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The Path on Which a Person Wants to Walk
There was a righteous man in Jerusalem, the great Rabbi Moshe Aharon Stern zss"l, the mashgiah from the Kaminetz yeshivah. When he was eight years old he became very sick. His father brought him to the best doctors; he went to rabbis; he recited Tehillim, and in the end his father said: "See, everybody is working to heal you. Everyone, except for you…" The boy asked, "What should I do?" He father answered, "Accept upon yourself a good habit when you become well." The boy agreed, and asked, "What, for example?" The father suggested, "Accept upon yourself that if you get well you will always try to pray with a minyan." He promised, and was cured!
He fulfilled his promise, and grew in Torah and fear of heaven. As mentioned, he became a mashgiah in a yeshivah. The yeshivah grew, and became crowded. They planned on building a building, and the mashgiah was asked to take the job of raising money in the United States. He agreed, and went to see a travel agent. He asked if there was enough room on the plane for a minyan. They said, "This is a travel agency, and not a prayer agency. Usually there is room, but we can't promise. If the weather is bad, the passengers have to remain seated. Sometimes, there is not a minyan." Under those conditions, he was unable to travel.
They said, "We can suggest a flight with an early morning stopover in Amsterdam." The flight landed in Amsterdam, with a two hour wait. He took his tallit and tefillin, and left the terminal for the highway. He watched the passing cars until a car stopped suddenly. The driver asked, "Where does the Rav need to go?"
"I'm looking for a minyan for shaharit."
"Get in, Rabbi", the driver offered. It turned out that the driver was a Jew who lived outside the city, and drove to the city each day to pray and go to work. After a few minutes, they arrived at the outskirts of town, and stopped in a small alley. The driver got out, and directed him to a ground-floor apartment. He opened the door and found a small synagogue. There were eight men there who waiting for the last two to arrive. They prayed with a minyan, and at the end of prayers the driver completed the missvah, and drove his guest back to the airport.
When the mashgiah would tell this story, his eyes shone. He said, "Look and see. Eight people woke early and went to the synagogue to pray with a minyan. The ninth was supposed to come from a nearby town. Where will the tenth come from? They brought him, a Jew from the land of Israel, on his way to the United States. On the path that a person wants to walk, they direct him….
This principle is learned from the Gemara (Makkot 10b), based on our parashah, from Bilam son of Be'or. The Creator did not want him to go to Midian to curse Israel. He said, "Do not go with them." But when Bilam desperately wanted to, He said, "Go with them." A merciful angel tried to prevent him from going, but when Bilam told him, "Now, if it is evil in your eyes (as if he didn't know), tell me," the angel told him, "Go with the people." On the path that a person wants to walk, they direct him," whether for good or for evil. The mashgiah of Kaminetz went on the path of prayer with a congregation. Bilam went on the path of his own destruction.
What does this teach us? Summer vacation begins this week in Israel. The regular framework for hundreds of thousands of youth is ending. Each person needs to create a new framework for himself. The period of bein hazemanim is approaching, and the period of vacation from work. The masses are changing their routines, and many are going off to different vacation spots. Just as routine is blessed, vacation is also blessed, as long as it doesn't lead to wasted time. There must be good habits and proper protection, both protection about modesty and about behavior. Dress and action must be proper. Food must have proper hechsher. Prayer should be recited in a minyan, and learning Torah must be regular. It is obvious that this is difficult in times of change. It is well known that, "There is no peace for the one who comes and goes," (Divrei Hayamim 2 36:5), which refers to one who goes from one framework to the other (Hagigah 10a). But we must always remember that on the path that a person wants to walk, they direct him. If he is strong, and maintains the right behavior, he will be protected in all circumstances.
