The Gemara teaches that from the words and blessings that emerged from the mouth of Bilam, we can intuit and understand what his true intentions were. Hashem in His great kindness saw through the screen of Bilam’s intention, and made His Will known- that we are deserving of blessing and encouragement.
One intent that Bilam had was to remind Hashem of our misdeeds. Even verbalizing our sins has power to evoke negative energy and attach this energy to us.
In response to this, Hashem caused the following words to emerge from the mouth of Bilam:
Lo Hibit Aven B’Yaakov V’Lo Raah Amal B’Yisrael, Hashem Elokav Emo U’Truat Melech Bo.
Hashem doesn’t see or pay attention to the iniquities of the Jews, and Hashem is with us, the closeness of the King is within us.
The Gemara says that this does not mean that Hashem disregards our sins. He doesn’t. What we do wrong needs to be corrected, and is.
But the Baal Shem Tov adds that our sins take on a totally different picture than the one we generally paint. Because, even as we are erring, the thought of Hashem is with us. We are filled with remorse, guilt, disappointment in ourselves. The Baal Shem says that a Jew can never really ‘enjoy’ fully a sin, since we are sharing the ‘enjoyment’ with the healthy emotion of ‘Jewish guilt’. It is that Hashem Elokav Emo even while we are in the place of Aven and therefore, Hashem looks away from the error and sees only the intent. And the intent of every Jew is to be holy and connected to Hashem.
Bilam tried to focus on our inadequacies, our failures. Therefore, this week we must not at all focus on any inadequacies or failures of our significant journey companions.
One of the greatest tools in interpersonal relationships is given to us as a teaching by Rebbi Nachman. How can we help another person change? We cannot. They must do the work themselves. But, we can help. We can use the power of our mind to help focus someone on their own inner strengths. Daily, concentrate deeply on one good quality in whomever you want to help. Meditate on a Mida that this person truly excels in. It matters not what this midah is, or how religious or ritualistic it is. It just must be something that you truly believe is good in your friend.
This thought of yours will enter into the consciousness of your friend, elevating his/her belief in their inherent goodness, and will empower them to maintain and improve their beneficial soul.
This is one of the meanings of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh. All Jews are intertwined, connected to each other. A spiritual energy force sent towards a fellow Jew will be able to influence and energize its receiver.
One of the goals that Balak mentioned to Bilam was his desire to prevent the Jewish Nation from entering the Land. The Nesivos Shalom expounds on this obsession that Balak had with Eretz Yisrael. He teaches that Balak, as the foremost magician in the world, understood that the power of the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel was such that it would enable us to raise the level of materialism in the world to the level of holiness. This was anathema to his being. As a magician, Balak wanted to access energy by avoiding Hashem. The Jews connect to Hashem and thereby release holy energy into the world, thus depriving Balak of his impurity.
The resulting Bracha that emerged from Bilam reflects the reaction of Hashem to the impure thought of Balak.
‘Me Mana Afar Yaakov.’ Who can count the dust of Yaakov? Rashi explains that this means, “Who can evaluate the amount of holiness and Mitzvot done by Israel with its dust- the dust of Para Aduma, the dust of the Korbanot, the dust of the Land with which we fulfill the Mitzvos of Truma, Maaser, Shmitta etc.
We literally elevate dust!
Balak knew that Israel in her Land is invincible. The Nations of the world know this also. If only we, the Nation of Israel understood this.
I have not told you any taxi driver stories lately, but today, the Hashgacha was so direct that I will share one. The driver of today was telling me of his impressions as a soldier in the Six Day War.
“We were sitting on one hill; the Jordanians were on the hill directly opposite us. We were in the Jewish part of Yerushalayim, they were in the part that we had no access to yet. And their hill was barren, desert like, while ours was green and alive with grass and flowers. A little while after we reclaimed the entire Yerushalayim, those barren hills came alive again under our care.”
