Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 17   No. 37

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Binyomin z"l

Parshas Balak

A Nation Alone

"Hein am le'vodod yishkon, u'va'goyim lo yischashov" ('Behold they are a nation who will dwell alone and among the nations they will not be reckoned' [23:9]).

Targum Unklus interprets this Pasuk with reference to the World to Come. The Ba'al ha'Turim reinforces this interpretation by equating the Gematriyah of "Le'vodod yishkon" with that of 'bi'yemei Mashi'ach'.

Targum Yonasan too, concurs with this line of thought with regard to the first half of the Pasuk. But the second half, he translates as 'because they do not follow the ways of the nations'. In other words, Yisrael alone will inherit the World to Come, because in this world they live a different life-style than the nations. When, at Har Sinai, the nations of the world declined the offer to receive the Torah and to live by its standards, they forfeited their rights to the World to Come. It is Yisrael, and Yisrael alone, who live by the standard set by the Torah, who possess those rights.


Rabeinu Bachye, discussing the above Pasuk, explains that Yisrael are a special nation who dwell alone (in this world), and who are not reckoned among the nations, because, in keeping with the explanation of Targum Yonasan, they are unique on account of both their Torah and their faith. And he adds that, by virtue of the 'Lamed' that prefixes the word "le'vodod", the Pasuk can also be translated to mean that they belong to the G-d who dwells alone.

According to R. Bachye's interpretation of the Pasuk, this is not a prophecy, but rather Bil'am singing the praises of Yisrael (in keeping with the Pesukim that follow, where he lists a number of special Mitzvos that Yisrael perform). What Bil'am therefore means to say is that just as Hashem is unique among the gods, together with whom He cannot be reckoned, so too, are Yisrael, who are His people, unique, in that they cannot be reckoned among the nations of the world. One of the many Pesukim that the author cites in support of this explanation is the Pasuk at the end of Kedoshim (20:26) " and I will divide you from among the nations to become Mine".


The Ha'mek Davar goes one step further. He explains that when other nations go into exile, they make every effort to integrate with their host nation. They know that by doing so, they will find favour in their eyes and that by merging into one nation, they will earn their affection and popularity more than they would by retaining their own customs and way of life. Not so Yisrael. By retaining their Torah lifestyle, he explains, they will earn the respect and admiration of their captors, as the Torah writes in Ki Savo (28:10) "And all the nations of the land will see that the Name of G-d is upon you and they will be afraid of you!"


Quoting a Gemara in Sanhedrin (104a), the Ha'mek Davar explains that G-d wants Yisrael to maintain a division between themselves and the nations of the world. As long as they do, they will be secure (as the Torah writes in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah [33:28]). When they don't, they will be left to the mercy of the nations, which will eventually lead to the implementation of the lament in the opening Pasuk of Eichah "How she (Yerushalayim) dwells alone!" The key word in both Pesukim is the same as the key word here - "Bodod".

As long as Yisrael maintains the division between themselves and the nations of the world - even when they are in Galus, they will live securely. And it is when they aspire to emulate the lifestyle and customs of their captors that their captors despise them and turn against them (which is how the author explains "u'va'goyim lo yischashov"). That is why the Pasuk in Kedoshim that we quoted earlier writes "And I will divide you from among the nations " Because a division there must be! When we make that division, the nations respect us. But when we don't, then G-d will make it. For so Chazal have said 'When there is Din below (on earth) then there is no Din above. But whenever there is no Din below, then there is Din above!'


Based on this line of thought, we can understand the Gemara in Shabbos (97a) which explains that the name 'Sinai', that was given to the mountain on which the Torah was given, denotes the 'Sin'ah' (hatred) that came down to the world when we received the Torah. It refers to the inexplicable hatred that the nations of the world bear us, which, as history has proved, manifests itself whenever we try to follow in their footsteps and to curry favour with them. It is the method that G-d uses to prevent us from assimilating with the nations.

The hatred of the nations is not based on the inherent jealousy that they feel because we received the Torah and they didn't, as some contemporaries claim. If the gentiles want the Torah, they have the option of converting (see Parshah Pearls 23:9), so why should they be jealous? On the contrary, it is our attempts to relinquish our heritage and to adopt theirs that sparks off their hatred, as we just explained. (cont.)

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Bil'am's Vanity

"Stay here overnight" (22:8).

This implies a casual, one-night only invitation, says R. Bachye. In his arrogance, Bil'am viewed Balak's first delegation with disdain, and he greeted them accordingly.