The Dwelling Places of Israel
Bilam had power in his mouth. There are those who have an evil eye, and their curse is a real curse, God forbid. But, an evil eye needs something to become attached to. A curse must have something to which to apply. Bilam went to see, "And he lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling by its tribes. And he recited his parable and said, 'How great are your tents, Ya'akov, your dwelling places, Israel." Ya'akov and Israel, are in singular, but tents and dwelling places are in plural. "Because he saw that the entrances to their houses were not aligned. Each house and tent was separate. They were not living one on top of the other in order to make others jealous, to show off their new car, to tell everyone what I bought and how much it cost. If the entrances were not aligned, Bilam's evil eye had nothing to latch on to.
This is one of society's diseases. Everything about people is hollow showiness. This is because their inner world is also hollow, so there is such a strong emphasis on externals. If the emphasis was on building the internals, on strengthening faith and trust in the Creator, on strengthening prayer and Torah study, then fanciness would not find any place. Since "your tents" - the synagogues and batei midrash - "are great", therefore the homes are not aligned with one another, and the living room is not open into the street.
Rabbeinu Aharon Halevi, zss"l
The city of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia in Spain, was home to a critical page in the history of Jewish exile. From the cliffs of the earth, the great holy teachers and rabbis shined. They made a lasting impression on our nation, and their Torah guides us to this day. At the beginning of the sixth millennia since the creation of the world, two great lights shined there, the Rashba and the Ra'ah: Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet and Rabbeinu Aharon Halevi, zss"l. Each one was a rosh yeshivah of a great and important yeshivah, and created students by the thousands.
Rabbeinu Aharon Halevi descended from leaders, being the great grandson of Rabbeinu Zerahiah Halevi, the Ba'al Hamaor, of the Yisshari family. He was a primary student of the Ramban, Rabbeinu Mosheh ben Nahman, zss"l, and the brother of Pinhas Halevi. In the year 5046 (1286), he moved to the city of Toledo, and established a yeshivah, and after a few years returned to his city and spread Torah there. Among his chief students: our teacher, the Ritva (Rabbeinu Yom Tov Ashvili) zss"l, and Rabbeinu Kreskas Vidal, zss"l, and others.
His famous books, which we know of: A commentary on Rabbeinu Yisshak Alfasi's zss"l Halachot, which is published on some tractates as Pekudat Haleviim; the book Nezer Hakodesh, similar to the decisions of the Rif, of which the Hidah zss"l testified that he saw the manuscript; responsa, some of which were published in books of our rabbis, the Rishonim. He also wrote the comments Bedek Habayit on Torat Habayit of the Rashba. The Rashba responded to these comments in Mishmeret Habayyit. One of the great rabbis of Italy, Rav Menahem Kauzis zss"l, wrote Shalom Bayit to answer the questions of the Rashba against the Ra'ah.
Similarly, there are some who claim that he authored Sefer Hahinnuch on the 613 commandments, which was written by "A man of the house of Levi from Barcelona," though there is wide debate about this.
A star shall come out of Ya'akov and a scepter shall arise out of Israel
Our rabbi, the Rambam, wrote (Hilchot Melachim 11:1) that, King Messiah in the future will return the kingdom of David to its former stature, to its original authority, and will build the Temple and gather the exiled Jews, and all the laws will return in his day to be as they were in the past. They will bring sacrifices, and keep the shmitah and yovel, and all the missvot listed in the Torah.
Anybody who does not believe in him, or wait for his arrival, not only denies all the other prophets, but denies the Torah of Mosheh, our teacher. The Torah testifies about him when it says, "And Hashem your God will return and have mercy on you, and will return and gather you from all the nations to which Hashem your God has scattered you. If your scattered ones will be at the ends of the heavens, Hashem your God will gather them from there and take them from there. And Hashem your God will bring you into the good land which he promised to your fathers to give to you." These explicit words of the Torah include all the things which the prophets said.
