Posts Tagged ‘Portion of the Week’

6
Jul

Balak and Balaam: As Others See Us

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

O would some Power the gift to give us

To see ourselves as others see us!

It would from many a blunder free us…

Robert Burns: “To a Louse”

Balak and Balaam offer us a wonderful opportunity: Balak hired Balaam to curse the Children of Israel. The king of Moab was terrified that Moses would lead his nation in battle against Moab and capture her cities and decimate her armies as Israel had done to Sihon the king of the Amorites.

Just a few portions earlier, the spies complained, “we were grasshoppers in the yes of the Canaanites.” Now we read of a king who saw us as giants and felt as vulnerable as a grasshopper. Did the Children of Israel understand how others perceived them?

Balak hired Balaam, the great prophet, because the Midianites had advised him that Moses’ power was in his mouth – his ability to communicate directly with God. Did the Children of Israel appreciate how others perceived them and their leader?

Balaam’s curses/blessings afford us ample insight into how an outsider, an enemy, perceived the greatness of Israel: Balaam celebrated their sense of community and modesty: “How goodly are your tents Jacob!” Did the Children of Israel know how even their enemies acknowledged their strengths?

The gentile prophet honored the role that Israel would play in history. He understood how they would survive as “A nation that would dwell on its own,” separate, but strong in their nationhood. Did the nation camped around the Mishkan – Tabernacle – unaware that Balaam was standing on a mountain observing them and honoring the great role they were to play in history?

The Children of Israel did not know that Balaam was there. They were unaware of the great respect and awe in which Balak and Balaam held them. Balaam knew this as well, and was able to suggest to Balak a devastating strategy to corrupt a nation unaware of its own greatness.

Would the Children of Israel have sinned with the daughters of Moab if they were aware of their greatness, or if they had an inkling of how others perceived them? I think not.

Perhaps this portion can serve as a reminder to stop and consider how others perceive us.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jul

The Manichaean Candidate

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

No, it is not a typo or spelling mistake. The Manichaeans, (the original faith embraced by Augustine), the Cathars (from where we derive “catharsis”) and the Bogomils (from where we derive “bugger”) were early dualist faiths. They believed that there were, in fact, two sources of divine power in the cosmos, one good and one evil.

I was reminded of these dualists as I chanted the Haftarah – The Prophetic Selection – this past week. Micah has an interesting way of referring to Balak and Balaam’s attempt to curse the Children of Israel: “My nation, remember now what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered him.” (Micah 6:5) The prophet does not refer to Balaam’s equal desire to curse Israel or Balaam’s strategy to corrupt Israel through the daughters of Moab. Micah asks us to remember the plot and Balaam’s answer.

Balak understood that the battle would be a spiritual war, one with which he was totally unfamiliar. Aware that Midian was equally concerned with this new nation on the political and military scene, He turned to his ancient enemy for advice. Moshe spent many years with them and Balak expected that they would have a sense of his powers. The Midianites, who remembered the Moshe with the speech impediment before his experience at the Burning Bush and the beginning of his prophecy, somehow understood that Moshe’s power was his ability to communicate with God.

The two nations decided to hire Balaam, the great prophet of the nations, albeit a hedonist, to lead them in this battle of unfamiliar territory. The Midianites are too frustrated by Balaam’s corruption to stick with the strategy and Balak is left to handle the only prophet in history considered by the Sages to be the equal of Moses.

Balak was confused by Balaam’s constant reference to God – The God of Israel – as the One in charge. Balak and Balaam offer sacrifices to this great power, and even when the first curses come out as blessings, Balak, despite his frustration, asks Balaam, “What did God speak?” (Numbers 23:17)

Balak accepts that this hedonist, Balaam, is Moab’s only hope. He accepts that they must make offerings to Israel’s God. He even accepts that Balaam will only be able to speak God’s words. So how can he possibly believe that they will succeed in cursing God’s nation with God’s help?

