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Haftarah: Michah 5:6-6:8

JULY 11-12, 2008 9 TAMUZ 5768

Pop Quiz: How many altars did Balak build in his attempt to have Bnei Yisrael cursed by Bilaam?


"Moab was very frightened of the people (Israel)" (Bemidbar 22:3)

For the most part, our perashah revolves around two people, Balak and Bilaam. Balak plans to defeat the Jewish people by cursing them. He hires Bilaam, the famous prophet, who has proven himself as being able to curse a nation and bring about their defeat in battle.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita comments that it seems on the surface that, between these two men, Balak is the more wicked. This is apparent from the fact that Bilaam was not willing to do anything without the approval of Hashem. Balak, however, hired Bilaam to bring about the destruction of the Jewish people. However, the puzzling fact is that the Gemara says (Horayot 10:) that in the merit of all of the korbanot offerings of Balak he merited that Ruth should come from his line. This needs to be explained.

The answer is that Balak tried to do this great evil out of fear of the Jewish people. As the above quoted verse says, "And Moab was very frightened." A man cannot be judged strictly when he acts out of fear. However, Bilaam acted out of greed. He was willing to curse a blessed people in order to gain great wealth. This reflects the poor character of Bilaam. Good character is what determines more than anything else one's portion in the next world. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When we read in the perashah about the talking donkey we can't help but wonder why this miracle had to occur, and to none other than to Bil'am, the prophet of the nations. Indeed, this was one of the phenomenon created at the end of the six days of creation, which makes it even more amazing why such a great event was necessary, and to Bil'am of all people.

The Rabbis tell us that the lesson here is very simple and yet very important. Bil'am, the greatest prophet of all the nations, was intending to curse the Jewish people. He wanted to use his G-d given gift of speech to do harm to our nation. Hashem wanted to show him that the gift of speech is divine and should be used properly. Even a donkey could speak if Hashem wills it so, and therefore Bil'am should not be arrogant about his ability to bless or curse because it is only from G-d that a person can say anything.

We have to appreciate our ability to speak and communicate. We should understand that it was given to us to be able to pray and bless Hashem and bring benefit to ourselves and to our fellow man. Yet when we abuse the power of speech by speaking evil about others or cursing other people, we are misusing one of the greatest gifts to mankind.

One great Rabbi once said that we should have been created with two mouths, one to pray to Hashem and the other to use for everyday talk. Then he reconsidered and said that if we would use both our mouths the wrong way, imagine how terrible it would be. We hear of small children using foul language that they pick up from the street (or from the home!) Could this be why our prayers are not being answered the way we would like them to be, since our mouths are being used to hurt rather than to help? Imagine the benefit to everyone if words of praise, compliments, constructive criticism, consolation and encouragement would be the bulk of what came out of our mouths? After we say something good to others, let's try to pray to Hashem and see what happens. We will be pleasantly surprised! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"The she-donkey saw the angel of G-d…and it pressed Bilaam's leg against the wall" (Bemidbar 22:25)

Why did the donkey crush Bilaam's leg against the wall?

Many years earlier, Laban and Ya'akob made a peace treaty. First, Ya'akob took a stone and raised it up as a monument. Then they took stones and made a mound. Then Laban declared, "This mound shall be witness and the monument shall be witness that I may not cross over to you past this mound, nor may you cross over to me past this mound and this monument for evil" (Beresheet 31:45,52).

Bilaam was a descendant of Laban (Sanhedrin 105a). By coming to curse the Jewish people, he was the first to violate this ancestral agreement. When one deserves punishment for transgressing before witnesses, the Torah prescribes that "the witnesses should be first to administer the punishment" (Debarim 17:7).

