Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
Shalom, shalom! Baruch Hashem! The good news is Rav Wolfson is in Israel
for the summer! Every morning there is a g'valdik minyan by the Kotel and
every Shabbos afternoon he's giving an incredible shmooze on the parsha!
The bad news is you'll have to wait till next year to hear them, if the
Mashiach doesn't come (bad news in and of itself). This week we're going to
jump right into the Rav Wolfson touch. |
opens with the verse (22:2,3), "And Balak, the son of Tsipor saw all that Bnei Yisrael did to the Emorite. And Moav was afraid of the nation because it was numerous." Rav Wolfson feels you just have to wonder what does it mean that they feared B'nei Yisrael because they were numerous? Compared to Moav, everyone was!
The Ramban says it's the second verse of the Prophet Ovadia! He looks to Moav, according to the commentaries, and says, "You are the smallest..." So everyone is numerous compared to them! Why pick on Bnei Yisrael "ki rav hu"- that they were numerous? Two more questions.
By the way, this language was used back in Shmos when Pharaoh's advisors said they should deal wisely with the Jews "because they are numerous." This led Rabbi Shimshon Hirsch to comment that it must be there was a coup and the government of Egypt was overthrown by a small, powerful force who were less in number than the Jews! An interesting comparison, if I may say so myself, because as I was eyeballing the two sections I noticed it says here, "Moav was disgusted because of Bnei Yisrael," and it says over there, "they [Egypt] were disgusted because of Bnei Yisrael." Many times in the past we've spoke of the axiom from Chazal- our Sages, "The actions of the father's are an indication for the children." It seems like this applies for our enemies as well. Then again, it might be hard to say this here because according to Chazal, an advisor to Pharoah was Bilaam himself!! Now Balak is saying it! So, more literally, the actions of the colleague are an indication for the colleague. Of course, I'm being silly. An axiom of Chazal works 2 hours apart or 200 years apart. I'll have to ask Rav Wolfson about this tomorrow morning, bli neder. (And if you think that makes Bilaam an old man, Chazal also say that Bilaam was a son to Lavan!!! He's been trying to destroy us for a looooong time!)
Back in Breishis Lavan's sons claimed that all Yaakov gained was due to their father. The oldest son was Bilaam. If you think that wasn't nice of him, it says there that Rachel was by the well with the sheep. Rashi asks, if Lavan had sons, why were the daughters watching the sheep? Because Lavan had only girls until Yaakov showed up! So it was in the merit of Yaakov that Bilaam was born and twenty years later he says the 'ingrate' Yaakov is taking everything due his father! The nerve!!!
The second question. We are told in verse four, as an aside, that Balak was the king of Moav at that time. The Torah opens here's Balak, he's afraid, Moav is afraid, they tell Midian to be afraid, everyone should be afraid, oh, and "Balak son of Tsipor was king of Moav at the time." Rav Wolfson's second question is what kind of an introduction is that?
One last question. With the 17th of Tamuz falling this Shabbos (the fast pushed off till Sunday), the day on which Moshe broke the two tablets; Why does the very last verse of the Torah end with, "...that Moshe did before the eyes of all Israel."??? Seems harmless till you read Rashi, "'Before the eyes of all Israel'- That he decided to break the tablets before their eyes." Couldn't we expect the Torah to end on a more positive note?!
For the answers to these three questions we need to have some background information covered in the next three paragraphs.
1) A number of decades back, Albert Einstein sent the entire science world into a frenzy when he came up with the Theory of Relativity, that time and space are relative of each other. Unfortunately for Einstein, if he would have gone to cheder and received a good Jewish education he would have learned much earlier in life that time and space and SOUL are relative! One example is Yom Kippur, when the High Priest goes into the Holy of Holies. Yom Kippur is the time, The Holy of Holies is the space, and the High Priest is the soul.
