Monday, August 31, 2015

484 - Balak

There is a fascinating Medrash regarding the brachos which Bilaam blessed Bnei Yisrael: "Greater was the blessing that Bilaam blessed Yisrael than the blessings given by Yaakov to the shevatim and the blessings given by Moshe to the shevatim. When Yaakov blessed the shevatim he chastised Reuven, Shimon and Levi, while the blessings of Bilaam contain no chastisement nor blemish." How could it possibly be that Bilaam's brachos outshone the brachos of our greatest leaders?

Rav Wolbe (Daas Shlomo) explains that brachos of Yaakov and Moshe focused on a specific facet of Klal Yisrael, while Bilaam's brachos focused on an altogether different aspect of the nation. Yaakov and Moshe were leaders of the nation and their perception of Bnei Yisrael was viewed from a vantage point of avodas Hashem, and thus their blessings reflected this outlook. When one focuses on Bnei Yisrael's service of the Creator, there is often room for improvement and consequently place for chastisement.

In contrast, Bilaam's analysis of Klal Yisrael focused on Hashem's connection to them. As he declared, "Hashem perceived no iniquity in Yaakov and saw no perversity in Yisrael. Hashem their G-d is with them and the friendship of the King is within them" (Bamidbar 23:21). Rashi explains that when Bnei Yisrael transgress Hahem's word, He is not meticulous to examine their iniquities, and when they anger Him and rebel against Him, He never abandons them. When the focus is on the Shechina, there is no place for chastisement and there are no blemishes. No matter the spiritual state of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem continues to "dwell with them among their contamination" (see Vayikra 16:16). With this, Bilaam summed up the true essence of Bnei YIsrael: the connection that their G-d has with them.

We refer to these two different facets of Klal Yisrael daily in the birchos ha'shachar. First we recite, "ozeir Yisrael b'gevura - He girds Yisrael with strength" - which corresponds to Bnei Yisrael's avodas Hashem where they employ their strength in service of their Creator. Immediately thereafter we recite, "otair Yisrael b'sifara - He crowns Yisrael with splendor." This bracha corresponds to Hashem's relationship to us, for we are forever crowned with His splendor despite our faults and shortcomings.

We sometimes get caught up in what we perceive as our low spiritual state. We could be doing more chessed, davening with more kavana and performing mitzvos more meticulously. While there is always room for improvement, we should take a minute to appreciate who we are and what we have. Despite any sins and regardless of any deficiencies, Hashem does not move away even an iota and He continues to rest His Shechina amongst us. He loves us, He cares about us and He is forever intimately connected with us. This awareness is not only reassuring, it is also invigorating for it has the ability to motivate us to cultivate this relationship which in turn will catapult us to spiritual levels we never imagined that we could reach!

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