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Balak 5765

Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   Last week we completed the first section (The Nature of the Belief in God) of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief. As I mentioned last week, Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), is well-known and revered by Jews across the board as a Jewish philosopher and scholar. He formulated The 13 Principles of Jewish Belief as the essential beliefs required of every Jew. They are found in almost every prayer book and are accepted as the unambiguous creed of Judaism. Immediately below is the second section - "The Authenticity, Validity and Immutability of the Torah." Each principle begins with the words "I believe with complete belief..."

  1. That all the words of the prophets are true. (The words of the prophets are the words of God and, therefore, true and incumbent upon us).

  2. The prophecy of Moses our teacher was true and that he was the father of the prophets - both those who preceded him and those who followed him. (Moses' prophecy was unique - no other prophet could claim to supersede the prophecy of Moses).

  3. The entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses. (The whole Torah was dictated by God to Moses, word by word, letter by letter and it has not been changed, mutated, or edited).

  4. The Torah will not be exchanged nor will there be another Torah from the Creator. (The Written Law - The Five Books of Moses, and the Oral Law -the explanation of the Written Law, were given by God, Who is not a man who changes his mind. It was given once and no other book will replace it).

The third and final section of Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Belief is - "Man's Responsibility and Ultimate Reward." There are 4 principles in this section. Each principle begins with the words "I believe with complete belief..."

  1. The Creator knows all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts. (Man's individual deeds are important to God and so are the hopes and thoughts that drive him. He is aware of everything man thinks and does).

  2. The Creator rewards with good those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who violate His commandments. (No deed goes unrewarded or unpunished; one cannot cancel out a bad deed with a good one. Each is treated independently).

  3. ... in the coming of the Mashiach (Messiah), and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come. (Every generation has within it the power to perfect the world and bring Mashiach; the world is our responsibility - we must do our utmost to be righteous and do righteousness. If we do not succeed, eventually God will bring Mashiach and completion to our efforts. It is the duality of personal responsibility and trust in God which has led the Jewish people to so much accomplishment and has kept us sane throughout the persecutions of history.)

  4. ... that there will be a resuscitation of the dead whenever the will emanates from the Creator. (The dead will live again in the Messianic era, when the world will attain a new spiritual and physical level of perfection.)

I know that some of the principles of belief seem strange or different than you have ever learned growing up. Personally, until I was 22 years old I never met a Jew who knew that the Jews believe in a World to Come, a heaven and a hell. Very few people enjoy having their belief system challenged or questioned, but belief is based on information, not emotion. The more information one has, the better decisions he can make in life. If you found the 13 Principles fascinating, perplexing or disconcerting, I highly recommend reading Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yakov Weinberg and/or Maimonides' Principles - The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Both are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

For more on "The 13 Principles of Belief" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week's portion is one of the most fascinating psychologically-revealing portions in the whole Torah! Bilaam, a non-Jewish prophet, was granted a level of prophecy close to Moshe's level of prophecy. The Almighty gave Bilaam these powers so that the nations of the world could not say at some point in the future, "If we had a prophet like Moshe, we too would have accepted the Torah and would have lived according to it." Bilaam is an intriguing character - honor-driven, arrogant and self-serving. Unfortunately, not too unique amongst mankind.

Balak, the king of Moav, wanted to hire Bilaam to curse the Jewish people for a fortune of money. It is interesting that Balak believed in God and the power of invoking a curse from God, yet thought that God would change His mind about His Chosen People. (God is not a man who changes his mind). Bilaam was very desirous to accept the assignment to curse the Jews -more for the profit motive than the prophet motive.

The Almighty allowed Bilaam to go to Balak (cautioning him to only say what God told him). The Almighty gives every person free-will and allows us to go in the direction that we choose. Three times Bilaam tried to curse us and three times the Almighty placed blessings in his mouth. Balak was furious! So, Bilaam gave him advice with hopes of collecting his fee -"If you want to destroy the Jewish people, entice the men with Moabite women and tell the women not to submit until the men bow down to an idol." Balak followed the advice and consequently the Almighty brought a plague against the Jewish people because the men fell for Bilaam's plot. We see from this that the Almighty hates licentiousness and idol worship.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Bilaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have mocked me, if I were to have a sword in my hand right now, I would kill you.' " (Numbers 22:29).

What lesson for life can we learn from Bilaam's behavior?

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik commented that usually a person hits a donkey because he wants it to go faster so that he can get to where he is going sooner. However, Bilaam was a pursuer of honor. Therefore, when the donkey caused him irritation he considered it a slight to his honor and wanted to kill it.

When a person seeks honor, he doesn't realize how ridiculous he is and how he hurts himself. Bilaam said that he wanted to kill the donkey immediately. He should have said that he would wait until he reached his destination and only then would he kill it. His seeking honor prevented him from thinking straight.

Moreover, the donkey started speaking. This was a miraculous event and Bilaam should have been overwhelmed with amazement. However, what does Bilaam focus on? Only one thing - his honor! And not only that, where is he looking for honor? From a donkey!

Every honor-seeker has aspects of this same craziness in his personality. Therefore, because of the negativity of this trait one must do all that he can to overcome the desire for honor.

The Chofetz Chaim used to say that true honor is when one seeks wisdom. Gaining more wisdom is honorable in itself and when one seeks it one will free oneself from seeking superficial signs of honor that are only illusions.

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Jerusalem  7:11
Chicago 8:03  Guatemala 6:16  Hong Kong 6:51
Honolulu 6:56  J'Burg 5:15  London 8:51
Los Angeles 7:47  Melbourne 4:59  Mexico City 7:02

Miami 7:55  Moscow 8:46  New York 8:07
Singapore 6:59  Toronto 7:37


The person without a purpose
is like a ship without a rudder.
--  Thomas Carlyle

With Special Thanks to
Robert and Shari Dorfman
for their dedication

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