Parshat Balak 2018

Parshat Balak
By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron

בס”ד

לשכנו תדרשו
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Do Not Curse the People For They are Blessed

“Blessed are You HaShem Who sanctifies Israel.” This blessing is said at a wedding, and in most communities ends with the words “with huppa and kidushin.” However, the Yemenite custom, based on the Rambam’s ruling, is to end this blessing with the words “Who sanctifies Israel” only with no additions. This version of this blessing implies that the primary concept of “sanctity of Israel” lies with the sanctity of marriage directed by the Torah. Indeed, marriage begins with the act of “kidushin” which literally means “sanctifying.” On a deeper level, we may also say that when sanctity is magnified between husband and wife, so too the sacred relationship between Hashem, compared to the “husband” in Shir Hashirim, and Israel, compared to the “wife”, is also magnified.

This week’s parsha is so essential in describing the love between Hashem and Israel that our Sages initially wanted to enact its recital twice a day with the recitation of the Shema in which a Jew expresses the loving relationship with HaShem. This proposition of the Sages was cancelled out only because saying the entirety of this week’s parsha (since a “parshiya” may not be split in an enactment made by the Sages) would be a relatively long and cumbersome task to oblige the People.
Similarly, just as a Jew wears tfilin, which contain Torah sections that deal with the love of Israel towards Hashem, so too Hashem so-to-speak “wears” tfilin which contain Torah sections that deal with the love of Hashem towards Israel. In this way we can understand the verse in Shir Hashirim: “Place me as a sign on your heart, as a sign on your arm.” “A sign on your (the husband’s) arm” is interpreted by our Sages to refer to the tfilin. If the husband in Shir Hashirim corresponds to Hashem then we may say that this verse refers to the “tfilin of Hashem. However, if the tfilin referred to here represent the literal tfilin worn by the Jewish People then who is the “wife” asking Israel to wear tfilin, to place “a sign on your arm?”

The Sifri explains the juxtaposition of the commandment of tfilin to the verse in the second portion of Shema which speaks about exile by saying that the tfilin during the period of Exile serve as “reminders” of the ideal performance of the mitzvoth in the Land of Israel. In this way “a sign on your (the husband’s) arm” can literally mean the tfilin of Israel putting a “sign” or reminder of the Holy Land upon their “hearts and arms”, for Isaiah, along with many halachic and esoteric sources (we have discussed before), compare Israel to a husband and the Land of Israel to a wife. Our Sages explain the term “Maarat Machpela” to refer to the cave “doubled by couples”, a matter which highlights the power of Hebron, which also means “unity”, in uniting couples and in bringing sanctity into the Jewish home.

Rabbi Avraham Zeevi was one of the great rabbis of Hebron. He served as the chief rabbi of Hebron and as the rosh yeshiva in Hebron established by Avraham Ferera of Amsterdam. The Hida tesitifies about him: “his wisdom and sanctity is known in Judah and Israel, great is his name.” His mother was the daughter of Rabbi A. Azulai, the Hesed LeAvraham.” He passed away in 5491 (1731). His works, “Urim Gdolim” and Beer Mayim Hayim, were published posthumously.

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Real Stories from the Holy Land #270

 “I once went to the municipality of my town in order to advance a chesed project I had begun about forty days before. It turns out that the very same day I came to the municipality, the office of the municipality made efforts to call me as well, for the first time in these forty days.”

Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 127.

Comments, questions, and/or stories, email gmoshemoran613@gmail.com