Balak, much as the Manichaeans, the Cathars, and the Bogomils was a dualist, although of a different and more dangerous sort: He believed that the spiritual and physical worlds were completely unrelated. Balak accepted that the former did not function according to any of the rules of the latter. Balak, a supremely practical and insightful king, simply accepted Balaam’s “answers” that the spiritual war with Israel would not make practical sense to a simple human being.

This is why the Targum Yonatan describes the final confrontation between Balaam and Pinchas as he does: “When Balaam saw that Pinchas was chasing him, he used his magic to fly into the air. Pinchas used the Name of God, rose up to the heavens, grabbed Balaam, pulled him down to earth, and only then, killed him.” Balaam, the dualist, believed that Israel could only exist in the heavens. They would never live a physical life on this world. It could only be one or the other.

Pinchas pulled Balaam down to earth before killing him to make a statement that Israel does not believe that there are two separate worlds that are unrelated. The Children of Israel understand that the spiritual and physical function together. We do not strive to escape this world in order to live and flourish spiritually. We find the beauty and spirituality here on this world.

The Balaks, Balaams, and Manichaeans are all long gone, but we continue to thrive in both the spiritual and physical realms.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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30
Jun

Cutting Up An Ox: The Artistry of Walking

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

Cook Ting is cutting an ox into pieces as Lord Wen-hui stands looking on. He carries out a virtuoso performance – as rhythmic and flowing as a dance. The lord, filled with awe and admiration, cannot suppress his delight. “Ah, your method is superb!” he says. Cook Ting lays down his knife and replies that, really, there is no method, except that after having carved thousands of oxen, it is the Way that guides him unerringly from his first cut to his last. He elaborates further, and when he has finished, Lord Wen-hui proclaims, “Excellent! I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!” (Chau Tzu: Basic Writings)

The cook has carved up thousands of oxen. Have many hundreds of onlookers become enlightened? No. An awakening comes only to those who, like Lord Wen-hui, are prepared to receive the cook’s inadvertent lesson.

There are artists of life, artists of Chesed – Life Force Nurturers – artists of education etc. It is not their “method” that is superb, but, rather their Derech – their way. Judaism is a “Path” – it provides a direction, as we walk – Halacha. It encourages us to be Walkers Along The Path – “Mehalchim” (Zachariah 7) To learn from the Artists of Walking – we must, as Lord Wen-hui, be prepared to receive their lessons. The process of learning begins with the student’s desire for awakening.

Only then, will we see beyond the method and notice the path, which will then invite and direct us.

Moshe declared: “We shall travel on the king’s road.” (Numbers 21:22) The path is open and prepared. Are we?

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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30
Jun

What Would Moshe Have Done? Part One

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

In the year 427 B.C.E., a ship sailed from Athens for the Greek island of Mytilene, a region that had revolted against Athenian rule and lost. They had colluded with Athens’s greatest rival, Sparta. The soldiers on the warship were instructed to kill every Mytilenian and enslave every woman and child. However, back home in Athens a great debate raged whether such a harsh response was the proper strategy. Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, argued that to show mercy is to show weakness, and being perceived as weak would only invite further rebellion. Cleon insisted that Athens must project strength and determination. Diodotus, son of Eucrates, argued that the intended slaughter will only incite more desperate rebellion and convince others to fight to the bitter end rather than surrender since they would be annihilated even if they surrendered. Future conflicts would almost certainly last longer and be more costly in both lives and treasure. A vote was taken and Diodotus won the day. A quicker ship was sent to stop the warship.

We can hear echoes of Cleon and Diodotus in the commentaries reading of two stories in Parashat Chukat: Moshe backed down from a conflict with Edom, He requested permission from Edom’s king for Israel to pass through his territory and was refused. Moshe would not battle Edom, the rightful heir of Esau in the land Jacob’s brother received as his inheritance. (Numbers 20:14-21) Moshe avoided conflict with Edom only to face Sihon, king of the Amorite, a short while later. Moshe sent a similar request to Sihon: “Allow us to pass through your land.” Sihon refused and gathered his armies believing that he would successfully intimidate Israel and stop the traveling nation at his borders. Sihon was wrong. Israel fought and Sihon was destroyed. (21:21-24)

Did Sihon perceive Moshe and Israel as weak willed because of their detour around Edom and their unwillingness to fight? Would Sihon have avoided battle if Israel had warred and won against Edom?

