Parshat Balak

Torah Reading for Week of June 20 – 26, 2010

“A Good Eye”

by Rabbi Menachem Metzger

In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers), usually learned on the Shabbat days during the summer months, we find the following teaching:
“Torah study not combined with work will in the end cease.”

Literally, this means that Torah study should ideally be combined with a vocation.

This year is the 250th yahrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov, the dynamic inspirational personality who had a profound influence on the entire Jewish people, particularly with emphasis on love for a fellow Jew, irrelevant of his or her social status. The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the word “work” in a chasidic manner, as meaning the endeavor of every passage of Torah that one learns must result in the spiritual labor of love for a fellow Jew.

In this week’s Torah reading , Parashas Balak, we learn that Balak, the king of Moav hires Balaam the evil sorcerer to curse the Jewish people. Though Balak and Balaam move from place to place to view the Jewish people from various possibly unfavorable angles and thus to curse them, G-d obstructs Balaam and prevents him from this evil effort.

There are times when we look at others from a negative standpoint – but we must learn from Abraham our father, to look at others from a positive standpoint.

“Whoever possesses the following three characteristics is of the disciples of Abraham our father…a good eye…”

The Talmud tells us that our sages wanted to incorporate the prophesies of Balaam from the Torah portion of Balak into the daily recitation of the but they decided not to do this because it would take too long to recite. Although the parasha of Balak was not incorporated into the Shema, the verse from this portion appears at the beginning of the daily prayers in the ancient siddurim dating back to the times of R. Amram Gaon, and this is our present tradition. This expression of esteem for all Jewish dwelling places conveys words of uniting all Jewish people in cohesive unity.

“Bless us our father, for all of us are one and bonded together.” This is the threshold for our daily prayers, and we are thus worthy of the receiving of G-d’s blessing.

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