Later, when Balak sent a more distinguished and larger delegation, he treated them with more respect. There he invited them warmly, with the words "sh'vu no bo'zeh!" , which has connotations of a more lengthy stay. Moreover, he points out, there he added the word "no" - 'please!'


A Bull and a Sheep

" and they came to Kiryas Chutzos. And Balak slaughtered a bull and a sheep (bokor vo'tzon) and he sent them to Bil'am" (22:39).

Just a bull and sheep, comments Rashi! Rabeinu Bachye asks what prompts Rashi to translate "bokor vo'tzon" as a bull and a sheep in the singular. Seeing as "bokor vo'tzon" are collective nouns, perhaps Balak sent Bil'am a number of bulls and sheep. Indeed, both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan translate "Bokor vo'tzon" in the plural!

The author himself suggests that perhaps, logically speaking, Balak made a point of minimizing on the preliminary festivities, so that Bil'am could get on with the job of cursing Yisrael as soon as possible.

The footnote however, explains that Rashi took his cue from the Medrash, which explains how, as opposed to Tzadikim, who say little but do a lot (like Avraham with his three guests), Resha'im tend to say a lot and to do not even a little. Balak promised Bil'am that when he arrived, he would honour him greatly; yet when it came to the crunch, all he gave him was a bull and a sheep!


Forty-Two Sacrifices

" the next morning, Balak took Bil'am to Bamos Ba'al" (22:3(-41).

R. Bachye explains that Bil'am built seven altars in Bamos Ba'al, seven on the top of Pisgah and a third seven in Ba'al Pe'or (the three areas to which Balak took him) - a total of twenty-one altars. On each of these he sacrificed a bull and a ram - a total of forty-two sacrifices.

No doubt this has something to do with Hashem's Holy name of forty-two letters, with which He created the world, and with which, according to some opinions, the Kohen Gadol uttered in his Viduy on Yom Kipur.

Chazal in Nazir (23b) however, say that it was on account of the forty-two sacrifices that Bil'am built on behalf of Balak in honour of Hashem, that Balak merited to have a 'granddaughter' by the name of Rus (though this does not explain the significance of forty-two).


The Seven Mizb'chos

' and he (Bil'am) said to Him "I have set up the seven altars " (23:4).

To explain why Bil'am referred to 'the seven altars' (see also Rashi), R. Bachye explains that he was boasting to G-d that he had built as many altars as the Tzadikim before him who had all built Mizb'chos - Adam, Kayin, Hevel, No'ach, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov.

It is interesting to note that the author lists Kayin among the Tzadikim (though this is hardly how one would describe the first murderer), besides the fact that according to this, Kayin and Hevel did not bring their respective Korbanos on the same Mizbei'ach.

The footnote there discusses this latter point, and quotes the Medrash Tanchuma, who omits Kayin from the list and inserts Moshe (who built a Mizbei'ach at Har Sinai), in his place.


When You Curse Yisrael

"From Aram Balak led me saying 'Come and curse for me Yisrael" ('l'choh oroh li Yisrael') (23:7).

Balak ought simply to have said "L'choh oroh Yisrael"

The word "li" seems to be superfluous, remarks R. Bachye?

But G-d already told Avraham that whoever blesses Yisrael will be blessed; whilst whoever curses Yisrael will be cursed. Consequently, when Balak asked Bil'am to come and curse Yisrael, he was in effect, asking him to curse him, as if he was saying "curse me". He may not have realized exactly what he was saying, but the truth came out of his mouth willy-nilly. Indeed, comments R. Bachye, every time Balak spoke about cursing Yisrael, he added the word "li" - "oroh li", "kaboh li", "kovno li", "ve'kaboso li"!


A Gentile & the World to Come

"Behold, they are a nation who dwells alone" (23:9).

See Main Article, where we wrote that 'When, at Har Sinai, the nations of the world declined, the offer to receive the Torah and to live by its standards, they forfeited their rights to the World to Come. It is Yisrael, and Yisrael alone, who live by the standard set by the Torah, who possess those rights'.

In His Divine compassion, G-d did not close the door to the gentiles. The above is confined to attaining Olam ha'Ba on a national level. Individually however, any gentile who so wishes may convert, and his right to Olam ha'Ba will then be secured.


Were They Killed or Weren't They?

"Take all the heads of the people and (stone and) hang them before the sun (for all to see)" 25:4.