2) Chazal say that the name "YiSROeL" stands for "Yaish Shishim Ribui Osios L'torah"- There are 600,000 letters of the Torah. We are also called by the name "YeShuRuN"- "Yaish Shishim Ribui Neshamos"- There are 600,000 souls. They teach that every Jew parallels a letter in the Torah. It's actually much deeper than that. Every soul is sourced from a letter in the Torah! The Torah is a blue print of the world. We are certainly a part of that world. So where do we appear on the blueprint? (The Torah codes, for example, have shown in an unbelievable way how every person can appear in the Torah.) My understanding of Chazal regarding the letters is that whatever spiritual source it is that sends out a force which comes down through all the transformers and eventually manifests itself in this physical world as a letter in the Torah, it is also the spiritual source of one of the 600,000 souls of Klal Yisrael. Since soul, space and time are relative, those letters that appear at the beginning of the Torah tell the story of a different kind of soul than those which appear at the end of the Torah.
3) Again, this is the month of Tamuz (the fourth month) and as we said last week, it parallels the tribe of Reuven. According to Bnei Yisrael's travels in the desert (symbolic of exile) the tribe of Reuven was fourth. Due to his sins, Reuven lost the birthright which would have meant being out in front amongst other things. There will be a time when he will be reinstated. When all sins will be forgiven. On the Choshen Mishpat, the Breastplate of Judgment which the High Priest wore, the tribes were inscribed according to their birth. On the heart of the High Priest, who symbolized the ultimate sanctity of Israel, it was not the place to memorialize the sins of Bnei Yisrael but rather where to evoke the image of Bnei Yisrael as they were intended to be and eventually will be! So like Reuven, Tamuz will also be reinstated. As will the month of Av. Both are months in which we mourn terrible events which befell our ancestors which continue to plague us today. It is prophesied in Zachriah that "the fast of the fourth and of the fifth [months]...will be for joy and for gladness and for happy festivals!" It should be soon!
With these three ideas under our hats, let's get come up with those answers. Although I didn't open with my two week old tradition of starting with a vort from last year, let me make up for it now. That opening verse of the parsha again is, "And Balak, the son of Tsipor saw all that Bnei Yisrael did to the Emorite." A previous Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Reich asked, What's the difference between seeing "all that" Bnei Yisrael did as opposed to the simple expression, "what" they did? What's being added by the "all"? What Balak saw was not just the end of a nation but the beginning of the end for ALL 10 nations!
Back in Breishis, in the Bris ben Habisarim- the Covenant of the Parts, Hashem told Avraham Aveinu that 10 nations that would have to be destroyed for Bnei Yisrael to eternally inherit the land of Israel. 7 were defeated during the span of the Tanach and 3 remain for the Mashiach to lead us to battle. [This 7-3 split is not unfamiliar to us. Just ask anyone in the Bnei Brith bowling league. Around Passover time, the beginning of the counting of the Omer, we discussed 10 s'firot- heavens, 7 heavens are predominant now (having to do with counting 7 x 7 weeks), and 3 are kind of in the background. The telling of the 10 plagues were divided up between two parshas, 7 in Va'airah and 3 in Bo. Anyway...]
Although the prophet Bilaam was tops in Tuma- the powers of impurity, Balak was no small potato himself. He was a world renowned warrior and knew the power of Tuma as well. One opinion why the Torah didn't open up introducing Balak as king was to emphasize he was renowned in this other light. Also, his name, "son of Tsipor" -Tsipor means bird- implies, says the Midrash, that he knew how to make a mechanical bird by which he would divine the future. Balak knew that the 10th victory of Bnei Yisrael would be the end to the forces of evil and it was 2 down, 8 to go!. Needless to say, he wanted to stop that from happening.
How is it that Balak is so up on the Mashiach? He should be. He's the grandfather of Ruth, the Moavitess, mother of the kings of Israel and who's later descendant will be the Mashiach ben David! What did Balak do to deserve to be a link in this chain? Chazal say in Gemorah Sotah that he offered up 42 sacrifices to Hashem in order to destroy Bnei Yisrael. He offered them with such devotion and dedication that Hashem rewarded him with a descendant that was going to offer up 1000's of offerings, but with the good intentions. This was Shlomo Hamelech- King Solomon. Talk about your lo lishma turning to lishma!