The Cleons argue that Moshe was responsible for the conflict with Sihon because he did not project strength and determination. Diodotus and his followers supported Moshe’s actions.

We continue to debate the arguments of Cleon and Diodotus: The 2006 war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, and the recent war in Gaza against Hamas, were intended to project Israel’s unbending will and determination. What would Moshe have done? Would we have seen the Moshe who avoided battle with Edom? Or, would the Moshe who destroyed Sihon have led us into battle?

There are times when we forget that the stories of the Torah continue to resonate in practical ways on the world stage and in our lives.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Jun

Where Do We Stand? Reflections on Korach

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

Thales is usually known as the 6th Century BCE philosopher who coined the phrase; “Know thyself.” He also famously predicted the solar eclipse of 585 BCE.

He once asked to be taken outdoors by a Thracian girl so he could continue his brilliant study of the heavens. She took him outside and he fell into a ditch as he was studying the stars. On hearing his cry, she said, “How can you expect to know about all the heavens, Thales, when you cannot even see what is just beneath your feet?”

I used to wonder why Moshe chose that the earth swallow Korach and his followers. Perhaps Thales’ Thracian girl has the key: Korach and his group wanted to soar to the heavens, even if their journey meant that they would have to challenge Moses, the man who had lived in the heavens. I can hear the girl challenging Korach; “How can you expect to know about all the heavens, Korach, when you cannot even see what is just beneath your feet?”

I often meet people who are so focused on the heavens, a.k.a. their spiritual lives, that they forget to see the earth beneath their feet. Picture the man slamming a door in the face of someone else so they can kiss the Mezuzah. (The story was recently twitted to me.) We are making the same mistake as Korach and Thales when we ignore others in order to soar closer to God.

We cannot afford to forget the three thousand year old question of a young Thracian girl: How can you expect to know about all the heavens when you cannot even see what is just beneath your feet?”

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Jun

A Bow For One’s Students

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

“Moses heard and fell on his face.” (16:4)

I wonder how I would have reacted upon seeing Moshe bow and fall on his face.

I suspect that I would have immediately fallen on my face and waited for Moshe to signal that it was all right to rise. But the people did not fall on their faces; they watched, unmoved by the reaction of their great leader. Perhaps they shrugged off this terrifying scene because this was not the first time: “Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the entire congregation of the assembly of the Children of Israel.” (Numbers 14:5)

Is it possible that Moshe and Aaron were not bowing in weakness, or sadness, or fear, but as a lesson? How was it received, if it was a lesson?

“Then Israel prostrated himself towards the head of the bed.” (Genesis 47:31) “As the proverb says; “When the fox has his hour, bow down to him.” (Rashi) Jacob bowed to his son, Joseph, who was at his hour as the viceroy of Egypt.

I was extremely uncomfortable when my father zt”l would visit a synagogue where I was rabbi and insist that the congregation wait for me and not for him. I cannot even imagine watching my father bow to me! How could Joseph even bear to watch his father, Israel, bow to him? How could the Children of Israel stand and nonchalantly watch their teacher Moshe bow before or to them?

The Message:

The Brothers Karamazov begins with a confrontation among members of a scattered family. Three sons, all strangers to one another, and a dissolute, cynical father gather for the first time to discuss a quarrel about money, meeting, of all places, at a monastery: specifically, in the hermitage of Father Zosima, a man with a reputation, depending on your view, of either holiness or foolishness. The argument centers upon the eldest son, Dmitri, and his negligent father, Fyodor, and quickly takes on the appearance of a trial, with each man appealing to the elder Zosima for “justice”. But then, the narrator informs us, “the whole scene was stopped in a most unexpected manner”: “The elder suddenly rose from his place and stepped toward Dmitri Fyodrovich and, having come close to him, knelt before him. Kneeling in front of Dmitri, the elder bowed down at his feet with a full, distinct, conscious bow, and even touched the floor with his forehead. “Forgive me! Forgive me, all of you!’ he said, bowing on all sides to his guests.”

