06 July 2017

Parshas Balak – Words of Truth From our Enemies

By Roy S. Neuberger

Some of the most basic truths emerge from the mouths of our enemies. They come to correct us; Hashem sends them only because we need them. As it says, “Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you…” (Dvarim 16-17) 

Hashem’s wrath blazes only because we have turned astray. 

One of the most potent examples is Bilaam, whose prophetic pronouncements are staggering in their pinpoint accuracy. Bilaam hated us with profound hatred. He would have greatly rejoiced if he had been able, chas v’Shalom, to destroy every Jewish man, woman and child. But Hashem, in His boundless mercy, saved us, just as He has saved us countless times throughout history. 

If we study the words of our enemies, we will find healing in their poison.

The “poison” cures us! We see this in the world of medicine and we see this in the world of ruchnius. Here, for example, is a quote about cancer drugs: "Most of these treatments attack not just cancer cells, but healthy cells, too. Thus, people taking the drugs too often suffer horrible side effects on top of whatever havoc the cancer itself is already wreaking.” (ABC News)

Similar things are true about “spiritual medicine,” lehavdil. After Korach died, Am Yisroel “was jeering and complaining about the ketores, saying, ‘It is a deadly poison….’” (Rashi on Bamidbar 17:13) What were they talking about? Ketores is “the dearest of all the korbanos!” (Rashi on Bamidbar 16:6)Ketores is uniquely able to save us! “You shall see that [ketores] is a plague stopper, and sin is what kills,” says Rashi. (Bamidbar 17:13) 

Sin is what kills. If we disassociate ourselves from the sin, then the poison will not harm us. 

The parah aduma is similar. At the same time that it heals, it “infects” those who handle it. The more potent the medicine, the more dangerous. Because it has the power to destroy evil, it can destroy other things as well. That is why we have to know how to handle these powerful tools. 

It is crucial to remember Bilaam’s pronouncements in our contemporary world. “Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Bamidbar 23:9) 

These words contain life-saving medicine. We have to try to purify ourselves so that we can apply this medicine. But, thousands of years later, we are still resisting it! We want to be loved! We want to be included among the nations! We scream when the United Nations treats us differently. Why don’t we listen to Bilaam? He clearly enunciated our position in the world.

We are not like them! We don’t want to be like them! Why are we kvetching

I’ll tell you why we are kvetching. We don’t want to trust Hashem! We want to be like the other nations because we don’t want to admit that our entire sustenance and protection comes from Hashem. If we believe that He is everything, then we have to follow all His rules! But if we behave like the other nations, G-d forbid, then we can pretend that we don’t depend on Him and we can try to follow our own desires instead of the Torah. 

Please listen to the earth-shaking words of Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein zt”l“When Yirmiahu Hanovi took leave of the Jewish captives on their way to Bavel … he rebuked them, saying, ‘Had you cried out in repentance, even once, while you were still in Tzion, you never would have suffered the punishment of Golus.’” 

Now he applies this to our own era. We must absorb these words: “We foolishly rely upon our army and on America instead of crying out to Hashem!” (Legacy of the Mashgiach, page 128)

Our lives depend on understanding these words. 

In a few days, the Three Weeks begin! Can you imagine! Another year and still no Bais Hamik-dosh! Another year! Ribono shel Olam! How long can this go on? How long can we endure this? 

We have to try to absorb this. There is no other Power beside Hashem, no other Source of Life, no sustenance, no protection, no bracha! We need nothing else besides Hashem and His Torah. Nothing! But we have to subordinate ourselves to Him. We have to humble ourselves to Him! We have to throw away the flimsy reeds on which we have been leaning. When you lean on a reed, you fall! We have fallen, and in three weeks – unless we wake up! – we will find ourselves once again on the cold floor, weeping and wailing for our Lost Temple! 

When are we going to take it seriously? When are we going to stop trying to imitate the other nations? We are alone and meant to be alone! “Am levadad yishkon!” We don’t share their goals or their ways! We don’t pray for what they pray for or desire what they desire! 

“For we arise early and they arise early; we for the words of Torah while they arise for idle words. We toil and they toil. We toil and receive reward, while they toil and do not receive reward…. We run to the life of the World to Come and they run to the well of destruction.” (Hadran) “Achas Shoalti!” Just to dwell in Your Sanctuary! That is all we need!

When are we going to stop embarrassing ourselves and the Ribono shel Olam? What do we need from the other nations? When Bilaam offers to bless Israel if he cannot curse them (Bamidbar 22:12), Hashem refuses, on which Rashi quotes the popular saying, “They say to a bee, ‘[We want] neither your honey nor your sting.” 

In his extreme hatred of Am Yisroel, Bilaam lost himself and foretold the ultimate Redemption: “A star has issued from Yaakov and a scepter-bearer has risen from Israel!” 

May we greet the Redeemer soon in our days!

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.

© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

His writing - beautiful as usual.