This was a command for each of the seventy-eight thousand judges (the combined officers of ten, fifty, a hundred and a thousand) to judge and kill two of the sinners of Yisrael, as Rashi explains.

That means that a hundred and fifty-six thousand people were slated to be killed (more than a quarter of the total of K'lal Yisrael).

It seems to me that had this actually taken place, the Torah would have recorded it, as it generally does whenever large numbers of people fell, following the various plagues that occurred in the desert. Indeed, R. Bachye suggests that when Pinchas took action and performed his act of zealousness, 'the plague stopped'.

On the other hand, he says, it may well be that having commanded the judges to take action, one can be rest assured that they did so, with the resulting decimation of K'lal Yisrael.

* * *


'Like rivers of water that grow in strength, so are B'nei Yisrael, as they sit in groups growing stronger in their Torah-studies, and like gardens that have been planted by pools of water, so are their disciples sitting in groups in their Batei Medrash, their faces shining like the illumination of the sky that G-d created on the second day of the creation, and which He spread out for the Glory of His Shechinah; He cast and raised them (Yisrael) over all the nations like the cedars of the Lebanon that are planted on fountains of water' (24:6).


' There will arise from their ranks kings and rulers who will rule over them, and their children, the sons of Ya'akov will rule over many nations; the first (king) to rule over them will wage war with the House of Amalek, and because he will take pity on him, the Throne will be taken away from him' (24:7).


'. those who bless them will be blessed, like Moshe the Navi, the Rebbi of Yisrael, whereas those who curse them will be cursed, like Bil'am the son of Be'or (24:9).


'And now, I am about to leave and return to my people. Come, let me advise you : Go and prepare inns, under the charge of prostitutes. Let them sell food and drink for less than the regular price. This nation will then come and eat and drink until they become inebriated, at which point they will commit adultery with the women, they will deny their G-d, and in no time at all, they will be delivered into your hands, and many of them will fall, At the end of time however, their people will rule over your people (24:14).


' And he began his prophetic parable and he said so says the man who is greater than his father, to whom secrets that are hidden from prophets are revealed' (24:15).


'So says the one who hears the words of G-d and whenever he wants a revelation, he falls on his face and the secrets that are hidden from prophets are revealed to him' (24:16).


'I see him but not now when a strong king will rule from the House of Ya'akov and a saviour will be anointed and a powerful staff will emanate from Yisrael, and he will kill the princes of Mo'av, and he will destroy all the sons of Sheis, the Camp of Gog who will wage war against Yisrael. And their corpses will all fall before him' (24:17).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 452:
Not to Eat the Limb of a Live Animal (cont.)

If a limb of an animal became dislocated, squashed or pummeled, such as Beitzim that were squashed or severed, there is no Torah prohibition against eating it, since it still contains some life (otherwise, it would become putrid). Nevertheless, it is forbidden to eat it, due to a long-accepted Minhag to refrain from doing so, since it resembles Eiver min ha'Chai If a bone breaks, then, provided the flesh covers most of the thickness of the bone plus most of the circumference of the fracture, it is permitted. If however, the bone juts out from the animal, then the entire limb is forbidden if the bone was fractured and the flesh covered the majority of it, then it depends on a number of factors concerning the state of the flesh as to whether that limb will be permitted after the animal has been Shechted or not. Anyone eating it until it has been declared permitted is subject to Makas Mardus (i.e. Malkus de'Rabbanan) If someone places his hand into the stomach of a live animal, and severs the spleen or the kidneys, leaving them inside the animal's stomach before Shechting it, the severed limbs are forbidden on account of Eiver min ha'Chai. However, if he placed his hand inside the stomach of a pregnant animal and cut off pieces of the fetus, leaving them inside the mother's stomach before Shechting it, they are permitted, as long as they did not leave the mother's womb prior to the Shechitah.

This Isur applies everywhere and at all times both to men and to women. Someone who contravenes this La'v and eats Eiver min ha'Chai or a ke'Zayis of Eiver min ha'Chai, in the manner that we explained, is subject to Malkos. This is one of the seven Mitzvos B'nei No'ach that apply to all members of the human race, Jews and non-Jews alike. Nevertheless, there are differences regarding details of the Mitzvah between Yisrael and the other nations, as the author explained in Parshas Yisro, Mitzvah 26 ('Not to Believe in Other gods'). One may assume that the prohibition of Eiver min ha'Chai vis--vis the nations of the world extends to non-Kasher species of animals.

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