The elder Zosima bows to the ground before Dmitri who is suffering. He does not judge, for he knows from within himself this pettiness and arrogance. He sees himself darkly in Dmitri, and knows that this seeing is a gift. His bow and words simply return the gift purified.

Is it possible that Moshe’s bow was a message that he understood the nation’s response to the spies’ report? Was Moshe sending a message to Korach that he understood Korach’s issues: both the ones on Korach’s consciousness and those issues underlying his rebellion?

Did Moshe observe Korach and gain insight into himself? The Ba’al Shem Tov often taught that we observe in others what we do not want to see in ourselves. (Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer used this idea to explain Proverbs 4:25)

Perhaps Moshe’s fall to the ground was an acknowledgement of what he perceived as his own shortcomings; a message to all of Israel that he was aware of his limitations.

I wonder whether anyone watching had enough insight to reflect on the powerful image of Moshe falling on his face. I imagine chills running up and down my spine at the tangible expression of Moshe’s humility. I picture myself forever changed by the scene. The participants were unmoved. Their hearts were sealed by their anger and resentment.

Imagine anger so intense that it is impenetrable even by such an awesome expression of Moshe’s humility.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Jun

The Emperor’s New Clothes

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

“Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb son of Jephunneh, of the spies of the land, tore their clothes.” (Numbers 14:6) Whose clothes did they tear? The Kotzker explains that they torn the clothes of high position off the backs of the other spies. The first step is to expose the Emperor’s New Clothes. We often fall into the trap of measuring others by their externals and Joshua and Caleb wanted to expose the other spies for what they really were.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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31
May

The Great Escape

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

I love Michio Kaku’s books, but I have a problem with his Physics of the Impossible: He discusses phasers, force fields, teleportation and time travel, but he does not even mention the invention for which I am most desperate; a thought grabber. Too many of my thoughts escape through the holes in my brain.

I am not the first to seek such a device. Pascal lamented: “Thoughts come at random, and go at random. No device for holding on to them or for having them. A thought has escaped; I was trying to write it down: instead I write that it has escaped me.”

I empathize with Pascal, but my concern is quite practical: I keep a notebook of all my insights, especially those that miraculously arrive during, and as a result of, my prayers. I can usually remember all the insights I receive over a Shabbat, but a two day holiday often provides too much to recall. I want a device that will capture all my thoughts and insights. I assume that it will be in the shape of a helmet, hopefully not a black hat, battery operated to observe the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (Holydays) although it will come in rechargeable form for weekdays. I suspect that the physics will be less difficult than figuring out how to comfortably shape the device to be worn 24 hours a day, even when in the shower when the ideas for my newsletters appear and escape, and to allow a person to wear the headpiece without disturbing Teffilin – phylacteries.

I don’t want to scare you, but I would like to custom order a device that will catch some of the great thoughts that have appeared and disappeared over the ages. I promise not to violate anyone’s privacy. There is one person whose thoughts at a specific moment I must catch in my machine: The guilty Sotah who explodes. This woman obviously does not believe in God, otherwise she would not risk drinking the water. She drinks the water and for just a few seconds before she explodes knows that, oops, she was wrong. The water works. God does have power. (Even our friend Pascal tried to cover his bases: He sewed the following thoughts into the lining of his clothes: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” not of the philosophers and scientists. Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace.) In the few seconds before she dies, this woman has absolute clarity that God exists and that her “miraculous” death will prove God’s power to all who are watching.

I want to use my device to catch that absolutely clear that at that moment.

She may have been a sinner, but she serves as a vehicle to prove God’s Power to others, and I suspect that the clarity of that fleeting thought purifies her soul.

So, dear Dr. Kaku, please suspend your work on String Theory and start working on my device. I want that one thought, even more than all the other thoughts that were part of the great escape!

