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Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Parshas Balak

2018 / 5778

 

Contents:

  1. Parshas Balak
  2. Shabbos Kodesh
  3. Shalom Bayis
  4. Mesilas Yesharim

Parshas Balak
Protecting the Jewish People from the Wrath of the Nations

 

“הן עם לבדד ישכון ובגוים לא יתחשב” (במדבר כג:ט)

“They are a nation who will dwell alone and will avoid the attention of the nations” (Bamidbar 23:9)

That is, when the Jewish people fulfill the condition of “הן עם לבדד ישכון” / “They are a nation who will dwell alone”, as a result, “ובגוים לא יתחשב” / “and (they) will avoid the attention of the nations”. Meaning, when the Jewish people dwell alone and follow the path of the Torah, the nations of the world will not pay attention to them; the immediate benefit being that they will cause no harm to the Jewish people. The reason being that the nations live outside of the world of Torah and thus cannot relate to the Jewish way of life and thus will ignore it. This is as we find regarding Yaakov and Eisav; [Yaakov being the forefather of the Jewish nation and Eisav the forefather of many of the other nations] “וישב ביום ההוא עשו לדרכו שעירה. ויעקב נסע סוכותה” / “And on that day Eisav returned to his way toward Seira. And Yaakov traveled toward Succos” (Bereishis 33:16-17). This is the ideal: Eisav and the nations live in their land and conduct themselves as they see fit and the Jewish people live in their land and conduct their lives accordingly to the dictates of the Torah.

Similar to this, Hashem told Bnei Yisrael right before they received the Torah “והייתם לי סגולה מכל העמים” / “and you shall be to Me special among the nations” (Shemos 19:5). That is, Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael, the Torah that you are about to receive is not merely a set of laws of instruction similar to the man-made laws of the other nations [where the nations live in proximity to one another] and each nation conducts itself according to its own body of laws. Rather the Torah is a completely different concept. It is Hashem’s divine Word and a totally independent and unique set of laws and life style which can only be successfully fulfilled when Bnei Yisrael live apart from the other nations.

When Bnei Yisrael understand the beauty and purpose of the Torah way of life and focus all their energies in that direction and do not look to emulate the ways of the nations or to overly interact in their world and lifestyle, the nations will not pay attention to the lifestyle and activities of Bnei Yisrael, as mentioned above. However, when Bnei Yisrael ignore the ways of the Torah and intermingle with the nations and look to follow their ways, then the nations will pay attention to them, meaning they will feel that the Jewish people are intruding on their lifestyle and on their “territory” and will look to fight back in order not to lose their portion. (See Devorim 4:19 that Hashem gave a unique portion to the nations. See Rashi there.) This, as the posuk states”שמעו עמים ירגזון” / “The nations heard and became angry” (Shemos 15:14) and they will go to battle against Israel.

Now, the admonition not to intermingle with the nations and their ways is not limited to the physical nations but includes as well the other negative pull of this world – the evil inclination! The only difference is that while the Jewish people might intermingle with the physical nations, the evil inclination intermingles with them. This intermingling as well will lead the evil inclination to go to battle against the Jewish people.

And so we find at the end of Parshas Beshalach that when the people doubted Hashem’s ability to supply them with water and said “היש ה’ בקרבנו אם אין” / “is Hashem amongst us or not”!? (ibid. 17:7) the immediate result was”ויבא עמלק וילחם על ישראל” / “And Amalek came and waged war against Israel” (ibid. 17:8). Similarly, when Dina ventured just outside the confines of the Jewish camp to see “לראות בבנות הארץ” / “to see about the daughters of the land” (Bereishis 34:1) immediately the posuk tells us”וירא אותה שכם בן חמור… ויקח אותה”… / “Shechem the son of Chamor noticed her… and kidnapped her and abused her” (ibid. 34:2).

