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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah ©
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Balak

Relate to Me!

"What's the matter, Avi? You look so upset."

"I am upset, Abba. I am so frustrated with my classmate, Normy."

"Why, Avi?"

"He does not relate to me."

"In what way?"

"When I try to talk to him, he doesn't listen to me."

"That can be very frustrating."

"Not only that, but when he talks, he is not really paying attention to me. I can see in his eyes that his mind is a million miles away."


"One time I asked him for help, and he refused me in such a cold way. It was so humiliating. He is just not relating to me in any meaningful way."

"Oy, I feel so badly for you, Avi. However, there is something positive to be learned from every experience. Now you can feel some of the tsar (distress) of the Shechina (Divine Presence)."

"Really Abba? What does Normy have to do with tsar HaShechina?"

"The answer is a bit involved, however let's begin with the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:2). 'The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah (serving Hashem), and gemilus chassadim (acts of kindness).' These three pillars hold up the world. If we would cease doing these three things, the world would fall. Now, let us examine each one of them. Torah is called the Devar (Word of) Hashem. He gave it to Klal Yisrael to learn and follow its commandments. Therefore, when we learn Torah, we hear the Devar Hashem. He is speaking to us, and we are listening to Him."

"I hear, Abba."

"Avodah, in our days, is tefillah (prayer). We speak directly to The Creator of the Universe, three times each day. Gemilus chassadim is helping our fellow man. Hashem is our Father, and we are His children. When one child helps the other, it gives the father such nachas. As if Hashem says, 'When you help My children, you help Me.'"

"That is beautiful, Abba. However, does Hashem really need our help? Does He need us to talk and listen to Him? After all, He is Perfect."

"Excellent, Avi. He wants us to have a relationship with Him - for our own good. 'Listen to Me - learn My Torah. Talk to Me - pray. Help Me - by helping my kinderlach - gemilus chassadim. Relate to Me and I will relate to you. This is the best thing you can do. This is your reason for existence. This keeps the world going.'"

"I think I get the message, Abba. My frustration with Normy was because he did not relate to me in these three ways. This is the tsar that Hashem feels (so to speak) when his kinderlach do not relate to Him."

"Right, Avi. Now Bilaam was a perfect example of this. Balak, the king of Moav was terrified of the Jewish people. He saw how they conquered Sichon and Og, and he felt that he was in mortal danger. Therefore, he invited Bilaam to curse the Jews. Bilaam asked Hashem if he could go with the emissaries of Balak to carry out their wishes. Hashem said, 'Do not go with them, do not curse the nation for they are blessed' (Bamidbar 22:12). In the end, Bilaam went and attempted to curse them. He was over on all three - he did not listen to the Devar Hashem. When Bilaam spoke to Hashem, he did not relate to Him as his Creator, whom he wanted to please. Rather, Bilaam wanted Hashem to agree to his wishes. Thirdly, he did not try to help Hashem's kinderlach, just hurt them."

"I understand, Abba. I want to be close to Hashem and give Him nachas ruach."

"May you always succeed."

Kinderlach . . .

The Creator of the Universe wants a relationship with you. Listen to Him by learning His Torah and keeping His mitzvos. Talk to Him when you pray. He is directly in front of your face, listening to every word you say. Be kind to Him by helping His kinderlach. Torah, avodah, gemilus chassadim - listening, talking to, helping Hashem. The world stands on this - our relationship with Hashem.

The Donkey Must Die

"Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey and she said to Bilaam, 'What have I done to you that you hit me these three times?' Bilaam answered, 'Because you ridiculed me. If only I had a sword in my hand, I would have killed you now!'" (Bamidbar 22:28-29). The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabba 20:14) reveals a little more of this conversation. The donkey said, "You cannot kill me without a sword?!? How can you hope to wipe out an entire nation?" Bilaam was silent. He had no answer to this sharp comment. The officers of Moav were dumbstruck. They had just witnessed a miracle that was unparalleled in history. The donkey put Bilaam to shame. What would be?

And so, the fate of the donkey was sealed. "The donkey said to Bilaam…'Have I been accustomed to do such a thing to you?'" (Bamidbar 22:30). The word "hasken" is translated here as "accustomed". The word "has" is similar to the word "chas" (to be concerned). The Medrash darshens (expounds) on this word. The Almighty was "chas" (concerned) about the honor of the evil Bilaam. Therefore, the donkey cannot continue to live, because people would see her and say, "This is the donkey that dismissed Bilaam with criticism so sharp that he could not answer." What a humiliation! And so, Hashem killed the donkey to save Bilaam from shame. If Hashem is so worried about the honor of a rasha (evil person), how much more so is He concerned about the honor of a tsaddik. And if The Almighty is concerned about the honor of others, how much more so should we respect and honor our fellow human beings.

Kinderlach . . .

"Beep, beep!" The young boy was zipping along the sidewalk on his scooter. He did not see the man walking in front of him until it was too late. He swerved to avoid hitting him, but did not succeed. The man was startled by the bump from the scooter. "Hey, watch out!" he said to the young boy. The boy laughed at him. His friend who was watching joined in the humiliation. It was entertaining watching the man get upset.

These boys have no concern for the honor of others. They will even go as far as humiliating someone if it gives them pleasure. Our Torah teaches us that this is wrong. Bilaam would have gladly wiped out the entire Jewish nation. He was of one of the most evil people in history. Yet Hashem Himself guarded Bilaam's honor. We must follow in His ways and guard the honor of our fellow man. Stand up for older people. Speak softly to them, with respect. If you do offend them in any way, apologize immediately. Follow Hashem's example. Honor your fellow man.

Parasha Questions:

How many people died in the plague? (25:9)

Why is Amalek called "the first among nations"? (Rashi 24:20)

Why are the tents of Yaakov good? (two answers in Rashi 23:5)

Does Hashem love us even when we sin? (Rashi 23:21)

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