed in the curse. Three times Bilaam attempts to curse and three times a blessing issues instead. Balak, seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace.

    Bnei Yisrael begin sinning with the 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, grabs a spear and kills both evildoers. This halts the plague, but not before 24,000 have died.



    Insights

    Contents

    STREETS OF HEAVEN

    "Bilaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, ‘If Balak will give me his houseful of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of Hashem my G-d to do anything great or small.' " (22-18)

    A fable: A rich man, nearing death, is grieved because he has worked very hard for his money and he wants to take it with him to Heaven. He prays that he might be able to take along some of his wealth. An angel hears his plea and appears to him. "Sorry," says the angel, "but you can't take your wealth with you." The man implores the angel, "Please speak to G-d. Please. Please. Maybe He'll bend the rules just this once!"

    Several excruciating minutes pass. Then the angel reappears and says, "Your petition has been granted. You may take one suitcase with you." The angel disappears. Overjoyed, the man gathers his last strength and his largest suitcase and fills it with bars of pure gold. He places it beside his bed, waiting for his final journey.

    Shortly afterwards, the man arrives at the Gates of Heaven. There to greet him is the Admitting Angel. Seeing the suitcase, the angel says, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here!" "But," the man explains, "I have permission from the Highest Authority!" The man asks the angel to verify his story.

    The angel picks up his celestial cellphone and checks: "You're right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I'm supposed to check its contents before letting it through." Opening the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind, the angel exclaims:
    "You brought pavement?!?"

    It's not only Heaven's streets that are paved with gold. In this world too, the streets are paved with gold - but you have to recognize it. You have to be aware of the glint. When you help an old lady across the street - you've paved this world with gold. When you take a piece of fruit and say a blessing, acknowledging Who the blessing comes from, you've paved this world with gold. When you dominate your bad character traits, you've paved your world with gold. And most of all, when you study the Torah - the holiest thing in this world - you've paved this world with gold.

    "Bilaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, - If Balak will give me his houseful of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of Hashem my G-d to do anything great or small.' "

    Who mentioned athing about a houseful of silver and gold? By Bilaam talking about money, he revealed his mercenary nature. As if to say, "If I were able to transgress G-d's word, I would - but only for a king's ransom."

    In the next world, all the gold and silver will be mere pavement. However, if you "pave" your life with good deeds and the service of G-d, you will find there's more than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Sources:
    Rashi; Gur Aryeh; Rabbi Menachem Nissel

     




    Haftara

    Micha 5:6 - 6:8

    Contents


    The Prophet Micha foresees "Yaakov's Remnant" - the Jews who survive the mass murders and decimation of exile - sprout and flourish at the end of days. Once vassals, the Jews will grow into an independent people, relying on no person or nation for sustenance; once a sheep among lions, the Jews become like a lion who can attack its enemies with impunity. This stage is temporary, however; eventually, there will be no need for horses, chariots, or fortresses, as peace will reign in the land.
    Micha then rebukes the Jews for their lax Torah-observance and reminds them of G-d's historical kindness: G-d freed them from Egypt and put three fabulous leaders, Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, at their head. And - drawing on events from Parshat Balak - Micha recalls G-d's special love of the Jewish People and His protection against the nefarious plottings of Balak and Bilaam.


    PLEASE DEW

    "And Yaakov's Remnant among the many nations will be like dew from G-d...which looks to no one and waits for no man." (5:6)

    Almost an entire Parsha, Parshat Balak, chronicles the spiteful attempts by Israel's bitter foes to obliterate the fledgling nation. During these attacks, the Jews are entirely passive - perhaps even unaware; they are protected by G-d alone.

    So, at the end of days, will the Jews be like the dew that condenses miraculously upon the grass, independent of any human agency. Like the dew, the Jews will bring the nourishing waters of Torah to a thirsty world.




    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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