Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues

Parashat Bolok

(by Rav Moshe Friedman, Executive Vice-President of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva of Toronto)

The magnitude of this parasha culminating with Bilam's prophecy is vastly underestimated. Aside from the obvious factor that each and every syllable included in the Torah is immeasurable and cannot be estimated by mere mortals, there is an added dimension regarding the significance of this subject.

Rashi and the Rambam learn that only certain verses in Bilam's prophecy reflect the days of Moshiach's coming. The Ramban interprets all the verses as depicting the time of Moshiach.

The Sefer Hachayim (1) describes the end of the fourth exile which we are currently experiencing. He says, when we see a generation of mounting tzaros we should then hope with greater yearning for the final redemption which is impending. He quotes the Sefer Akeida that says that this is the meaning of the verse (2) "When it kneels down, rests like a lion and like a leopard, who will stir it up". Our Sages tell us (3) that the Sages wanted to incorporate Bilam's prophecy into the Sh'ma because of this verse. Some commentaries troubled by the relevance of this verse substituted another verse that better relates to the Sh'ma. The Rif says the law is according to the Sages that concluded that Sh'ma will be recited in Moshiach's time. Therefore, we may suggest that the original verse has a connection to Sh'ma as this verse denotes the beginning of the Messianic period.

The Talmud says (4) that the prophet Y'shayo cursed B'nei Yisroel with eighteen curses and was not calmed until he said "The youth shall pride himself over the elder and the base individual over the honourable one". (5) The Talmud explains further that this last curse means that one who is empty of mitzvos and thinks lightly of the worst of transgressions will become dominant and their say will be accepted over those who are filled with mitzvos (as a pomegranate is filled with seeds) and consider seriously every detail of Torah law. A glaring question confronts us. Did Y'shayo HaNovi have his heart set against B'nei Yisroel with such a passion that he needed this last and harshest curse to ease his wrath? The Mishna (6) proclaims that in the immediate days preceding the coming of Moshiach, chutzpa will be widespread. Perhaps in light of the above, we can now understand what Y'shayo HaNovi envisioned. He realized that this curse which depicts the ultimate in unmitigated gall and chutzpa, shows that the days of Moshiach are upon us. He saw the abject despair that B'nei Yisroel would be afflicted with at the end of days. He saw the breaking down of society in the most disgraceful fashion. But since he knew that in its wake Moshiach would appear to rescue us from the brink of total disaster, he was relieved and soothed.

Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt"l explained the words in the final kinus recited on Tish'a B'av likening the destruction to a woman in the midst of childbirth. Although the labour pains are excruciating and the mother to-be is barely clinging to life, still the family hearing her screams are in a happy state in anticipation of the imminent birth and the pleasures that will hopefully be derived from the blessed new addition.

This may be a reason why this Sidra is usually read immediately preceding the Three Weeks. To inject the Messianic dream into our hearts that we not fall into total despair with the advent of this period which brought with it the most horrible events that always happened during this sad period throughout our history.

This Shabbos, the 17th of Tamuz, is the day which in most years commences the three week period beginning with the siege of Yerusholayim and culminating with mourning the destruction of the Botei Mikdosh, which occurred on Tish'a B'av. On this very day Moshe Rabbeinu brought down the luchos (first tablets) and broke them when he witnessed the sight of the B'nei Yisroel dancing around the Golden Calf. Says the S'fas Emes zt"l, although the luchos were shattered, nevertheless the original gift from Hashem remains in perpetuity and its light is etched into the hearts of B'nei Yisroel forever. The holy letters of the tablets returned and are deposited in heaven. One is enlightened by these letters according to one's merits. The Ari z"l on the verse "It is a festival for Hashem tomorrow", states that in time to come the 17th day of Tamuz will become a Yom Tov. When B'nei Yisroel will be worthy, the first luchos will once again illuminate the world, for in essence the day that the luchos were given, is inherently a Yom Tov. The day became a day of distress when the luchos were subsequently broken.

This year takes on added significance as the the 17th day of Tamuz falls on Shabbos. The S'fas Emes further states that Shabbos is called the day of remembrance and it receives illumination from the first luchos. If B'nei Yisroel would not have sinned, Torah would never have been forgotten. It is through learning the holy Torah that we will bring the geula and restore the 17th of Tamuz into a time of rejoicing as was meant to be, when the luchos were originally given to Moshe Rabbeinu.

May we merit the Messianic Era when these 22 days designated as a time of suffering will become days of Yom Tov and simcha.


(1) Vol. 5, Chap. 6, Sefer G'ulo ViShu'o.
(2) 24:9.
(3) Talmud Tractate B'rachos 12b.
(4) Tractate Chagigo 14a.
(5) Y'shayo 3:5.
(6) Talmud Tractate Sota 49a.

Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Jerusalem, Israel