He continued, “When the Turks and the British were here, they couldn’t get a tomato to grow for them. But the Land was waiting for us. She was waiting for two thousand years. And when Her children returned, She opened Her life force and we can now produce food from the desert sands.”
Balak understood the power of the Jew in his Land. We must learn from him this lesson. It goes above logic, above planning and reason.
Why name a Parsha after a wicked person? We know that the name of the Parsha indicates its essence, and all parts of the Parsha are understood in their depth in reference to the Parsha title. So, why memorialize Balak?
The first two letters of the name Balak are Beit and Lamed. The first two letters of Bilam are also Beit and Lamed. Together, they spell BilBul, which means confusion. This is what the Torah reveals to us as the plot that these challengers posed. They tried to confuse us- by minimizing our merit, and by trying to manipulate the rules that Hashem set into nature. The last two letters of Bilam, Ayin Mem, and the last two letters of Balak, Lamed Kof, directly spell out Amalek. These men were continuing the work of Amalek to destroy holiness and Godliness from the planet. They wanted to lower our confidence in our inherent holiness, and swerve us from the path Hashem has planned for us.
The challenges this week, in our personal lives and our National life reflect the inner struggle to maintain our vision of what we came here to fulfill.
The Parsha begin by saying that Balak saw all that the Nation of Israel did to the Amorites and he infused his own fear into his own nation. He then looked for an indirect way to harm Israel, anticipating that Israel would harm him first. Fear is often the emotion that precipitates irrational, self destructive behavior. For a Jew, fear of an event or a person is supposed to realign us with appropriate fear- the fear that we might be distancing ourselves from Hashem. When we are nervous, anxious, fearful, we are supposed to remember what we say in Shemoneh Esray- that only Hashem is Norah, only He is powerful, and there is nothing else to fear but departing from Him. Our external fear is only a gift, a reminder, a signal that now is an appropriate time to remember the awesome might of the One. The anxiety can be let go of as soon as correct Emuna and Bitachon are remembered.
In fact, Hashem wanted to show Israel that in this world, we have nothing to fear from external enemies. No matter how much they hate us, no matter how powerful they are, if it is the Will of Hashem, the Ratzon Hashem, even our sworn enemies become the vessels that bring to us eternal blessings. And on a more personal level, no matter how apparently detrimental the negative events, people or internal attitudes we live with seem to be, they can Davka be the source and vehicle for our greatest success and blessing. It is more important to concentrate on our D’veykut to Hashem than to only attack a specific ‘enemy’.
For this reason, the Nesivos Shalom teaches that Balak tried to break our D’veykut, our attachment to Hashem. And to combat him, we strengthen our attachment, our commitment, our loyalty, our trust.
The 13th of Tamuz, marks the release of the previous Lubavicher Rebbe from a Russian jail. In his memoirs, he recalls how he strengthened himself not to cower and be afraid of his tormentors, and how this attitude, of inner strength and confidence actually won his release! When a great Jewish leader goes through a personal trial, he is really representing the entire Nation. His inner strength gets transferred to us; his release gets expanded to opening up freedom, spiritual and physical, for the Nation he serves.
There is nothing to fear. Rebbe Nachman teaches, V’Haikar Lo Lefached Klal! Ain Yi’ush Klal! For a Jew , there is no despair, no need to ever give up, no need ever to be hopeless, no need to be afraid. We are on a guided journey, and ultimately, we will prevail, and see the inner and outer victory we long for.
The most direct hints to Mashiach are in this week’s Parsha. “A star will emerge from Yaakov and a scepter bearer will come from Yisrael, and subdue Moav and the children of Shet…and Edom…”
The teaching of Mashiach comes out from the darkest place, from the place of danger and ‘blessing’.
May we each see, experience and live with our own personal Yeshua. May we each recognize each of the miracles that happen to us daily to bring us to our own internal state of Mashiach. May we each realize that we are, right now, closer than ever before to the global Mashiach. And may we focus all our energy into living in such a way that Hashem showers us with His blessings, so that we can truly be a Light to the world, and radiate Kedusha.