Balak Sermon

 בס"ד


Shluchim Sermon

From the Rebbe’s Torah  




Balak



Humor to begin with:


Who was the most high-tech prophet? Moses.


He used a tablet.


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In this week’s parsha we learn about the positive prophecies that the gentile prophet, Bilam, made for the Jewish people. 


He was actually hired to curse the Jews, but instead the only words G-d allowed to flow from his mouth were words of praise and blessings for them. 


A great portion of his prophecies deal with the times of Moshiach — when the world will be filled with good. 


Moshiach is not only the name of a time — it is also the name of a person. He will be a Jewish King who will rule with kindness, humility and wisdom. It will be he who will usher in this magnificent time of world peace. 


About the king Moshiach, Bilam alluded to the content of the verse in Tehillim which states: “And he will rule from sea to sea and from the river to the corners of the earth.” 


Moshiach, a good king, will be in charge, and no one will be able to do any evil. It will be a time of goodness and prosperity. 


We are taught that the occurrences of the times of Moshiach are reciprocal for types of G-dly service we perform during the time before Moshiach comes — the time referred to as “exile,” (as we are exiled from experiencing G-dly revelation, and a world clearly in G-d’s image — which will culminate in a spiritually effected gathering of all Jews from all over the world, to the Land of Israel, where we will be able to serve G-d without any disturbances.) 


Which specific actions of ours will result in the reward of Moshiach’s kindly rule “from sea to sea,” and “to the corners of the earth”? 


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Oceans conceal their contents. The multitudes of fish, ocean plants, and landscapes are, for the most part, hidden from the eye above the surface.


Earth bares its contents to all. There is nothing hiding its mountains, valleys and greenery. 


Oceans, which contain their materials inside, refer to one’s inner dimensions and what one does for themselves.  


Earth, which shows what it has to others, refers to what is performed altruistically, for the sake of G-d’s purpose. 


Then there is the river, which directs the oceans waters throughout the dry land — for the purpose of others — leaving moisture and vitality wherever it travels.  


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Humor about helping others:


My wife said we each needed to make sacrifices to make our relationship work.


She was less than impressed with the dead goat I left in our kitchen.


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Talking about Moshiach and seas, we see another verse in Torah which mentions these concepts:


The prophet Zechariah says: “And it will be on that day, [when Moshiach comes:] live waters will go forth from Jerusalem, half toward the ‘first sea’ and half toward the ‘final sea.’”


What are the “first sea” and the “final sea”?


Well, if “sea” means what is inside of us, and is for us, the “first” sea must be a reference to the first and most refined attribute G-d bestowed upon humans, which they contain within the innermost part of them: intellect. 


When we're talking of a sea emanating from the city of G-d's choice: Jerusalem — the deeper meaning of this verse is obviously about G-dly intellectual pursuits. The understanding of G-d's wisdom. 


Intellect and understanding about G-dly matters should result in “the final sea” — the lowest, least refined of our attributes: the ability to act


Action is not as refined as thinking. Case in point: some people are better at intellectual pursuits than others — but when it comes to unskilled actions, everyone is more or less  on the same ground. 


And yet, action may be the hardest for us. For it is not within ourselves — it takes going out of our own world, and this can make us feel vulnerable. 


Without action, the intellect is superfluous. Only when intellect results in action has it achieved its goal. For it is a world of action that we live in. If one only thinks of good things, and understands them — nothing yet has happened. 


We've got to make things actually happen. 


Do good things. Do the work of G-d: Kindness, mitzvos, and educating and influencing others in this direction. 


This is the meaning of the "first sea" and the "final sea" — bringing down to the "final" of our capacities. 


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But then, this may still be a “sea;” meaning: it is for ourselves — just as the sea conceals what it contains, and, so to speak, "keeps it for itself."


Well, obviously doing mitzvos is for G-d — but we may want to do what G-d wants so that we will feel good and accomplished — to have fulfilled the will of our Creator. 


That’s also good and fine. Actually, quite admirable! 


But then, once we’ve reached that level, the next step is for the rivers to flow from the seas, throughout the land: the area outside of us; i.e. doing good for the other, (not only with them.) For the world. 


For G-d’s purpose to be fulfilled. 



A story on the idea of altruism:


Wine flowed and words of Torah were shared as the Jewish community of Ratzfert (Újfehértó), Hungary, gathered to welcome their new leader, Rabbi Naftali Hertz Halevi.