May we merit to see and appreciate the great beauty and purpose of the Torah way of life and to follow it with great simcha until the point where the ways of the nations will be of no interest to us at all! If we do so, the Torah guarantees that the nations of the world will ignore us, and thus we will be able to live in peace and prosperity without end!

Tammuz 5776
The Torah and Hashem’s Holy Presence

 

“מה טובו אהליך יעקב משכנותיך ישראל” (במדבר כד:ה)

“How good are your tents Yaakov your dwellings Yisrael” (Bamidbar 24:5)

Four questions need to be asked regarding the wording of this posuk:

(1) What is the difference in meaning between the words אהל and משכן?

(2) Why is the name Yaakov written next to the word “אהל” and Yisrael written next to “משכן”?

(3) Why does it say “אהליך” and ו”משכנותיך in the plural form?

(4) Why is the expression “מה טובו” mentioned specifically next to the word “אהליך”?

In answer, we can suggest as follows:

(1-2) “אהל” alludes to a place of Torah and holiness of the individual and “משכן represents a spiritual dwelling of the whole of the Jewish people, as in the Mishkan in the desert and the two holy Temples in Jerusalem.

Therefore, the name Yaakov, which refers to him as an individual, is placed next to “ohel” and the name Yisrael, which represents Yaakov as the father of the whole of the Jewish people, is written next to the word “Mishkan”.

(3) Regarding the use of the plural form “אהליך” / “your tents” and “משכנותיך” / “your Sanctuaries”, where it is understandable that “Sanctuaries” is in the plural as it includes the Mishkan in the desert and the holy Temples in Jerusalem, why is “tents” as well written in the plural? We can suggest that it is referring to the tents of Torah learning of Avraham and Yitzchok from whom Yaakov received the bulk of his Torah education.

(4) We asked above why the Torah placed the wording “מה טובו” / “How good” next to the word “אהליך” / “your tents”? This is because the word “טוב” / “good” alludes to Torah as it is written “כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזובו” / “For a good teaching I have given you, My Torah, don’t abandon it” (Mishlei 4:2). And “אהליך” as well alludes to Torah learning as it states”זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל” / “This is the Torah when a person dies in a tent” (Bamidbar 19:14) and the sages explain (Brachos 63b) that we learn from here that one can only truly acquire the Torah he studies if he “kills” himself over it, meaning he gives his whole self over to it. And so we find that the Avos/Forefathers invested their whole selves in Torah learning as the posuk states “ויעקב איש תם יושב אהלים” / “and Yaakov is a pure and honest person who sits in the tents” (Bereishis 25:27), meaning that his main occupation was the learning of Torah. The posuk concludes “משכנותיך ישראל” / “your Sanctuaries Yisrael”, teaching us that dedicated Torah study leads to the building of the Mishkan.

With the above, we can explain the double wording of “אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדות אשר פוקד על פי משה” / “These are the countings of the Mishkan/Sanctuary, a Mishkan of testimony which was counted under the guidance of Moshe” (Shemos 38:21). That is, the word “המשכן” / “the Sanctuary”, is referring to Torah learning which is the source of the Mishkan as mentioned above. (See also Brachos 8a, and Makos10a on the posuk”כי טוב יום בחצריך מאלף בחרתי” (Tehillim 84:11). And “משכן העדות” / “a Sanctuary of testimony refers to the actual building and functioning of the Mishkan as the eye “testifies” to its existence. Also the sages have explained that it offers testimony that Hashem’s Presence rests upon the Jewish people.

It appears that the above concept is alluded to as well in the mitzvah of Tefillin. The hand Tefillin regarding which it says “והיה לך לאות על ידך” / “And it shall be to you for a sign on your hand” (Shemos 13:9) on which our sages explain (Menachos 37b) “לך לאות” / “to you for a sign”, meaning to “you” a sign and not a sign to others, meaning the hand Tefillin should be covered, reminds us of the Torah of our forefathers which was learned in their “tents” – privately. (See Rashi – Bereishis 28:11 – that Yaakov “buried” himself in the Beis Medrash of Sheim vEiver before he went to Charan.) Thus, the hand Tefillin corresponds to the wording “המשכן”. And the head Tefillin, which is evident to all, corresponds to the physical Sanctuary called “משכן העדות” / “sanctuary of testimony”.

