JULY 15-16, 2000 - 12 TAMUZ 5760
by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Then Israel sang" (Bemidbar 21:17)
The Jewish people sang a song of thanksgiving after they were saved from the Emori'im . Rashi tells us of a fascinating episode. The enemies of the Jews decided to ambush the Jewish people while they were crossing between two mountains, by throwing rocks on them from the two mountaintops. Hashem caused the mountains to come together miraculously and crush the enemy before the Jews ever came to that pass. The Jewish nation didn't even know of the miracle until afterwards when they saw the dead floating in the waters, and there they began to sing to Hashem.
We see from here that very often we are not even aware of the miracles Hashem does for us, as it says, "ein ba'al hanes makir b'niso." We sometimes complain when we miss a traffic light or miss the bus, not realizing that we may have just been the recipient of a great favor. Whenever we see the Hand of Hashem revealed to us, this should give us faith and encouragement for all other occurrences when the miracle is not readily apparent. Miracles are all around us, we just have to see them - "there is no one more blind than those who refuse to see!" Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Balak, the son of Sippor, the king of Moab sent to me." (Bemidbar 22:10)
This week, we read the portions Hukat and Balak. In the second perashah, the Torah tells us about Bilam, the prophet. Bilam was a gentile who was given the tremendous gift of prophecy, to talk to Hashem. The king of Moab, Balak, was soliciting the help of Bilam. Balak saw an impending war with Israel as they approached his border. He wanted Bilam to curse the Jews in order to weaken them and defeat them in war. All of a sudden, Bilam became famous. He was in demand, the most powerful people in the world were seeking his help. At one time, Bilam was visited by a delegation to bring him to Balak. Hashem appeared to Bilam and asked him, "Who are these people with you?" Bilam answered that these are representatives of the great king Balak. Rashi explains Bilam's response to Hashem: "Even though I am not important in your eyes, I am important in the eyes of kings!" This statement of Bilam is truly a puzzle. How can he say that he felt unimportant in the eyes of Hashem? Didn't Hashem give him the greatest gift of prophecy?
We see that despite this great accomplishment of being close to Hashem, he still wanted the fame and glory of kings and power brokers. On the other hand, we see from Hashem's question, "Who are these people with you," that even though Hashem knew who they were he was saying, "Who are they anyway?"
It is a tragedy that today many parents take great pride in their children if they attain fame and glory in the eyes of the gentile world, but not if they become Torah scholars and good people. If they are in Washington or in the state capital, it is very prestigious. In reality, there is no real honor like the honor of Torah. If we can instill in our children Torah and the true fear of Hashem, that would be truly honorable.
"And the donkey saw the angel of Hashem standing on the road and his sword was drawn in his hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. And Bilam hit the donkey to turn her to the road" (Bemidbar 22:23)
The Midrash comments: "This wicked person is going to curse an entire nation which did nothing at all against him, and he hits a donkey to prevent it from going off the road and onto the field."
This teaches us about the great lack of insight a person can have about himself. Bilam, the wicked, is now traveling to go and curse the Jewish people even though it is against the will of Hashem. At the same time, when his own donkey does a minor thing against his will, how does he act? He is very angry and smites it. He was only thinking about how his donkey was acting against his will and was oblivious of how he himself was going against the will of Hashem at that very moment.
Whenever you become irritated at someone else for going against your wishes, use that as a cue to try to find ways that you are going against Hashem's wishes. This way you will be able to utilize those otherwise irritating situations as opportunities for self-improvement. This is especially true when you shout at another person for not listening to you. If you would listen to Hashem's wishes about how to treat another person, you would talk politely and respectfully to him. (Growth through Torah)
Answer to Pop Quiz: Edom.
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