Ruth the Moavite converted and married a Jew named Boaz, the Torah Giant of his generation. The Chasam Sofer calculates that the day on which they wed, the day which she conceived the grandfather of King David, was the 17th of Tamuz! Certainly seems to indicate the potential for this that day as a good day for Klal Yisrael.
When we get into Dvarim, if the Mashiach has not come yet, we will read about the "Isha yafas toar"- woman of beautiful form. (Dvarim 21:10) "When you will go out to war against your enemies and Hashem will deliver them into your hand...and you will see amongst the captive a woman of beautiful form and desire her, you may take her to yourself for a wife." The Hebrew, however, doesn't really say 'desire her' but 'desire in her.' This helps to support the Ohr Hachaim haKadosh who learns that, unlike a normal convert who, upon conversion receives a different soul, these women already have the Jewish soul! It is just buried under spiritual layers of pagan shmutz! It is the soul 'in her' that is doing the attracting! Ruth's conversion wasn't like the usual in that she received a new Jewish soul. (Which offers a metaphysical explanation why a convert who does not accept the mitsvos is not a convert. Heaven doesn't get fooled. They never got a Jewish soul. And one who does accept mitsvos but later in life becomes non-religious, ch'v, the soul doesn't get swapped back. They have the rest of their lives to do tshuva.) Ruth had in her a Jewish spark the whole time and she rid her self of all the layers of shmutz. Again, just like will be by the 17th of Tamuz! A day which also bears the potential for holiness and happiness but it's currently buried under layers of tragedy and mourning.
Ruth was everything that Balak feared. He wanted to win Hashem over, so to speak, to let the spark in Moav stay buried and to let the nation of Moav become the new 'Bnei Yisrael'. ("The actions of the father's are an indication for the children." This is what X'tianity and Islam claim! By the way, I asked Rav Wolfson if the axiom applies by the enemies of Israel as well. His response, "Until today. Kinah. It's all Kinah."- Jealousy) "And Balak, the son of Tsipor saw all that Bnei Yisrael did...And Moav was afraid of the nation...because it was numerous." These last four words in Hebrew are "Ki RAV hu". 'Rav' is spell Reish-Beis. Rav Wolfson says that 'Reish-Beis' stands for Ruth-Boaz!!! It wasn't a numbers game racket after all! Later in the parsha, after the three blessings, Bilaam prophesizes, to Balak's dismay, "One from Jacob shall rule and destroy the remnant of the city." "One from" in Hebrew is "Yaird" with a gematria of 214. Same numeric value as "Rav hu"! May it be speedily and in our day!
Balak saw ALL that Bnei Yisrael had done, the beginning of the end, and they feared because Ruth and Boaz where on their way! Once that spark is removed from Moav, the world would have no more need for Moav! Try to imagine the hundreds of years Moav existed, the millions of wicked idolaters that came into the world and spit of the face of Hashem, so to speak. And Hashem tolerated it all for the sake of ONE soul that would come out from them. One soul that WE needed. Does He love us or what!?!