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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11
Oct

Fathers and Sons

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

Freud would have had a field day! “Whoever meets me will kill me!”(Genesis 4:14) The Sages teach that Cain was worried about Abel’s blood relatives – Go’eil Hadam – avenging his death. Abel’s avenger would have been Adam! That statement alone would have kept Cain on Dr. Freud’s coach for years.

The Sages also describe Adam and Cain’s first meeting after Abel’s murder: Adam was surprised to see that God allowed Cain to live. “I simply ate from a tree and lost my immortality. You actually murdered and He allowed you to live!” Adam was shocked. Cain explained that he had done Teshuva – he had repented, and God limited the punishment. The son became the teacher. We can add another few years on the coach.

Eve named her first son; “I have acquired – Kaniti – a man with God.” (Genesis 4:1) The Sages actually question whether Adam was Cain’s biological father. (Zohar, Targum Yonatan, Rabbeinu Bachya) We better extend the sessions to two hours.

Cain became a farmer just like his father despite the fact that God cursed the land after Adam’s sin. He moved to Kidmat Eden – East of Eden (verse 16) just like his father. (3:23) Only Freud could handle this case. Cain should take precedence over Oedipus!

Now let’s discuss someone else: He traveled. He insisted that his child marry a relative. He was circumcised. He was willing to sacrifice his son for his god. Who was he?

Terach, Abraham’s father. Yes, the above list also applies to Abraham. Father and son were very similar, and yet, world apart. Abraham did everything his father did, but in his individual way. He could do everything his father had done and still be the great individual we venerate.

This is why Abraham could produce a child, Isaac, and a grandchild, Jacob, who would follow his path, and yet each was able to add his own individual path to the family that would grow into a great nation.

These are our roots. We do not search for new paths. From the beginning of our history we have been able to walk the same paths as our ancestors and enrich and beautify the path with our own insights.

Author Info: 



Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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6
Oct

Creative Connections

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

Many evil and depraved men misuse music as an excitant in order to plunge into earthly delights, instead of raising themselves by means of it to the contemplations of God and to praise His glories. (Victoria – Greatest of Spanish 16th Century composers, whose works are uncommonly exciting – 1581)

My father zt”l often remarked on the non-coincidental similarity between the Hebrew word “Naivel” – lyre – and “Naval” – a disgusting person. It takes great genius and creativity to make great musical instruments and music. As with everything else, we choose how to use our creative genius.

The Tower of Babel did not begin as a building project. “Come let us make bricks and burn them in fire.” (Genesis 11:3) They decided to build their city and tower only after they had the bricks.

Why did they make the bricks? These are the first bricks in the Bible story. People were using stones to build their homes and cities. They took what was there, what God had provided, and they used whatever was available. The construction of the Tower began with a desire to create something new, bricks. They would no longer be directly dependent on what God provided. Their creativity allowed them, in their minds, to be one step removed from God. They still needed the materials He provided to make the bricks, but their new invention was theirs.

They did not appreciate that creativity is a gift from God. We emulate God when we create; “In the beginning, the Lord created.” They used their creativity as an expression of independence, a way to break free from their Creator.

They used something that should have brought them closer to God to attempt to break free. Rather than celebrate this gift and appreciate that God nurtures our creativity and independence, they acted as teenagers, resented God, and severed the relationship.

The natural consequence was the severing of their relationships.

When two chavrutot – Torah study partners – argue over a complex idea in the Talmud, creative sparks fly. Passions rise. They will do great battle with each other. Anyone, unfamiliar with Chavrutah study, observing the scene, will wonder whether the two partners will kill each other. The observer will be certain that the two have destroyed their relationship.

The study period ends. The two chavrutot shut their holy books and they walk out of the Beit Midrash as great friends. Their creative minds clashed. They waged a terrible fight. The relationship has not been severed, but nurtured. They both realize that each pushed the other to be more creative. They help each other grow. They are eternally connected through their creativity.

Abraham was a creative genius who challenged the world. Although we would expect the “Ivri,” the one from the other side, to have lost his relationships, we find the opposite: Abraham – Av Hamon Goyim – A father of a multitude of nations. People streamed to his doors to be fed physically and spiritually. His creativity did not sever relationships; it nurtured them.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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