Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )
GOOD MORNING! People often ask the question, "How do I know there is a God?" There are intellectual answers and evidence - if you are curious, you would enjoy Permission to Believe by Lawrence Kelemen. There are intuitive appreciations that there is a God - you see a newborn baby, watch the sun set over the ocean or look out over the majesty of a mountain range. And then there are experiential confirmations when you see the "hand" of God in your life. My friend, Rabbi David Olesker, shared with me the following story:
Rabbi Olesker gave a seminar in Boston. During a break, one of his students, a Jewish man in his early fifties asked to speak with him about a very important matter. They agreed to meet for dinner. And where do two Jews go when they want to have dinner? They went to a Chinese restaurant.
About half way through dinner the man began to broach the issue. He and his wife got married relatively late in life and thank God, were blessed with children. However, now the children were about to enter school. "Rabbi, I want my children to identify strongly as Jews and to marry Jews. I know the tremendous risk of assimilation by putting my children into a public school - in addition to the problems of the drugs and violence. However, how can I send them to a yeshiva or a Jewish Day School, and have them come home to a non-religious home? Should my wife and I become religious for the sake of our children?"
Rabbi Olesker laughed and the man asked him, "Why are you laughing at my question?" Rabbi Olesker responded, "Because you already know the answer to the question. You are uneasy with the answer; you want me to tell you what you already know. Then you'll disagree with me and feel justified in not following what you know is the right answer." "How can you possibly know that?" asked the man. "Simple," responded Rabbi Olesker, "Why else would you ask this question to an Orthodox rabbi?"
The man laughed and said, "Maybe you're right, but I would still like to hear your thoughts."
"OK," replied Rabbi Olesker, "a parent only owes his child three things - example, example and example. If having your children being part of the Jewish future is important to you, then there is no better way than to send them to a Day School and to have a consistently religious home."
The man responded, "But it is so hard. I could never change." Rabbi Olesker, who came from a non-observant home, responded, "Look, no one has made more changes than me. If I can do it, you can do it, too!"
The man retorted, "It's easy for you. You are a very adaptable person, but I am too old to change." The conversation continued for a couple of minutes to no avail and then the topic changed for the duration of the meal.
After dessert, the waiter brought two fortune cookies. Rabbi Olesker opened his and began to laugh. "Why are you laughing?" asked his companion. "Look what my fortune cookie says," and handed it to the man to read - 'You are a very adaptable person." The man joined in the laughter and then queried, "I wonder what my fortune is," as he opened his own cookie. When he read the fortune, he immediately turned white and began to tremble.
"What's wrong?" asked Rabbi Olesker. "It's the fortune from the cookie." Rabbi Olesker took the slip of paper and read - "You are never too old to change."
Today the man attends synagogue regularly, and he and his family are growing in their observance of the mitzvot. And his children are attending Jewish schools.
The Almighty speaks to every person each and every day. We have to pay attention to get the message and then to understand the lesson in a manner that helps us grow, improve our character traits and observance of Torah and come close to the Almighty. Not always is the answer as direct or as clear as the message this man received. Not always can we understand the whole message. However, if one is searching for buried treasure and only finds a diamond, he is still richer in life. All the more so with our efforts on a spiritual level!
AND WHILE WE ARE ON THE
TOPIC OF CHINESE RESTAURANTS...
A Jewish man and a Chinese man were talking. The Jewish man praises the Chinese as a very wise and intelligent people. The Chinese man responds with his thanks, his explanation that the Chinese culture is over 5,000 years old and likewise compliments the Jewish man on the sagacity of the Jewish people. When the Jewish man answers that the Jewish people are over 6,000 years old, the Chinese man is incredulous and asks, "... but, where did your people eat for over 1,000 years?"
For more on "The Hand of God" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah 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 rebel 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
Regarding the Cohen (the priest) who administers the purification process with the ashes of the Red Heifer, the Torah writes:
"And the priest is impure until the evening."
Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki taught that the essence of the Parah Aduma, Red Cow (that is, the whole procedure of purifying those who were spiritually impure) is the concept of "Love your neighbor."
His grandson, Rabbi Mendel of Vorki explained that this is because the Cohen (who was involved in the purification process) becomes impure himself through the process which purifies the person who came to him. When someone forfeits in order to help someone else, that is the ultimate in love for one's fellow human being.
A person who is not willing to make any sacrifices for other people will always find reasons why it is too difficult for him to do acts of kindness for others. To help others takes time, energy and money. However, when someone truly loves another person, he feels pleasure in all the sacrifices that he makes for him. The greater your love for someone, the more sacrifices you are willing to make. Therefore, the test of your level of love for your fellow human being is the amount of sacrifices you are willing to make. A person who is not willing to make any sacrifices shows that he lacks love for others.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 18
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The best present to your child
is your presence .
With Special Thanks to
Ms. Shira Seidenwar
With Deep Appreciation to
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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