One of the other tragedies which befell us on the 17th of Tamuz was that due to the siege around Jerusalem, the city eventually ran out of animals and it was on this day that the daily Tamid offering ceased being brought! To elaborate on what was mentioned above, Balak was hoping Hashem would leave the potential of Ruth and the 17th of Tamuz buried where they were and let him fill their shoes. Three times Bilaam had Balak build seven alters (beginning 23:1). Then it says "Bilaam and Balak offered a bull and ram on each" and then Bilaam says to Balak, "Stand by YOUR burnt offering and I shall go. Perhaps Hashem will come to me." So Bilaam is acting on behalf of Balak. Rashi points out in 23:4 that Bilaam says to Hashem (we'll add, on Balak's behalf), "I have prepared the 7 alters."- Not just 7 alters but THE 7 alters. Rashi explains that Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov are recorded as having built 7 alters and then they only offered one animal on each. Balak has already built all 7 and he offered TWO on each! The enticement is, Balak is doing more for Hashem then all the forefathers did. Rav Wolfson points out that from "the seven alters"- es shevat hamizbechos- the letters of "shivat"- "Shin-Beis-Ayin-Tav" stand for "Shiva Assar B'chodesh Tamuz - Shebo Batul Alas Tamid"- The 17th of the month of Tamuz - on it was nullified the Tamid Offering.
That was the first answer and then some. Answer number two, regarding the unusual introduction of "Balak son of Tsipor was king of Moav at this time." The events coming to a head here were not just issues of who'll do battle to save the home front. These were lofty, metaphysical issues which bear directly on the fate of Bnei Yisrael. And they were being determined now because Bnei Yisrael is on their way into Israel. The defeat of the 10 nations had begun. As we said above, Balak was a critical link in the chain of the Mashiach. He had to be involved in these events. "Balak son of Tsipor was king of Moav at this time." THIS time! Now! Wait- that's not what Rav Wolfson says, I misunderstood him. Sounded good though.
Balak was King, not at that time but due to that time. Which time? The time we've been talking about all along- the 17th of Tamuz!! And in Rav Wolfson's inimitable fashion he notes, the gematria of 'time', "Ba'ais" = 472 = "17 b'Tamuz" and not without driving it home with the letters of "Ba'ais", "Bais-Ayin-Tav" standing for Batul Olas Tamid- was nullified the Tamid offering.
The Rav then brings from the Grand Rabbi of Kamornah a vort on the last word of the massage Balak gave his messengers when requesting Bilaam's services, "A people came out of Egypt and they cover the face of the earth and they sit opposite me." The last word is "Mimuli"- opposite me. The grand Rabbi says it's shares the root of "Milah"- circumcision! Just like a circumcision is an uncovering, that describes in a nut shell everything going on here! The uncovering of all the buried sparks of Kedushah which, as described, means the end of the likes of Balak. Bilaam, an arch enemy of Israel and also tops in Tuma, no doubt heard that message loud a clear!
With the seconds I have left till deadline, we said that the letters of the Torah are the souls of the Jews. The Rashi on the very first verse of the Torah says that "Breishis" can be read "b-Reishis"- for Reishis. He then brings verses to show that Moshe is called Reishis and Bnei Yisrael are also called Reishis. Rav Wolfson reasons that these first letters are referring of the Torah are the sources of the Generation of the Desert. The first official Jews! There are vorts which say that all creation was hanging in the balance to see if the Jews would accept the Torah or not. If they didn't, the world would revert back to pre creation. These first letters are that Generation and if they didn't accept the Torah then it's like the Torah never got started, ch'v. Since Moshe was no doubt the head of them all, he is the Beis, the first letter.
The last 8 verses of the Torah were written after Moshe's death, or rather narrate after his death. Maybe Moshe wrote them by prophecy, maybe Yehoshua did. These verses are not connected to Moshe! This souls are of the Jews who show no attatchment to Moshe and the Torah which he represents! The fact that there are 8 verse is a hint to the 8th day which is the day of circumcision. The uncovering. The message of these 8 is the same as the message of the 17th of tamuz which Rashi says the fianl words describe. No matter how it looks on the outside, inside there are sparks of holiness that are just waiting to be uncovered. And as we sais last Simchas Torah and probably will again this year- because it's so good- on Simchas Torah we read the end of the Torah and then the beginning. So the last 8 unattatched verses are read right next to the first Beis of Breishis. We think they are not connected to Moshe? They are connected in deed.
And I better get connected to email right now! Connect to Moshe Rabbeinu and have a Torah filled Shabbot Shalom!