But parshat Bilam prophecies about two Messiahs. The first Messiah is David, who saved Israel from its enemies, and the second Messiah, who will come from his sons, will save Israel in the end of time. "I will see him, but not now", refers to David; "I will evaluate him, but not from nearby" refers to the King Messiah. "A star shall come from Ya'akov," refers to David; "And a scepter shall arise out of Israel," is the King Messiah. "He shall smite the corners of Moav," refers to David, as it says, "And he (David) struck Moav, and measured them with a rope"; "And destroy all the sons of Shet," refers to the King Messiah, as it says "He shall rule from sea to sea." "And Edom shall be his possession," refers to David, as it says "Edom shall be for David as slaves"; "Seir also, his enemies, shall be his possession," this refers to King Messiah, as it says, "And the saved ones shall arise from Mount Zion to judge the Mountain of Esav, and the kingdom shall be for God."
Rabbeinu Mosheh Mitrani zss"l (Beit Elokim, Sha'ar Hayesodot 52), says that God revealed all of these prophecies by way of Bilam. Bilam came to curse Israel, and ended up revealing their greatness for all generations, which "smashed his teeth", and the teeth of Balak, and the people who were with them. The greatness of Israel was revealed when Bilam became famous among them as a teller of the future.
The Gemara says that if the generation is worthy, Messiah will come immediately. "If they are worthy, I will hurry it." But, if they are not worthy, he will come at the time which was predestined. "If they are not worthy, at its set time." If the latter, the holy Or Hahayyim says that it will be by virtue of the ssadikim of the generation. That is what "a star shall come out of Ya'akov" means. If the whole generation is righteous like Ya'akov, then Messiah will come suddenly, like a star in the heaven. If not, then the process will develop slowly, like a scepter which arises out of Israel, by virtue of the ssadikim of the generation, who are referred to as "Israel."
IThe Gemara (Sukkah 52a) explains that Messiah son of Joseph will fall in battle with the nations, and Messiah son of David will bring the geulah, and will revive Messiah son of Joseph, who will then complete his task and defeat the nations. The holy Alsheich, zss"l, says that our verse hints to this. "A star shall come out of Y'aakov" is Messiah son of Joseph, who will be like a meteor which comes and goes. "And a scepter shall arise out of Israel" is Messiah son of David, who shall arise and establish his kingdom. "And Ya'akov shall come", refers to when that star, Messiah son of Joseph, will be revived. "And shall destroy he that has dominion", means that he will complete his task, and defeat all of the nations.
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
Laws of mentioning "tal umatar". Doubts if he mentioned rain or dew.
During the summer, if he doubts whether he said "mashiv haruah", if it is within thirty days after the first day of Pesah, he must repeat, because the assumption is that his tongue has not become used to saying "morid hatal." After thirty days, he does not have to repeat.
But, if it was during the winter when he doubted if he said "mashiv haruah", then according to the Sefardic and Oriental practice, as well as those Ashkenazim who say "morid hatal," he does not repeat even within thirty days after Shemini Atzeret, because even if he did not say "mashiv haruah", he did say "morid hatal" as he normally does over the summer. Since he mentioned tal, he does not repeat. But, according to the practice of those Ashkenazim who do not say "morid hatal" during the summer, then if he is within thirty days after Shemini Atzeret he does have to repeat. There is no distinction between realizing the doubt during the prayer, and between realizing the doubt after finishing the prayer.
The same law applies to asking for dew and rain in "the blessing of the years." If it is within thirty days of when you began asking, or within thirty days of stopping to ask, you must repeat.
Some say that regarding requesting dew and rain you should be stringent even shortly after thirty days, because you do not ask for rain on Shabbat. It is better to be stringent in that if this occurs a few days after thirty days, and he remembers before he gets to the blessing "Shema kolenu", he should say "veten tal" in "Shema kolenu." If he remembers after he completed his prayer, he should repeat the prayer as a voluntary prayer and say, "If I am obligated to repeat, then this prayer should be my obligatory prayer. If I am not obligated to repeat, then this should be a voluntary prayer."
