By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
They Crouch and Lie Like a Lion and Lioness, Wo Shall Raise Them? Those Who Bless them Shall Be Blessed, and Those Who Curse Them Shall Cursed!
The story of Balak and Bilam in this parsha can be divided into ten sections, each section comprised of a prophecy/message from Hashem in regard to blessing Israel. In the first section Hashem warns Bilam not curse Israel, and not even to go with the people of Balak, for Israel is a blessed nation. In the second, almost contradictory section, Hashem tells Bilam that, “if they [the people of Balak] are calling for you, then arise go with them… but be careful to do what I tell you [i.e not to curse Israel].” Our Sages explain the seeming contradiction between the first and second sections by saying that Hashem tells Bilam that ideally he should not join the people of Balak, however if he already wishes to do so “a person is walked in the way they desire.” This teaching carries a deep message in regard to the ways of God, saying that Divine aid/”allowance” is not necessarily indicative of Hashem’s agreement to specific actions, but rather man is given freedom of choice, and yet nevertheless Hashem works out the final Divine plan even through man’s rejection of the ideal Divine plan. The third section can be seen as a “bridge” between the two previous seemingly contradictory sections. Here, on the one hand Bilam is so-to-speak “stopped,” similar to the first section, three times by his donkey who is threatened by and angel of God. On the other hand, Bilam is allowed to continue as he desired, but yet is warned to keep the word of God, similar to the second section. Then, after these three sections there are three actual attempts of Bilam to curse Israel, but then he ends up blessing Israel in the prophecy he is given. Then, there are four more relatively shorter prophecies where Bilam makes no further attempt to curse Israel. Thus, there are three sections of “preparation” for blessing, and seven prophecies of “actual” blessing.
What does all this mean? Our Sages teach that Hashem created the world with ten utterances which represent ten methods of Hashem’s mastery of the universe. Our Sages also teach that the concept “Israel” pre-existed the creation of the world. This implies that the People of Israel stand as the “blue-print” for the creation of the world, and therefore the ten Divine “utterances” that give blessing to the world ultimately flow through the identity of Israel, and therefore it is befitting that there are ten sections of blessing written together in the Torah in regard to Israel.
Many times we have noted that the relationship between Israel and the Holy Land is likened to a relationship between husband and wife, two entities which are essentially one entity. Similarly, just as Bilam blesses Israel he also blesses their undivided connection with their Land in our title quote. The Targum explains this verse to mean that just as a lion that crouches on earth cannot be lifted so too Israel cannot be removed from the Holy Land. Interestingly the continuing verse is “Those Who Bless them Shall Be Blessed, and Those Who Curse Them Shall Cursed,” a term that is used three times in the Torah all in context of settling the Land of Israel: once on occasion of Avraham’s ascent to the Land of Israel, second in regard to Yitzhak’s blessing to Yaakov pertaining to the granting of wealth in the Land, and third in this parsha in conjunction to Bilam’s blessing pertaining to Israel’s settlement in the Land. This is no surprise considering our Sages’ teaching that only a man who is married receives true blessing, and the Land of Israel is likened to the “wife” of Israel. Indeed, in Hebron, the city which means “unity,” we are especially awakened to this profound unity and connection our People have with our Holy Land.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #324
“In Elul 5762 we opened a kollel in Ulam Habritot (“Circumcision Hall”) in Maarat Hamachpela. The same day we opened the kollel an aron kodesh happened to be donated to that hall.” Y.B
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