Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Balak


by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel." [24:5]

As we know, Bilaam wanted to curse Israel, but G-d prevented him from doing so - by putting blessings into his mouth instead. In the Talmud [Sanhedrin 105b], Rebbe Yochanon tells us that by carefully reading the blessings, we can learn the curses which Bilaam wanted to deliver.

Bilaam wanted to curse Israel to deny them houses of prayer and study, but HaShem forced him to say "how goodly are your tents" (as we learn in Genesis where Yaakov is referred to as a "dweller in tents," this means he sat constantly in the House of Study). Bilaam wanted to say that the Divine Presence should not rest upon Israel, but he was forced to say "your dwelling places, O Israel" (the word for "dwelling places" is Mishkanos, from the root Mishkan, the Tabernacle - the place where the Divine Presence rested). And in this vein Rebbe Yochanon analyzes the verses which follow as well.

Rebbe Aba bar Kahana says in conclusion: "all of these reverted to curses, with the exception of the blessing for Houses of Prayer and Study, as it says [in Deuteronomy 23:6, that although Bilaam was hired to to curse] '...and G-d reversed the curse to a blessing, for HaShem your L-rd loved you' - curse, and not curses." All the other curses eventually came to pass, as the Temple was destroyed and Israel was left without kings or kingdom, but Houses of Prayer and Study are with us always.

Why is this true? Why was it that G-d preserved this blessing above all the others?

R. Shabsay Ben Meir HaKohen, author of the Sifsei Kohen commentary on the Code of Jewish Law, says that as long as Israel has Houses of Prayer and Study, makes requests and trusts HaShem to hear their prayers, and remains devoted to Torah study, then the other curses are so limited as to be "nothing." By reversing this one curse, HaShem prevents the others from having terminal impact (Heaven forbid!). Torah study and prayer keep us alive as a people.

What happens to peoples exiled from their lands, whose kings are dethroned? They assimilate and disappear. Yet Israel is the exception. For Israel, Torah study and prayer keep us alive, far more so than land or rulership. (As we see so sadly in our own era, when we have our land but not study of Torah, nothing prevents young Jews from moving to other countries and disappearing from the Jewish community. Even in the Land of Israel, we need the Torah of Israel.)

As we say in our prayers, "we will rejoice in the words of Your Torah and your Mitzvos for all eternity, for they are our lives and the length of our days!"

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Yaakov Menken


Dedicated in loving memory of Chaya Freidel bas Shimon Pinchas, a"h.

 

ARTICLES ON YISRO AND TU BESHVAT:

View Complete List

Hear Today, Here Tomorrow
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

We Were There!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Talmud Torah: Learning for Life
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

ArtScroll

Outsiders Looking In
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5768

Back to Basics
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5764

Seeing the Sounds
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Divine Reason Revealed
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5758

Shearings and Shearlings
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Torah from Heaven
Shlomo Katz - 5774

> A Society to Be Proud Of
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5760

Proper treatment of the Convert
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

The Birth of the Blues
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Divine Computers
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

Doing Whatever We Can't
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

A Thing or Tu 'bout Shvat
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761

What is Tu B'Shvat?
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information