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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Balak

The Way You Want to Go

Bilaam wanted to curse the Jewish people. Balak offered him honor and wealth if he would only go and curse them. Bilaam asked Hashem for permission. Hashem replied, "Do not go with them, do not curse the nation, for they are blessed" (Bamidbar 22:12). Balak was not happy with this so he sent more officers to give more honor and offer more money to Bilaam. What was Bilaam's response? "Stay here tonight, and I will know if Hashem wants to say anything more to me" (Bamidbar 22:19). Bilaam should have answered that Hashem did not allow him to go. Finished. Instead, he waited to see if Hashem would change His mind. The Medrash Rabba (20:12) comments that we learn an important principle from Bilaam's behavior. "Hashem leads a person in the direction that the person wants to go" (Makkos 10a). Hashem told him not to go. Bilaam wanted to go anyway. Hashem became angry. He said to him, "Evil one! I do not like to destroy wicked people. However, since you want to go and remove yourself from this world, get up and go!"

This is an example of a person wanting to go in the wrong direction. We all know that Hashem wants only good for us. Still, if a person insists on doing evil, then Hashem will follow along with him in that direction. This is called "free will". The same is true in the positive direction. If a person wants to do the right thing, Hashem will lead him along in the proper direction.

Kinderlach . . .

We all want to do the right thing. We all want to become big talmidei chachomim, tsaddikim, and tsidkanios. But it's such a big job. It takes such hard work. The Medrash is telling us not to worry. Hashem will help us. He will lead us in the direction that we want to go. We just need to do two things. We have to REALLY want to be tsaddikim. And we have to try our hardest. Leave the rest up to Him.

Rise Like a Lion

Why were Bilaam's curses so effective? The Gemora (Berachos 7a) explains that he knew when Hashem was angry with someone. At that point, he would curse him, and terrible things would happen. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin adds that this is the meaning of the verse, "How can I curse? Hashem has not cursed. How can I anger? Hashem is not angry" (Bamidbar 23:8). Bilaam could only curse when Hashem was angry. Hashem was not upset, therefore Bilaam was stymied.

When is Hashem not pleased with us? The Gemora (Berachos 6b) relates that when He comes to the Beit Kinesset and does not find ten (Jews), immediately He is angry. As the verse states, "Why have I come and there is no man? I called and no one answered?" (Yishaya 50:2).

Hashem does not want to be upset with His favorite children. Therefore, He is very kind to us, and fills our hearts with the desire to rise and greet Him in the Beit Kinesset. And so Bilaam praised us instead of cursing us. "How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Israel" (Bamidbar 24:5). We are found in our Bottei Kinesiot from morning to night, praising Hashem and learning His Torah. As the verse states, "The nation arises like a lion cub, and raises itself like a lion" (Bamidbar 23:24). Rashi explains that we rise to grab the mitzvos: tallis, Kriyas Shema, and tefillin. "It will not lie down until it consumes its prey" (ibid). We read Kriyas Shema at night on our beds, and leave our souls in Hashem's protection. If an enemy comes to wage war, He defeats them.

Kinderlach . . .

Our places of prayer and learning are our strongholds. They bring us close to Hashem, which keeps us spiritually and physically strong. Even the wicked Bilaam could see this. Get up like a lion to pray to Hashem! Learn His Torah all day in the Beis HaMedrash. Pray to Him before you close your eyes at night. Strengthen yourself and your nation. Be a lion!

It's a Fire

Bilaam was in a big hurry. He was on his way to curse Klal Yisrael, the nation he hated. He was on his way to receive a big salary for his curses - silver, gold, honor, and prestige. He would let nothing stand in his way. His donkey turned off the road, then pressed his leg into a wall, and finally stopped altogether. Bilaam struck the donkey each time. Hashem then opened the donkey's mouth and she spoke. "What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?" Bilaam answered back to the donkey, "If only there were a sword in my hand now, I would have killed you" (Bamidbar 22:28,29). Bilaam had no mercy on his donkey.

Rav Shmuel Hominer, in his sefer Eved HaMelech cites the Sefer Chassidim who makes a frightening statement. Any deed that causes tsaar (distress) will be punished; even if one places a load upon an animal that is too heavy, and then strikes the animal for not moving. We learn this from Bilaam, who hit his donkey. He then told her that he would have killed her with a sword. What was his punishment? He was killed by the sword (Bamidbar 31:8). We are speaking about the tsaar of hitting and cursing a donkey. How much more so causing tsaar to a human being will be punished.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l expands on this concept. Tsaar is like a fire. One who sticks his hand into a fire gets burned. We learn this from Peninah. She had many children, while her co- wife - Channah, had none. She genuinely empathized with Channah and wanted nothing more than for her to have children. Peninah wanted Channah to pray with all of her might - from the depths of the heart. Therefore she provoked Channah and irritated her, in order to get her to pray with more sincerity. Baruch Hashem, Channah gave birth to Shmuel HaNovi, and then other children. Peninah, however, was punished with the death of her children (Shmuel I 1-2). Why was Peninah punished? Her intentions were li'shaim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven). Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz answers that she caused Channah tsaar. And tsaar is like a fire. It burns.

Kinderlach . . .

Don't play with fire! You will get burned! Tsaar is a fire. It burns. Don't cause anyone tsaar. There is physical tsaar - hitting someone or causing him discomfort. There is verbal tsaar - insulting him, mocking him, or speaking loshon hora about him. There is emotional tsaar - ignoring him when he needs attention, hating him when you should love him. These are all very dangerous, kinderlach. They are a fire. And when you stick you hand in a fire, you get burned. Safety first, kinderlach. Don't cause any tsaar.

Parasha Questions:

For what did the angel rebuke Bilaam? (22:32,33)

What was Bilaam's ultimate fate and why? (Rashi 22:35)

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