Thus we learn that one who fulfills the mitzvah of Tefillin awakens the source of the Torah, the merit of our forefathers and the sanctity of the mishkan/tabernacle. According to this, we can better understand the continuation of the above posuk regarding Tefillin “למען תהיה תורת ה’ בפיך” / “in order that Hashem’s Torah will be in your mouth”. “תורת ה'” / “Hashem’s Torah”, that is Torah learned with holiness, “בפיך” / “in your mouth”, meaning Torah received orally from our fathers as it states, written “ושננתם לבניך ודברת בם” / “And you shall teach your children/students” (Devorim 6:7).

Tammuz 5778
The Source of Pinchas’ Strength

 

“ויקח רמח בידו” (במדבר כה:ז)

“and he took a spear in his hand” (Bamidbar 25:7)

There are a number of questions we need to ask regarding this wording:

(1) Why is the unusual wording of “רמח” / “spear” used and not the more usual word “חרב” / “sword”?

(2) The use of the word “בידו” / “in his hand” seems unnecessary!?

(3) Also the word “ויקח” / “and he took” seems extra? The truth is, the posuk seemingly could have omitted all of the above three words and have simply written “ויקם… וידקור את שניהם” / “and he rose up… and stabbed the two of them”!?

It appears that we can answer all of the above questions with one general answer, and then go on to clarify the individual points. That is, the posuk is alluding to the well of strength from which Pinchas drew from in order to stand up against those who defied Hashem’s Torah. That well is called the dedicated study and strict observance of Torah and mitzvos!

In answer to the above questions in particular:

(1) The word “רמח” is used for it has the numerical value of 248 which corresponds to the number of positive mitzvos in the Torah, which alludes to Pinchas’ strict observance of the mitzvos.

It also alludes to his forefather Avraham, whose name also has the numerical value of 248, teaching us that although Pinchas committed an act of vengeance, his action was rooted in Avraham who was the pillar of loving kindness, teaching us that his action stemmed from his love for the Jewish people, and this love guided him to protect the Jewish people from those who steered them away from the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos – even if he had to use means of warfare to accomplish his task! Pinchas’ very name hints to this as it is made up of the letters פינ חס meaning that he was פונה / turned in the direction to חס / have mercy – on the Jewish people.

(2) The addition of the word “בידו” / “in his hand” hints to the fact that Pinchas fulfilled the mitzvos with such vigor and devotion until they blended within him and became part of him – just as “his hand” is part of him!

Also, “בידו” has the numerical value of 22 which corresponds to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet with which the Torah was written teaching us that Pinchas fulfilled the full intent of the laws of the Torah in his actions.

And, because of the great level of responsibility he took upon himself regarding the performance of the mitzvos, Pinchas was able to maneuver the great power and holiness of the mitzvos according to his will, similar to man’s ability to move “his hand” in any direction and use it for the purpose of his choice. (See Bereishis 29:10 where we find that Yaakov demonstrated a similar power.)

(3) The word “ויקח” / “and he took” alludes to the mitzvah of Torah learning as it states “כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזובו” / “For a good taking/lesson I gave to you, My Torah, don’t abandon it” (Mishlei 4:2). This teaches us that Pinchas excelled in Torah learning and, in addition, rooted all his actions in his learning.

In summary, although the above wording is unnecessary in order to describe Pinchas’ actions, it is necessary in order to give us a glimpse into Pinchas’ background and character in order to understand what propelled him to act as he did and to learn of the powerful spiritual well from which he drew the strength he needed to stand up to the heads of the tribe of Shimon who acted so defiantly and so overtly against the dictates of the Torah.