The fences in the vineyard where the angel stood were of stone. Since Bilaam had blatantly defied the agreement not to cause harm to the Jewish people, he was punished by having his leg crushed by the witnesses - the stones of the wall. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And Bilaam smote the donkey to turn her into the way…and the angel of Hashem said to him, 'Why have you smitten your donkey these three times?'" (Bemidbar 22: 23,32)

When Bilaam set out on his journey to Balak, who desired his services in order to curse the Jewish nation, Hashem sent an angel with an unsheathed sword to hinder him. The donkey was miraculously able to see the angel, while Bilaam could not. The angel blocked the donkey's path three times. After the first time, the donkey veered off the path, and Bilaam hit him. This recurred when the donkey pressed Bilaam's foot against the fence. The third time, the donkey, having nowhere to turn, settled down on the ground only to be hit again by Bilaam. When the donkey was miraculously granted the power of speech, it admonished Bilaam for embarking upon a journey which was against Hashem's will. Finally, Hashem permitted Bilaam to see the angel, who immediately rebuked him for hitting the donkey three times. Bilaam's reply was simply that he was not aware of the angel's presence. Thus, he now conceded his guilt in not noticing the angel's presence.

The Sefer Hasidim questions this "sin." Is it wrong for a rider to strike his donkey when he veers off the correct path or pushes him against a fence? Secondly, what was Bilaam's sin in not noticing the angel? He explains Bilaam's sin in the following manner. Bilaam should have realizes that the donkey's unusual behavior was a sign of Hashem's displeasure with Bilaam's intended journey. Thus, Bilaam appropriately conceded his guilt in not recognizing these repeated messages to him.

One who complacently travels on the path of life, never reflecting upon his personal life or noting unusual events, is guilty of sinful behavior. A Jew is obligated to use his G-d-given mind to be cognizant of the lessons that should be gleaned from a particular situation. Nothing occurs in this world by chance. In his beneficence Hashem offers us these subtle messages to protect us from misfortune. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Hi Sammy how are you" asked the familiar voice on the other end of the phone. It was Sammy's good friend Danny calling. "I hear you're on your way to Costco. . .Can I ask you a favor? Today is my son's birthday. He's been dreaming about the latest MP3 player that hit the market. . . the one made by Kingmax. They are hard to come by, but there are a few left at Costco. Could you pick one up for me?" "No problem" Sammy replied. "It's my pleasure!"

When Sammy got to the store, there were only two pieces left. He took one, and moments later noticed another customer take the last one. That was it. Costco was sold out.

On his way home he received a phone call from his son. "Dad, are you still in Costco?"

"No, but I'm not far away. What did you want? I can go back."

"Daddy, do you remember you said you would get me a prize for that 98 I got on my Gemarah test? I decided I'd like the new Kingmax MP3 player. The only place they sell it now is at Costco. . . . .

Sammy now faced an ethical dilemma. He knew Costco was sold out, but hadn't told Danny he bought the player yet. He wondered if he was allowed to keep the MP3 for himself and give it to his son. If he was, what would he tell Danny? Or perhaps he did have to give it to Danny?

What Sammy didn't realize is that this is more than just an ethical dilemma, it is actually a bona fide Halachic issue.

According to Halacha, the hand of a messenger is like the hand of the dispatcher. Therefore, a messenger (shaliah) who purchases an item for a friend automatically acquires it for his friend, at the point of sale. This transfer of ownership takes place even if the friend who asked him to make the purchase is unaware the sale was effectuated.

With this in mind, once Sammy bought the MP3 player for Danny, the item actually belongs to Danny according to Halacha. Sammy may not give it to his son, just as he may not give anything that belongs to someone else to his son.

Furthermore, now that Danny owns the item, Sammy may not even try to pressure Danny into selling it to him. The Torah states Lo Tit'aveh - A person may not try and persuade an individual into selling him something that he knows the owner has no interest in selling.

Sammy should explain these sensitivities to his son. If he can successfully imbue these morals to his son, he has given him a prize far greater than any MP3 player. . . one that will not be found on the bottom of the toy closet next Ereb Pesah, but rather a prize that will stay with him…forever. (Rav Dovid Grossman of Kollel Zichron Gershon)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Twenty one.

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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