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Balak(Numbers 22:2-25:9)

Balak 5764

Two Torah scrolls torn and desecrated. Germany 1938? NO! London 2004. One week ago on Friday night the Aish Center was torched.

Over $400,000 in damage. Anti-semites have vandalized 100 Jewish synagogues and institutions in the last year in England. If it hurts you, if you care, if you want to be amongst those who just say "no" to mindless fanatics, and you want to help rebuild, either send a check to:

Aish HaTorah,
3150 Sheridan Avenue,
Miami Beach, Fl. 33140

or

"click here" for a secure server to donate. Mark your check or on-line donation: REBUILD! Every cent will go to rebuild the center! (See the arson article on aish.com.)

If you would like to support the Shabbat Shalom Weekly, please click here:

GOOD MORNING!   We are about to enter the Three Weeks - the period of time between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. (Tammuz 17 begins Monday evening, July 5th.) 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.


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

The 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz 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 19) 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 Tammuz 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 Tammuz 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 G-d, 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, Tammuz 17! (Want the source? Ten Minutes Over Baghdad.) For more history, read Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 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 Moab, wanted to hire Bilaam to curse the Jewish people for a fortune of money. It is interesting that Balak believed in G-d and the power of invoking a curse from G-d, yet thought that G-d would change His mind about His Chosen People. (G-d 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 G-d 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 Love Your Neighbor 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 - June 25:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  7:11
Guatemala 6:15  Hong Kong 6:53  Honolulu 6:57
J'Burg 5:10  London 9:00  Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:51  Miami 7:57  Moscow 8:56
New York 8:11  Singapore  6:57



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

If you make a friend of someone you hate,
have you not destroyed an enemy?
-- Abraham Lincoln



In Loving Memory of
Dr. Elena Schvarzer
With love, George Wainer




Published: June 26, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Manuel Gwiazda, June 27, 2004 12:00 AM

About an enemy turning friendly

Small changes are beginning to take place in my workplace as many people quit due to the constant mistreatment of my boss

My boss acknowledged that for many time his actions where egotistic, despotic and that he may be wrong

Now, instead of arguing he began to act (as in pirkei avot, say "little and do much")

Every week, once in a while, he comes out to the section of the office where everyone is working with pastries, makes some jokes, touch some people in a friendly way and ask about the specifics of anyone task, like a friend would do, without making any remarks

I know that to do something out of the blue requires a huge deal of effort on his part as nobody trust him and is understandable, but applying my very little knowledge of Jewish wisdom I value that "he is acting" in order to improve relationships while the employers are just saying "things here will never change" without doing anything about it, no effort, no compromise.

I am commited to confront my fears and mirror his acts proposing changes step by step to improve the workplace for everyone, workers and management

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