Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )
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GOOD MORNING! In the past I shared with you the unique wonders of Jewish history -- that it was prophesied that the Jewish people would be an Eternal Nation, that we would be dispersed amongst the nations, that we will survive while being few in number and that we will be persecuted. We'll now continue with two additional Wonders of Jewish History ... and in two weeks (next week I need to write about the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz and the Three Weeks) we will conclude! (By the way, you might also enjoy Fascinating Torah Prophecies Currently Unfolding available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.)
5. LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be a light unto the nations, "I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You shall become a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. Through you all the communities of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3). The prophet Isaiah (42:6) states, "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations."
Despite our small numbers, the Jewish People seem to occupy a disproportionate place as a focus of world attention. As Mark Twain wrote of the Jew: "He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning, are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers."
Despite being the most hated people, few in number and dispersed across the globe, Jews are the most influential people the world has known. Jews are responsible for the idea of ethical monotheism and the absolute moral standard that comes from a belief in one God.
Before the Jews, the ancient world thought that infanticide was morally correct (even Aristotle wrote in favor of it.) Before the Jews came along, the world thought that "might was right."
It was the Jewish people that gave the world the ideas of respect for life, peace, equality, justice, love of neighbor, social responsibility, and holiness of human purpose.
Today, on the wall outside the United Nations, the hope of the world is emblazoned, using the words of the Jewish prophet Isaiah: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nations shall not lift up sword against nations. Neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
6. INTERDEPENDENCE OF THE NATION AND THE LAND
It has been prophesied in the Torah that the land of Israel was rich and fertile while the Jews were living there: "I have come down to rescue them from Egypt's power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8). And when they were exiled, it would become barren and desolate: "So devastated will I leave the land that your enemies who live there will be astonished... Your land will remain desolate, and your cities in ruins (Leviticus 26:32-33)."
During the two thousand years of Israel's exile from its Land, numerous empires have conquered the Land and countless wars were fought for its possession. And yet, astonishingly, no conqueror ever succeeded in permanently settling the Land or causing the deserts to blossom.
Mark Twain, who visited Israel in 1867, describes the Land of Israel:
"We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds - A silent, mournful expanse... A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action . The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became." ("The Innocents Abroad" Vol. II)
The "land of milk and honey" turning into a desert, is a phenomenon unique in the annals of history.
Portion of the Week
Another week of action, adventure and mystery as the Jewish people wander the desert in their 38th year. First, the laws of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) which was burnt with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet thread. The ashes were then used in a purification ceremony for those who had come in contact with the dead. Strangely enough, all who were involved in the making of the ashes became ritually impure, but all who were sprinkled with them became ritually pure. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. God decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.
Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because of the lack of water. The Almighty tells Moshe to speak to the rock for water. Moshe gets angry and hits the rock and water rushes forth. However, the Almighty punishes Moshe and Aharon for not sanctifying Him by forbidding their entry into the land of Israel. (It pays to follow instructions and to withhold anger!)
Aharon dies. His son, Elazar, is appointed the new High Priest. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and later is soundly defeated. Then there is another rebellion over the food and water which is answered by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moshe prays for the people and is instructed by God to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of God, repent and live.
The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us. There are many questions which need to be asked. Please consult the original work and a good commentary.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
After the war with Sihon, king of the Amorites, the Jewish people took all the cities and settled in the Amorite cities. The Torah, in speaking about Cheshbon, says, "Because of that, they who speak using parables (HaMoshlim) say: 'Come to Cheshbon (sbo-ooh Cheshbon). Let the city of Sichon be built and established' " (Numbers 21:27). The Talmud (Bava Basra 78b) states on this verse: " 'Hamoshlim' refers to those who rule over their impulses. 'Bo-ooh Cheshbon', is telling us to come and make an accounting of our behavior. Think about what you lose by performing a mitzvah (a commandment) and weigh that against all that you gain from it. Think about what you gain from transgressing and weigh that against what you lose. If you do this, you will be built up in this world, and will be established in the world to come."
Regarding making an accounting of one's behavior, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes that a person needs to keep an eye on all that he does; he should work on overcoming his negative habits and traits. Successful businessmen keep close track of all of their investments and constantly weigh their financial situation. Likewise, a person should make an accounting of his behavior each day to work on self-improvement.
Before you go to sleep, ask yourself the following four questions:
- What am I living for?
- What did I do today towards my goal?
- What did I do today that took me away from my goal?
- What is something more worthwhile to live for?
Then ask yourself, "How did I interact with others? Is there anyone who I hurt today? How could I have handled the situation differently?" Add your own questions! Enjoy ... and grow!!
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 4:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:16 Hong Kong 6:53 Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:10 London 8:59 Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:52 Miami 7:57 Moscow 8:56
New York 8:11 Singapore 6:56
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Failure is when one stops trying,
not when one doesn't succeed.
In Honor of