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Balak(Numbers 22:2-25:9)

Balak 5761

GOOD MORNING!  Mazal Tov to Barry and Tova Kohn, winners of the Polaroid Digital camera in the Donors Envelope Raffle!

We are about to enter the Three Weeks -- the period of time between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av. (Tamuz 17 begins Saturday evening, July 7th.) It is such an inauspicious period throughout our history that the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, forbids the performance of weddings. It is a period of introspection with thoughts to correcting one's mistakes in life. During this period -- though in different times of history -- both of the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.

The Second Temple was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, unwarranted hatred. People did not treat others with respect or kindness. The Sages tell us that for the Third Temple to be rebuilt there needs to be Ahavat Chinam, unconditional love.

I have shared with you in the past a story I had heard from Dr. Bernie Siegel relating how a father had prevented the suicide of his son. The father had received a card which read: "You make a difference. The world is a better place because of you" with instructions to pass it on to someone deserving within 24 hours. The son was about to kill himself because he thought his father didn't love him. If you would like to have five cards to spread unconditional love -- to give recognition and make others feel good, to perhaps change destinies, then send a contribution along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Aish Cards, 3150 Sheridan Avenue, Miami Beach, Fl. 33140. You can help make this a better world and hasten the building of the Third Temple!


Q & A: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 17TH OF TAMUZ AND HOW IS IT OBSERVED?

The 17th of the Hebrew month of Tamuz begins a three week national period of semi-mourning which culminates with the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av).

It is a period where many tragedies have historically occurred and is considered in Jewish cosmology such an inauspicious time period that one is, as mentioned above, not allowed to get married. From the 1st of Av (July 21) one is even advised to push off court cases until after the 10th of Av (July 30th). Traditionally, we refrain from hair-cutting, purchasing or wearing new clothing, listening to music and pleasure trips. It is a time for self-reflection and improvement.

On the 17th of Tamuz five calamitous events occurred throughout history:

  1. Moshe broke the first Tablets of the Ten Commandments when he descended from Mt. Sinai and saw the worshipping of the Golden Calf.

  2. The Daily Sacrificial Offerings ceased in the First Temple due to lack of sheep.

  3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached during the siege of the Second Temple.

  4. Apustumus-the-Wicked burned a Sefer Torah.

  5. An idol was placed in the Sanctuary of the Second Temple.

The 17th of Tamuz is a fast day. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise and continuing until about an hour after sunset. The purpose of the fast is to awaken our hearts to repentance through recalling our forefathers' misdeeds which led to tragedies and our repetition of those mistakes. The fasting is a preparation for repentance -- to break the body's dominance over a person's spiritual side. One should engage in self-examination and undertake to correct mistakes in his relationship with God, his fellow man and with himself.

It is interesting to note that Saddam Hussein is a student of Jewish history. He named the nuclear reactor (from which he planned to create a bomb to drop on Israel) -- you guessed it, Tamuz 17! (Want the source? Ten Minutes Over Baghdad.) For more history, read Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov (available in bookstores or by calling toll-free: 877-758-3242).


Torah Portion of the Week
Balak

This week's portion is one of the most fascinating psychologically-revealing portions in the whole Torah! Bilaam, a non-Jewish prophet, was granted a level of prophecy close to Moshe's level of prophecy. The Almighty gave Bilaam these powers so that the nations of the world could not say at some point in the future, "If we had a prophet like Moshe, we too would have accepted the Torah and would have lived according to it." Bilaam is an intriguing character --honor-driven, arrogant and self-serving. Unfortunately, not too unique amongst mankind.

Balak, the king of Moav, wanted to hire Bilaam to curse the Jewish people for a fortune of money. It is interesting that Balak believed in God and the power of invoking a curse from God, yet thought that God would change His mind about His Chosen People. (God is not a man who changes his mind). Bilaam was very desirous to accept the assignment to curse the Jews -- more for the profit motive than the prophet motive.

The Almighty allowed Bilaam to go to Balak (cautioning him to only say what God told him). The Almighty gives every person free-will and allows us to go in the direction that we choose. Three times Bilaam tried to curse us and three times the Almighty placed blessings in his mouth. Balak was furious! So, Bilaam gave him advice with hopes of collecting his fee -- "If you want to destroy the Jewish people, entice the men with Moabite women and tell the women not to submit until the men bow down to an idol." Balak followed the advice and consequently the Almighty brought a plague against the Jewish people because the men fell for Bilaam's plot. We see from this that the Almighty hates licentiousness and idol worship.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Children of Israel encamped in the plains of Moab. The Moabites were frightened. Their king, Balak, sent messengers to Bilaam, a non-Jewish prophet requesting that he destroy the Israelites with a curse. The Torah states, "Come now, curse this people for me for they are too powerful for me; perhaps I shall be able to strike (them) and drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed" (Numbers 22:6).

The Chofetz, Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, comments that from here we see how wicked was Balak. Balak believed that Bilaam had the power to bless, so why did he request that Bilaam curse the Jews? He could have asked him to bless his own people so that they should not be harmed.

The non-Jews in the city of Telshe greatly respected Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, the Rabbi of Telshe and founder of its Yeshiva, and many of them would ask him to pray for their welfare. Once a non-Jewish farmer came to Rabbi Gordon and asked him to pray that his enemy should die. Rabbi Gordon explained to him that the proper thing for him to do was not to curse his enemy, but to pray that his enemy should become his friend.

What is the lesson for us? Rather than focus on negativity in personal relationships, focus on how to turn the relationship in a positive direction through both prayer and action.



CANDLE LIGHTING - July 6:
(or go to candlelighting.org)

Jerusalem  7:12
Guatemala 6:18  Hong Kong 6:53  Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:10  London 9:00  Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:56  Miami 7:58  Moscow 8:55
New York 8:12  Singapore  6:57



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Bitterness is
a pill that we swallow
and hope that it
will kill the enemy.



Mazal Tov on

the Bar Mitzvah of
Avi Pomper

with love,
Dad and Mom

Published: June 30, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) charles sinkewicz, July 7, 2001 12:00 AM

interesting,thought-provoking torah lessons.

this makes my shabbot more spiritually restive,by making my mind and spirit work in a most delightful,torah-minded way.thanks and mazel-tov!!!

(1) Mark Slovin, July 6, 2001 12:00 AM

Everything in Torah applies to our lives

When I read over the portion, I found it interesting, but didn't understand it's applicability to my life. Thank you for exhibiting how even Balak's and Bilaam's evil plot brings me closer to G-d.

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