Balak 5779

By July 17, 2019 No Comments

A man, trying very hard to understand the nature of G-d, asks Him: “G-d, how long is a million years to you?” “A million years is like a second,” G-d replies. The mand then asks: “G-d, how much is a million dollars to you?” “A million dollars is like a penny.” G-d replies. After thinking for a moment, the man asks: ”G-d, could you give me a penny?” “In a second!” replies G-d.

In the Talmud Tractate Berachot, 7a it says: “G-d gets angry every day. How long does His anger last? A moment. How long is a “moment?” A moment is 1/50,888th of an hour. This is a “moment,” and no creature could determine what time it is, with the exception of Balaam, about whom it is written: “And he knew supernal knowledge…”The meaning is that only Balaam knew how to fix precisely this moment in which the Holy One, blessed be He, is angry.

Rabbi Eleazar says: G-d said to the Jews: “Know how many righteous acts I have done for you in not getting angry in the days of the wicked Balaam. Had I gotten angry, no remnant of the Jews would have survived.”

This tractate teaches us that G-d has a very short window in time, a fraction of a second, in which he exercises His gevurah (justice) in the world. Then it gets slammed shut, and He resumes His kind and merciful ways. Only Balaam knew exactly when that moment was, and when to unleash his hatred towards the Jewish people, so G-d could not save them.

But G-d showed extraordinary kindness and mercy at that time because the Jewish people at that precise time were united and behaving in a holy way. Balaam tried in vain to find the opening into which he could find a fault in the Israelites encamping in the desert, so he could curse them and bring their downfall.

We see in the Parashah that every time that Balaam tried to curse, only blessings would come out of his mouth. From here we are taught that G-d did two things to stop Balaam’s plan. First, G-d shut close the window of time so His anger could descend, and secondly G-d turned Balaam’s curses into blessings.

Although Balaam only said blessings, in his inner heart and mind he harbored hatred and toxic thoughts towards the Jewish people. This thoughts had the potential to cause a lot of harm if it wasn’t for G-d’s desire to protect the Jews. This idea has tremendous impact in our lives. Our thoughts ate not so insignificant as we think they are. They are powerful, they have impact, and they can do things.

The lesson for each of us is that we must be super vigilant and ensure that our mind is protected, because when the mind is at it should be, then, consequently, the hands and the feet will also be as they should be. Thoughts , whether directed at ourselves or others have a real effect.

As we know now “thoughts matter.” According to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneersohn, the previous Rebbe, in Likutei Diburim, vol.1, p.1, he discusses that thoughts are not only the first and closest vehicle of the soul, but they have real bearing in actual life and have an impact on our actions. Thinking about someone else with positive, engaged thought is already an “action.”

Then it must progress into speech and action.

The way in which we can arouse mercy within us towards people who give us a hard time is to think about them in a positive way, always finding their good side. The Frierdiker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, wrote that  a well-known practice of Chabad Rebbes was to think deeply about their Chassidim, and those thoughts would engender real results. The Chassidim in return would also arouse within them the love towards their Rebbe by meditating on the love and connection they felt for him. This reciprocal love is known “ as water reflects a face.”

This practice, according to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, arouses the innermost spiritual potency of the individual who is being thought about. We can attest to this when we look intensely at someone, the other person must respond by looking back, because a penetrating glance arouses the essence of the soul. The same is true of the power of thought.

The Tzemak Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, once declared: “Tracht gut vet zein gut (think good and it will be good)!” In response to someone who complained  of a sick child. Thinking in a positive way brings positive results. To understand this statement of the Tzemak Tzedek, one must first understand that the definition of faith is not blind belief. Faith is an effort of the soul that will elicit G-d’s kindness as a result of his intention. Thus, when a person actively trusts in G-d to the extent that he puts his trust in Him, this in itself brings kindness from G-d.

We can understand this concept much better by analyzing the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers when we say: “U-Teshuvah, U-Tefilla, U- Tzedakah ma’avirin et roa hagezerah” (Penitence, Prayer, and Charity can avert the evil decree). This is the effort of the soul that the Tzemak Tzedek is talking about, once all these is said and done, one must think good and this in itself is what effects positivity.

According to Jewish law and basic decency, a man cannot get engaged to a woman under false pretenses. If he claims to be a millionaire, a millionaire he must be for his betrothal to have any legal validity. If he claims to be a tzadik, the law is that we must always consider the betrothal technically valid, meaning that we assume that the person making this claim is telling the truth.

How can we do that? We know so many who feel they are tzadikim, nevertheless they are rotten to their core.

The Talmud tells us a shocking thing: Claiming to be a tzadik is not a false pretense at all! This is so because in that one moment when he made that claim, the person could’ve had genuine feelings thoughts of complete and wholehearted teshuvah, thus rendering him a tzadik.

According to the Rambam’s determination, through one more mitzvah, one action, one word, or even one thought a person can tip the scales for himself and the entire world to the side of good, and causes salvation for them. It is clear that Judaism equates the intention to the act itself. An action we take in our minds is as powerful as one we take with our hands- this is heartening as its dangerous. At the end it is our choice as to which it will be.


Excerpts from this class taken from “Torah Studies” JLI Teachers Manual Book 51

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