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PARASHAT BALAK
Haftarah: Michah 5:6-6:8

JULY 4-5, 2014 7 TAMUZ 5774

RABBIS' MESSAGES

"He sent messengers to Bil'amů'Please come and curse this people for me.'" (Bemidbar 22:5-6)

The Gemara (Baba Batra 14b) states: "Moshe wrote his book (the Torah), the passage of Bil'am, and the book of Iyob." If Moshe wrote the entire Torah, why does the Gemara specify additionally that he recorded the passage of Bi'lam?

Rabbi D. Staum explains, in the name of the Hatam Sofer, that every event recorded in the Torah had eyewitnesses who watched it as it occurred. The Ramban notes that Adam witnessed the events that occurred in Gan Eden and related them to Noah. Noah related these events to his son Shem, who subsequently narrated those events, as well as the events of the flood and the Tower of Babel, to Ya'akob Abinu (Ya'akob was fifty when Shem died). The events in Egypt and the desert were witnessed by the entire nation.

The only exception was the Bil'am debacle. No one, not even Moshe, had any way of knowing that Balak had commissioned Bi'lam to curse the Jews, or that Hashem miraculously prevented Bil'am from fulfilling his mission.

The Navi Michah (6:5) tells us: "Remember now what Balak, King of Moab, plotted and what Bil'am son of Be'or answered him." Just as one is obligated to believe in the truth of every word of the Torah that was witnessed by others, so must we believe in the truth of the account of Bil'am, of which - aside from the players themselves - only Hashem Himself was aware.

Parashat Balak is always read shortly before the three weeks. Even as we begin to mourn our endless suffering in exile, we must remember that Hashem preserves and protects us in miraculous ways, which more often than not we never know about. The story of Bil'am reminds us of this. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When we read in the perashah about the talking donkey we can't help but wonder why this miracle had to occur, and to none other than to Bil'am, the prophet of the nations. Indeed, this was one of the phenomenon created at the end of the six days of creation, which makes it even more amazing why such a great event was necessary, and to Bil'am of all people.

The Rabbis tell us that the lesson here is very simple and yet very important. Bil'am, the greatest prophet of all the nations, was intending to curse the Jewish people. He wanted to use his G-d given gift of speech to do harm to our nation. Hashem wanted to show him that the gift of speech is divine and should be used properly. Even a donkey could speak if Hashem wills it so, and therefore Bil'am should not be arrogant about his ability to bless or curse because it is only from G-d that a person can say anything.

We have to appreciate our ability to speak and communicate. We should understand that it was given to us to be able to pray and bless Hashem and bring benefit to ourselves and to our fellow man. Yet when we abuse the power of speech by speaking evil about others or cursing other people, we are misusing one of the greatest gifts to mankind.

One great Rabbi once said that we should have been created with two mouths, one to pray to Hashem and the other to use for everyday talk. Then he reconsidered and said that if we would use both our mouths the wrong way, imagine how terrible it would be. We hear of small children using foul language that they pick up from the street (or from the home!) Could this be why our prayers are not being answered the way we would like them to be, since our mouths are being used to hurt rather than to help? Imagine the benefit to everyone if words of praise, compliments, constructive criticism, consolation and encouragement would be the bulk of what came out of our mouths? After we say something good to others, let's try to pray to Hashem and see what happens. We will be pleasantly surprised! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

YOU'RE BEING WATCHED

Parashat Balak is unlike any other perashah in the Torah. Except for the last nine pesukim, it relates incidents which have nothing to do with B'nei Yisrael directly. No one from the camp of the Israelites knew of the king Balak's plans, or of Bil'am's coming to curse them, or of his failure. Yet, the perashah is in the Torah, so let us see what can be learned from it.

There are those who claim that the Torah was not dictated by G-d to Moshe to write down. However, we have just seen that B'nei Yisrael knew nothing of the incidents related in our perashah. If that is the case, how did the story wind up in the Torah? The only One who knew what was going on, other than Balak and Bil'am, was G-d Himself! Thus, this shows that the Torah was indeed dictated directly by G-d to Moshe.

Another thing we can learn is the principle of hashgahah peratit - Divine intervention. The Jews would never have known of the miracles Hashem performed for them here if they were not put into the Torah. They would have continued on through the desert without realizing that Hashem did wonderful things for them in order to save them. This is how we go through our lives. We have no idea what Hashem is doing for us to save us from a particular danger. We don't realize that Hashem is watching out for us at all times and only letting things happen to us which are for our own good. This perashah should serve as a reminder to us of hashgahah peratit.

I NEVER KNEW THAT!

"I have sinned for I did not know." (Bemidbar 22:34)

When Bil'am was confronted by the angel of Hashem, he admitted that he had sinned since he hadn't known that the angel was standing there. The Shelah asks: If Bil'am didn't know that the angel was there in order to prevent him from cursing B'nei Yisrael, then what was his sin? How was he to know that Hashem didn't want him to go?

We can see from here that if a person has the ability to know and understand something, and he chooses not to know, he is still guilty. Since Hashem gave him the capacity to perceive what was wanted from him, he cannot claim ignorance of the law. This is why Bil'am was considered a sinner. He saw that his donkey was constantly veering from the path, something which it had never done before. He should have seen that something was wrong and realized that maybe Hashem was intervening in order to stop him from going to curse His nation. He was therefore held accountable for the knowledge which he had the ability to acquire.

This is something we must always keep in mind. If we have the ability to learn more halachot we must not take the attitude that we are better off not knowing so that we will not transgress. If we have the ability to know what is required of us, we will be held accountable even if we don't take the time to learn the halachah. (Yalkut Hamishai)

TEACHER'S PET

It is not easy for children to accept that another child is rewarded more often than they themselves are. In a classroom situation, noting raises the ire of students more than the teacher's favorite getting the top prize time and time again. The reward may be a special privilege, a plaything, or a candy, but the fact that the same child seems to always receive the award is frustrating to the other students. In their anger, they label the winner "teacher's pet."

As adults, the jealousy syndrome continues in situations where the person in authority - the professor, the manager, the team captain - rewards one person. When one member of the group wins the "bonus," the others cite favoritism.

The Gemara says that an empress asked Rebbe Yose, "Why does Hashem give wisdom to the wise? It is the fool who needs it more." Rebbe Yose answered, "If fools were given wisdom, they would squander it foolishly."

People who have the power to endow or reward others hate to see their gifts wasted by undeserving recipients. When employees perform in a satisfactory manner, the person in charge is prompted to give that successful individual another responsibility, and with it another opportunity for reward and compensation. Success breeds the opportunity for additional success.

In the eyes of others it may seem unfair, and it may also give rise to pangs of envy - but the fact is that favoritism is often justified. When you have a job to complete, do your best to succeed. Don't just do it - do it well. The results will not only be the pay that is due for that job, but the opportunity to once again prove your worth - and even become "teacher's pet." (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email kol18@attglobal.net (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.


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