The atmosphere was jubilant, and the choicest fish, meat, and wines were served.

Suddenly a cry erupted at one of the tables. “Yayin nesech! Non-Jewish wine!” someone shouted. The lone voice soon became a din. As the bottle in question was passed around, it became apparent that there was a cross illustrated on the label, indicating that the wine had been manufactured at a non-Jewish winery, rendering it unfit to be used.


The bottle made its way up to Rav Yechezkel Shraga of Shineve (Szeniawa), oldest son of the saintly Rav Chaim Halberstam of Tzanz (Now Sącz), and a dear friend of the new rabbi.


As he inspected it, a faint smile crossed his lips. This surprising reaction calmed the commotion. All waited for the visiting sage to explain.


As the room fell silent, the rabbi began to tell a story:


Years ago, in one of Warsaw’s upscale neighborhoods, lived a rich widow named Paula Zimorsky. Among the many assets her late husband left her was a large winery.


When a Jewish merchant arrived at her estate one day, a rock was thrown at his head. He looked around and noticed a young boy with a cruel grin peeking out from behind the bushes. It was the widow’s son.


As the injured Jew met with her, he bemoaned the “warm welcome” he had received from her son. Shocked, she didn’t hesitate to apologize. “Maybe my preoccupation with my business affairs did not leave me enough time to invest in raising my child,” she sighed.


After the Jewish businessman left, the mother called her son and reprimanded him. The child looked at his mother in surprise. His eyes conveyed his thoughts: Mom, what’s the big deal? After all, he is just a Jew.


Noticing the unspoken sentiment, she said, “Know, my son, that the Jews you despise are G‑d's chosen people. I believe that their religion is right and just. You should know, my dear, that Christianity and Islam feed off ideas borrowed from Judaism.”


Never expecting to hear such words, the boy stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you never act on your convictions and become a Jewess?” The mother thought for a moment and chose her words carefully. “After all is said and done, I think that a person ought to follow in the path of their parents and to continue the traditions and beliefs that they were brought up with.”

It did not take long before people began to notice the improved behavior of the rich, spoiled orphan boy, but nobody knew what had caused the change. In truth, since that heart-to-heart conversation with his mother, he was besieged by troubled thoughts that gave him no rest.

Years passed, and one day the boy (now a teen) left home without a trace. He wandered until he chanced upon the house of a melamed (Torah teacher) in a village outside of Lublin. The teacher agreed to help this young Christian lad who demonstrated a genuine yearning to learn.

A short time passed and the young man went through a full conversion and chose the name Dovid. He began to advance in his learning and soon became a noted Torah scholar with a large and devoted following. People did not know his background, but his brilliance and eloquence were unparalleled.


One day two police officers stormed the study hall and arrested Dovid. In the church’s dark cellar, Dovid was charged with contempt for the Christian religion and was subsequently burned at the stake.


Some time passed and two priests disappeared from a church in Warsaw. After a few months, a letter arrived from the Holy Land. In the letter, they recounted the long conversations they had had with Dovid, and admitted that they had converted to Judaism as a result.

The second episode was even more embarrassing to the church than the first. The church leaders met and decided that the cause of all this trouble was the poor education the widow Zimorsky gave her child. In light of this, they determined that her wines could no longer bear the symbol of Christianity on their labels.


Years passed, concluded Reb Yechezkel Shraga, and the winery was bought by a G‑d-fearing Jew, a member of my congregation. At first, he was also shocked when he saw the bottle labels and wanted to alter them. But when he heard this story, he chose to keep the labels to immortalize the sanctification of G‑d’s name by Dovid, the son of the widowed Zimorsky.


Look again closely at the label and you will see that it is not a proper cross, it is only similar, as the church forbade the woman to use the symbol of their religion.


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When we get to a stage where we do things only for G-d, what we do will obviously be in a much greater, stronger, and more influencing manner. 


Even if we're not at that stage, thinking about it can give us a boost of energy we didn't think possible.


So: from the first ocean to the last ocean — from intellect to action.


And then: from the rivers throughout the land. 


Due to our efforts in this area, Moshiach’s righteous rulership will extend…: “From sea to sea, and from the river, throughout the land.” 


L'chaim.


May it be very soon. 





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מוקדש ע"י ולזכות הרוצה בעילום שמו




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