If within thirty days he missed several prayers, and after thirty days he doubts if he mentioned rain during the summer, he does not repeat. Still, if he completed his prayer, it is better to repeat the prayer as a voluntary prayer and say, "If I am obligated to repeat, then this should be my prayer, but if I am not obligated to repeat, then this is a voluntary prayer."
If within thirty days after the first day of Pesah, he made a mistake and said "mashiv haruah", and then repeated the prayer properly, and then after thirty days after the first day of Pesah he had a doubt if he said "morid hatal" or "mashiv haruah", there are those who say that he repeats as long as he has not reached thirty straight days in which he has said things properly without a mistake. Others disagree.
The Tze-tze fly
Recently, many foreign words have entered Hebrew, like "juke", "pijamah", "spongah", "girafah." A decade ago, who had heard of "intifadah", and who knew what "inflatziah" (inflation) was? Now, a word from the Bentu tribe of Africa has arrived: the "tze-tze fly." Another onomatopoetic word that sounds like the noise that it makes.
But the mere sound of the fly, which sounds like "tze-tze", does not begin to hint at its danger. This is a bloodthirsty fly, which bites animals and people in order to suck their blood. The small parasites which accompany the fly take advantage of the opportunity and enter the blood stream of the victim. This fly, which includes over twenty different species, is spread over all of Africa. There are many kinds of parasites that accompany it, but they mostly cause a horrible sleeping disease. This disease leads to deep and long slumber, which comes with terrible headaches, fever, paralysis, and even death.
This fly is responsible for the abandonment of vast areas in Africa. There the wilderness could be used for agriculture or grazing, but the fear of the fly is great. The residents, or any invaders, are bitten and become incurably ill.
We know that everything which God created, he created for his own honor, and in order that we learn a lesson from it for our service of God. We recall the Gemara (Berachot 61a) which says that the "evil inclination is like a fly." A regular fly is nothing more than a pest. But the tze-tze fly is dangerous. The biggest danger it can cause is a sleeping disease. This reminds us about the evil inclination. Most of what it does is cause laziness, hopelessness, and depression, which leads to "paralysis."
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: The son of the wealthy man traveled to Alexandria, to visit the N… of his father. He was received with love and with the respect reserved for a king. His father's friend provided him with a companion who would help him pass the time. The young man found a true friend, a conversant person: warm, bright, understanding, knowledgeable, and learned. They studied together, and he came to respect him more and more.
The visit ended. The boy came to say goodbye to his host. His parents were waiting, and they would get worried if he did not return on time. The gracious host understood and agreed. He said, "I would like to give you a gift. Choose any beautiful item from everything in my house. I will not deny you anything! I want you to recall me fondly, just as I cannot forget your father for even a second."
The guest said, "There is one beautiful item which you own, which I would like to take with me!"
"With pleasure," the host said. "What is it? Please tell me."
"The youth who, in your goodness, you gave me as a friend."
The host became pale, but quickly recovered and said, "There is nobody as sharp as you. You could not have chosen a more beautiful treasure! And now, our sages have said that one who gives a gift to his friend must inform him. Listen and I will tell you what a great treasure you have acquired."
"I have already had the pleasure of spending time with him, and I know of his quality," the guest said.
He told the following story. "Originally, I had been a jewelry dealer, who traded silver and gold trinkets. I was an expert, and I earned a fine living. But, in my sins, my luck turned, and I lost all my wealth in a bad deal. All of my income stopped, to the point that I had to sell all my household goods in order for my family to survive. Pesah was coming, and my home was empty. I wandered the streets, hoping to find a source of income, a business with which to make a few pennies. I returned home frustrated and empty-handed…
There were only five days left until the holiday, and poverty was screaming from every corner. My wife was saying, 'Why are you resting? The holiday is coming, and there is no wine, massah, haroset, or bitter herbs. There is little time, and lots of work to do. If not now, when!?' I told her, 'Have you come to spill salt on my wounds? Don't you see that I am out in the marketplace, and the Creator has closed all doors to my income? Please, give me advice. What should I do that I have not done?'"