Tammuz 5776
Shabbos

Remembering Shabbos and Remembering the Exodus from Egypt

 

“זכור את יום השבת לקדשו” (שמות כ:ח)

“Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it” (Shemos 20:8)

What is the purpose of this “remembering”?

Regarding the leaving of Egypt it is written”ויאמר משה אל העם זכור את היום הזה אשר יצאתם ממצרים מבית עבדים כי בחוזק יד הוציא ה’ אתכם מזה ולא יאכל חמץ” / “And Moshe said to the nation remember this day in which you left Egypt from the house of slavery for with a strong hand Hashem took you out of this and don’t eat leavened bread” (Shemos 13:3). (See our commentary on this posuk Parshas Bo, Shemos 13:3 Tammuz 5778.) What is the meaning of “with a strong hand”? It teaches us that not only did Hashem redeem us from Egypt at that time, but built into that redemption were all future redemptions, those of the klall/community and those of the individual. This is the purpose of remembering the exodus from Egypt – to awake the dormant power of redemption which lies within that day so that we merit to redemption in our days as well!

Similarly, we can explain that the mitzvah to “remember” Shabbos is in order to awaken the great holiness which resides in Shabbos until it pervades our very soul!

While we are comparing the exodus from Egypt to Shabbos, we must ask, why is the concept of kedusha/holiness mentioned regarding Shabbos as it states “ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו” / “And Elokim blessed the day of Shabbos and He sanctified it” (Bereishis 2:3) and not mentioned by the exodus from Egypt?

We can explain with G-d’s help as follows: Shabbos is the source of kedusha which remains forever pure! (Maybe for this reason work is prohibited on Shabbos to teach us that Shabbos is a day where no change or creation takes place in the higher world of holiness as well.) Not so the leaving of Egypt, where the servitude and the struggles in Egypt and the leaving from Egypt were only part of the purification process of the Jewish people who were spiritually tainted from the sin of the first man and from the later sins as well. Therefore, the day of our leaving of Egypt is not a day of kedusha/holiness but a stage in our purification.

If you’ll ask, is not Pesach a Yom Tov which carries with it great kedusha!? The answer is yes, but it is not the complete kedusha of Shabbos (for this reason certain acts of work are permitted) rather it represents an increase in kedusha and is thus worthy to be celebrated for it leads us to the complete kedusha of Shabbos. For this reason Pesach is also referred to as Shabbos (Vayikra 23:15).

However, our understanding above needs clarification, for we have found that Tefillin, which also reminds us of our leaving from Egypt, embodies great kedusha!?

In answer, there is a clear difference between Tefillin and Pesach, for Tefillin only “reminds” us of our leaving from Egypt and does not represent the actual leaving as does the holiday of Pesach. It only reminds us that the holiness of the Jewish people began to move back to the Jewish people once we left Egypt. In addition, Tefillin is compared to Torah learning as the posuk states”למען תהיה תורת ה’ בפיך” / “in order that the Torah of Hashem will be in your mouth” (Shemos 13:9) and the Torah is the source of holiness and not the leaving of Egypt.

Tammuz 5778
Shalom Bayis

 

Man was Created to Perfect Himself and Woman to Help Him in His Task
“לא טוב היות האדם לבדו אעשה לו עזר כנגדו” (בראשית ב:יח)

“It is not good for man to be alone, I will make for him a help opposite him” (Bereishis 2:18)

From here we learn that although man was the most exalted of all creatures, he was unable to complete himself through his own efforts alone. To help him achieve his completion, G-d created an “עזר כנגדו” / “a helper opposite him” – woman!

When man saw that the woman was able to help him complete himself, [dissimilar to all the animals of creation] to help him overcome the”לא טוב” or his natural lacking within him, he became very excited until he exclaimed”עצם מעצמי…לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לוקחת זאת” / “a bone of my bones… to this shall be called woman for from a man this is taken” (Bereishis 2:23).

