The Torah Portion of Balak
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
It has been asked: Rashi says that the non-Jews requested a prophet, so Hashem gave them Bilaam as a prophet. The Sages said that his power was like the power of Moshe, as has been explained on the verse, "And there has not arisen a prophet in Israel like Moshe" (Devorim 34:10), that in Israel there hasn't arisen, but in the non-Jews there has arisen a prophet like Moshe. If so, how was he such an evil person? Didn't Hashem speak with him? The explanation is by way of a parable: two women cooked the same food, and by one of them the food came out with a good and pleasant taste and smell. But by the second one the food came out with a bad taste and smell. The second one asked her friend: "Behold, both of us cooked the same food, so why did mine come out spoiled?" The first one replied: "Tell me, did you wash the pot well before you cooked in it?" The second one told her: "I didn't wash the pot." The first one answered her: "If so, the matter is understood, you cooked the good food inside a dirty pot, and therefore the food came out that way." Similarly, Moshe prepared himself to be a beautiful vessel by means of Mitzvot and good deeds, as we found that when he was a shepherd he had compassion for the flocks, and then he was pure and clean to receive the indwelling of the Divine Presence, and arose to the heights in prophesy. That was not the case by Bilaam, who was dirty and polluted, and spoiled all the goodness that he received.
"Whose eye is opened (or pierced)" (Bamidbar 24:3).
It is told that during the Holocaust, there was a wicked Nazi, may his name be erased, and he had one artificial eye. He grabbed a Jew and told him that he had to tell him which eye was real and which one was artificial, and if he doesn't know, he will kill him. The Jew prayed to Hashem and succeeded to tell him which one was the real eye. He asked him: "How did you succeed to distinguish it?" The Jew answered him, that he sees in one eye that hatred for Jews is burning in it, and in the second eye he doesn't see that, and so he knew which was the true eye.
"Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3)
It is written (in Eicha 3:8):"Also if I will shout and I will cry out for help my prayer is blocked" . The Shl"a explains, that the word "blocked" in Hebrew is written like "Sh'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Shin as the first letter) but read like "S'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Samech as the first letter). The explanation of the word "Sh'tum" , written with a Shin as the first Hebrew letter is "opened" , as in the verse from this week's Torah Portion: "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3). That is to say, even though my mouth is blocked, it is opened a little bit to pray to Hashem in the direction of the Land of Israel, and to send the prayer by way of the Gate of Heaven, as our Rabbis of Blessed Memory said in the Gemara Brachot (30a). The Ibn Ezra and the Ramban write that the word "Sh'tum" (opened) is found only one time in the Scriptures, in this week's Torah Portion "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3). But according to the Shl"a it is also present in Eicha (3:8) according to the written form but not according to how it is read.
"Fallen down and with uncovered eyes" (Bamidbar 24:4).
It has been said in the name of a particular Tzaddik (righteous man) that this hints that all of a person's falls are only because he doesn't guard his eyes.
"How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael" (Bamidbar 24:5)
The Sages say that these are the synagogues and Torah study halls. It is told, that one time someone asked the Natziv of Volozhin how he was able to live next to the Yeshiva which had a lot of noise, and the sound of learning Torah, and how come that doesn't bother him to sleep. The Natziv answered and said, that behold, also the owners of the gristmill live next to the gristmill, and I have never heard that they have complaints about the noise of the mill. On the contrary, they have a pleasant and sweet sleep the more that the mill works, since they know that they are making a lot of money from it. Also I, when I hear the sound of Torah learning, then I think about the verse "How goodly are your tents Yaakov" , and I enjoy it while I am sleeping. (from Torat HaParsha)
"...those who bless you are blessed and those who curse are cursed" (Bamidbar 24:9)
Yitchak said (to Ya'akov when he blessed him) those who curse you will be cursed and those who bless you will be blessed (Braishit 27:29), and Bilaam said the opposite, those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed (Bamidbar 24:9). Yitzchak truly wanted to bless, and therefore finished at the end with a blessing, but Bilaam's intention was to curse, and therefore finished at the end with a curse. Rashi in the Torah Portion of Toldot explains that for righteous people, their beginning is suffering and their end is tranquility, and their curses and sorrows precede their blessings, and therefore Yitzchak first mentioned the curse on those who curse, prior to the blessing on those bless who bless. For wicked people, their beginning is tranquility and in the end suffering; therefore Bilaam said his blessing before his curse.
Words of Encouragement about Prayer
It is written in the Halacha (Jewish law) that it is necessary to pray as if counting money. But apparently we see that the cashier in a bank counts the money quickly, and today there is a machine that counts the money at great speed. So how is it possible to compare prayer to counting money? The answer is that it is possible to count quickly only when all the bills are of one kind, but if one needs to count different kinds of money, such as Shekels, Dollars, and Sterling, and he has bills of 100 and bills of 50 and of 20, then it is not possible to count quickly. And that is the intention, that in prayer every word is a complete subject in and of itself, and the Anshei Knesset HaGedola (Men of the Great Assembly) intended within each word very many meanings, and that is the explanation of "as if counting money".
The Torah Portion of Balak has 104 verses. Haftora: "V' haya Shaarit Ya'akov" (Micha 5)Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1. (third cycle)
On the Month of Tammuz
The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.
These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va'in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va'in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."
2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent."
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772