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
1) Our sages learned from the story of Hannah that one should pray while moving the lips and reciting the words. One should not merely think the words, but say them. Still, he should not speak loud enough for others to hear. This is particularly true when praying with others, because saying the words out loud could disturb others. This also teaches us the lesson that we do not need to pronounce the words loudly in order for God to hear, because God is not like a human. He can hear even if we speak silently. God listens to prayer without Himself changing. The person who recites prayers properly, changes himself, and becomes aware that he is dependent on God. That person becomes more deserving of God's goodness and His gifts.
2) A Sefardi is not permitted to change his accent or pronunciation. This is true even if he is the shaliah ssibur among Ashkenazim (and vice versa).
3) Sefardi pronunciation is more proper and authentic then that of Ashkenazim, and many Ashkenazic rabbis went out of their way to learn Sefardic pronunciation. Proper pronunciation is difficult, and it behooves each person to learn pronunciation properly.
The Advice of Bilam
It is forbidden to find fault with others. Who better than me knows how good Jew are? "Who is like Your nation, Israel?" What a response comes after each broadcast and each operation? What faith, what purity? What heart, what feelings does this nation have, within each of its sons?
Still, this week's parashah raises some thoughts. What is the similarity between the gentiles then and the Jews now (to distinguish, of course, between the holy and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations)?
Once, when Balak wanted to defeat Israel, he knew the way: spirituality. He called the prophet of the nations, who might receive permission from on high to curse. If so, then he could succeed. Indeed, that was the path, and God had great mercy on us when he did not allow him to use his power. This was a kindness for which we thank Him forever, which we are commanded to remember for eternity. As it says in the haftarah, "My nation recalled what Balak, King of Moav, advised, and what Bilam son of Beor responded. In order to know Hashem's righteousness."
This awareness, that things are decided on high, was something even idolators and Jew-haters knew. Balak built altars to God, and sacrificed cows and goats. A good spark is not lost. Because of these sacrifices, he became worthy of having a granddaughter like Rut of Moav, the grandmother of King David, the mother of royalty. If this wisdom would penetrate the hearts of our leaders, they would not persecute the Torah world, they would not plan to weaken the kollel students. On the contrary. They would be encouraging Torah study in order to increase our goodness. They would know, "What allowed our legs to stand during the war? The gates of Jerusalem, who were involved in Torah."
Compare a hating gentile to the Jew of today. The wicked Bilam, the one who has no portion in the world to come, when he discovered that he cannot curse the nation, he formed a plan to make them fall, to awaken the anger of heaven against them. He tried to make them sin with the daughters of Midian.
Every sin guarantees failure, fall, and the abandonment of the divine defense which hovers around Israel. "And he will not see in you any immoral thing, and he will turn his back to you." The divine presence will leave. "For the Lord your God goes with you in the midst of your camp, and your camp shall be holy."
Protecting the fences of modesty and purity, proper dress and proper behavior, is the guarantee that the divine presence will rest on us. Breaking through the fences of modesty exiles the divine presence from the nation, from the camp, from the city, and from the home, God forbid.
The words of our teacher, the Ramhal zss"l, are well known. The root of all good in the world, spiritual and physical, is the light of the face of God. "For from the light of His face, the Lord our God has given us a Torah of life, love and kindness, righteousness and mercy, blessing and peace. "Israel said before God, 'All we have is the light of Your face!' as it says, (Tehillim 80:20), 'God of hosts, return the light of your face to us, and we shall be saved.' The root of all troubles is when God's face is hidden and the divine presence leaves us, as it says, 'I shall hide my face from you, and you shall find many evils and troubles.'"
We should understand what Bilam understood. Licentiousness and permissiveness drive away the divine presence and the divine protection, and leads to anger and all evils. Maintaining the borders will lead to the light of God's face, and all spiritual and material goods.
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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