Now, although the woman had great virtues, the man did not directly praise them but rather commented on the great benefit she could offer him. That is, he did not say “עצם כעצמי” / a bone like my bones” but rather “עצם מעצמי” / a bone from my bones” for he realized that the main purpose of her creation was to help him complete himself. And in a similar vein he concluded”כי מאיש לוקחה זאת” / “for from man this (the woman) was taken”, emphasizing his benefit and not her virtues as above.

From here we learn that man is obligated to perfect himself and that a woman does not have a similar obligation, rather her primary task is to assist her husband in his task, as the posuk states “ואעשה לו עזר כנגדו”!

What is the main help a woman can offer her husband?

To take care of the home and the children so that he can concentrate on his learning. This is as the sages have taught us (Brachos 17a) What is the merit by which woman merit (to the next world)? They send their children to learn Torah and they send their husbands to learn Torah and even give them permission to travel to another city to learn even if they remain there for some time and wait faithfully for their return (Rashi).

In support of the above, the posuk here reads “אעשה לו עזר כנגדו” and at Sinai it is written “ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר” (Shemos 19:2). From the similarity in wording we learn that just as the Jewish people encamped in front of Mount Sinai in order to receive the Torah, so too the woman was created and placed before man in order to help him achieve his portion in Torah.

Now, this does not mean that the woman’s role is secondary to that of the man’s, only that in order for fulfill her purpose she is obligated to aid her husband, for Hashem gave the mitzvah of Torah learning to the man and not to the woman – and Torah study is the prime reason for creation as the Gemora explained above. In return, she merits to a reward similar to that of her husband, similar to the relationship between Zevulun and Yissachar where Zevulun received an equal portion for his support of Yissachar who dedicated himself fully to Torah learning.

Tammuz 5778
Mesilas Yesharim

 

[Man was not Created for his Life in this World but for his Life in the Next World]

Behold, regarding this principle, our sages have explained (in Medresh Koheles Rabbah 7:19) the posuk “ראה את מעשה האלקים כי מי יוכל לתקן את אשר עִוְּתוֹ” / “See the creation of Hashem, for who can correct that which he has perverted” as follows: When Hakadosh Baruch Hu created man, he took him and showed him all the trees of Gan Eden and He said to him, see My creations how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And all that I created was for you! Be careful not to ruin and destroy My world! The general principle is, a person was not created for his life in this world but for his life in the next world, but his life in this world is the means by which he will merit the next world which is the purpose of his existence.

Therefore, you will find many sayings of the sages and they all have the same general message in that they compare this world to a place and time of preparation and the next world as a place of rest and where one eats his the meals he has prepared for himself. For instance, the Tana/Tanoic-period authority in Pirkei Avos says this world is compared to a corridor leading to the palace, or as they explained the posuk “היום לעשותם” / “today to do them (the mitzvos) (Devroim 7:11) and tomorrow (in the next world) to receive the reward of his actions in this world (Avoda Zara 2b). One who prepares before Shabbos will eat on Shabbos! This world is compared to dry land and the next world to a sea (Koheles Rabbah 1:34). [The following is the full wording of the Medrash: After a wicked person had died, he said I’ll do teshuva and repent for my wrongdoings. The answered him saying, foolish one, do you not know that the world you are in now is similar to Shabbos and that the world you came from is similar to Erev Shabbos. If you didn’t repent while you were alive and prepare yourself Erev Shabbos, how can you eat on Shabbos? Don’t you know that the world you came from is compared to dry land and the world you have arrived to is compared to the sea! If a person doesn’t prepare while he is on dry land, what will eat on the high seas!? Don’t you know that the world you are standing in (the upper world) is compared to a desert and the world you came from is compared to an inhabited area! If a person doesn’t prepare while he is in an inhabited area, what will eat in the desert!? And many more examples such as these!

Have a nice Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!
Yona Vogel

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