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Haftarah: Michah 5:6-6:8

JUNE 29-30, 2007 14 TAMUZ 5767

The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz will be on Tuesday, July 3. The period of the Three Weeks begins on this day. During this time, no weddings or parties with music are permitted.

Pop Quiz: How many times did the angel appear to Bil'am's donkey?


"For what reason did you strike your she-donkey?" (Bemidbar 22:32)

In our perashah Hashem gives Bil'am's donkey the ability to speak. Hashem made many attempts to make Bil'am aware that it was wrong to try to curse the Israelites. Despite the many hints, Bil'am kept going on his mission to curse. During the journey the donkey acted in an unusual way, not walking straight and crushing Bil'am's leg against the wall. Bil'am started beating his donkey again and again until the donkey finally spoke in protest. At that point an angel of Hashem appeared to Bil'am and asked, "Why did you keep beating the donkey?" The Rambam in Moreh Nebuchim asks: What is the angel's problem? Why can't Bil'am hit his donkey? After all, it is his donkey and he can hit his donkey if he wants! But the lesson here is that this is not true. It is a sin to be cruel to animals. One can't hit for no reason. Hashem allows man to slaughter animals, but not for nothing; only if we want to eat the meat. It is incumbent upon us to emulate Hashem. We say every day in our prayers, "For His mercy is on all of His creations." We are forbidden to kill animals except for a good purpose or to protect ourselves from being hurt by them. People who have pets must be very careful that they are not causing them pain, for this would be forbidden. If one can't feed or care for the animal properly, it would be forbidden to keep a pet in such a situation. Taking in a pet brings upon the owner a large responsibility.

If we are commanded to be very careful about our animals, how careful do we have to be not to cause pain to our fellow man! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

We are all familiar with the donkey of Bil'am which spoke to him after Bil'am hit it. This was an extraordinary miracle done for the benefit of the Jewish people to show Bil'am that the power of speech belongs to Hashem, so that Bil'am should not be connected with his ability to bless or curse people, since even a donkey could talk by will of Hashem.

The amazing thing is that G-d had this donkey killed so that people shouldn't point to it and say, "This donkey talked back to Bil'am the prophet." Imagine what a kidush Hashem, sanctification of G-d's name, it would be if we could see this donkey and what a great lesson it would teach people. But for the sake of Bil'am's honor, even though he was wicked, Hashem caused this animal to die. We see from here how important is the honor of a human being, which can override the lessons to be had with this amazing talking donkey. We would do well to remember this whenever a question comes up which involves the dignity and respect of someone else. Be it with words or deeds, how careful should we be to preserve the honor of any human being, especially a friend or a loved one! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations, who has counted the dust of Ya'akob" (Bemidbar 23:9-10)

Rashi comments on this verse that they (the Jews) do not mix with the nations of the world. One may argue the principle of majority rules, and thus follow, heaven forbid, the nations of the world. There are a few responses to this claim. One answer is that the righteous are considered alive after leaving this world, as displayed when the Jewish nation worshipped the golden calf and Hashem pleaded to forgive them in the merit of the forefathers. King Solomon states in Mishlei "I praise the non-living over those who are living," because the non-living have the advantage that in their merit the Jewish people can be more protected than in the merit of the living. In addition, the Torah is called "etz" (a tree), as is written in Mishlei, "It is a tree of life for those who hold on to it"," and the righteous are likewise called a tree as is written in perashat Shelah Lecha, "Does it have a tree?" (referring to Iyov). When the above verse states a nation that dwells in solitude it refers to the merits of their forefathers, conditional to those who go in the ways of their forefathers. But, if heaven forbid, they do not go in the ways of their forefathers then the reverse will take place. With the help of Hashem we will all go in the ways of our patriarchs, and surely Hashem will bestow upon us his blessings, amen! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim


"And Balak, the son of Sipor, was king of the Moabites at that time" (Bemidbar 22:4)

The Zohar tells why the Torah mentions Balak's father, and not the patrilineage of the other kings. He explains that Balak was the only descendent of Yitro who refused to convert to Judaism, and was therefore crowned as king by the Moabites as a gesture of gratitude for his defiance. His father's name is emphasized to indicate his lack of royal lineage, because he was king of the Moabites only at that time. The statement of the Zohar may be further explained by applying the words of the Hobot Halebabot regarding the yeser hara's (evil inclination) various methods of enticing a person to sin. The evil inclination attempts to ingrain a sense of joy and positive emotion regarding a sin so that the individual continues to fall prey to his desires. The Moabites' attempt at honoring Balak was to insure that he continue to defy his family's pressure. The joy and honor of being king would positively enhance his action of defiance, and strengthen him in withstanding his sympathetic emotions towards his family.

Vary often when a person experiences some form of joy resulting from a transgression, this will cause him to have a false sense of relief regarding this sin. One who oversleeps and misses minyan, attributes his ability to study better that day to his additional hour of sleep. You can be certain that he is experiencing a momentary bribe from the evil inclination. No benefit can be derived from a sinful act. On the contrary, if a misvah had been performed instead, it would have caused him even greater success and accomplishment. The yeser hara's methods for ensnaring one to sin are numerous. Success and prosperity resulting from a violation is only a clever tool employed by the yeser hara to deceive an individual to sin. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Bil'am said to the angel of Hashem, 'I have sinned for I did not know that you stood against me in the way'" (Bemidbar 22:34)

Bil'am's statement seems enigmatic. How could it be considered sinful if, in fact, he was not aware of the angel's presence? The commentators explain that this ignorance is in itself a sin. There are situations in which one must be acutely cognizant of who he is and before whom he stands. For example, a child can never justify striking a parent. Similarly, the king's closest aide cannot claim that he is not aware of the king's identity. Likewise, a prophet must always be cognizant of the presence of the Eternal. For Bil'am to assert that he was unaware of the angel's presence is in itself a sin. This is Bil'am's refrain to the angel "I sinned by not knowing, because as a prophet I must at all times be aware of an angel's presence before me."

There is a story concerning Rav Chaim Sanzer z"l which should be noted by all community leaders, spiritual as well as lay leaders. Rav Chaim once asked the Rabbi of a nearby city why he did not respond to the dire need of one of his congregants. The Rabbi replied, "I was unaware of his serious situation." Rav Chaim was taken aback and responded, "Regarding Bil'am, it is written that he said, 'I sinned because I did not know.' This teaches us that lack of knowledge is in itself a sin. A community Rabbi must consider it his personal mandate to know if one of his members is suffering. If he does not know, he has sinned."

This statement should have a profound effect on everyone. It is indisputably our moral obligation to sensitize ourselves to the needs of the community. We must seek out individuals who are in need. Biding time often results in tragedy for the one in distress. Coming forward to request assistance requires an amazing amount of courage. It behooves us to find a way to prevent one who is in need from undergoing this humiliating experience. Perhaps in the merit of helping others, we will not have reason to be concerned for ourselves.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Three times.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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