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Devarim Deutronomy

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224: Balak

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Devarim Deutronomy

July 17, 1992 - 16 Tamuz 5752

224: Balak

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  223: Chukas225: Pinchas  

Living With The Times  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New  |  Insights
Customs  |  A Word from the Director  |  It Once Happened  |  Thoughts that Count
Moshiach Matters

In the center of the marketplace, Standing tall and proud, The grand town clock towered High above the crowd.

One time at a meeting, Some good townsfolk complained, "Why must the clock be so high? Why must our necks be craned?"

So a vote was taken And the clock was lowered down, And everyone was happy That they had improved the town.

Yet at the next town meeting, A few months down the line, The clock was again the topic On everybody's mind.

Once so tall and beautiful, It was now an awful sight. Its hands were bent and twisted, And the time was never right.

Amidst tremendous turmoil, Investigation was begun, To try to figure out just how This damage had been done.

A committee was established With a chairman duty-bound, And after all the research, This is what they found.

So long as the grand old clock had stood Above the market high, People would look up to it, As they were passing by. Then reaching in their pockets, They would check to see That the hour on their own timepiece Was as it ought to be

But when the clock was lowered The habit about-faced, For everyone now set the clock, According to his own pace.

And so, the report concluded, As we already know, From everyone's own "setting it," The clock was damaged so.

Just as in every story, There's a message for us here, Like the clock, our precious Torah, Must be treasured and revered.

We must not come to "set it" Each in our own way. As it was given at Mt. Sinai that's how it is today.

By Yitzi Friedowitz, reprinted from the Moshiach Times.

Living With The Times

The prophecy of the gentile, Bilaam, which appears in this week's Torah portion, Balak, is one of the rare instances where the Torah alludes to the Final Redemption that will take place with the coming of Moshiach. The prophecy begins with Bilaam's words: "Come--I will advise you against what this people will do to your people in the end of days," and describes what will take place then.

About Moshiach, Rabbi Moses Maimonides wrote: "The chapter on Bilaam prophesied about the two Moshiachs, or anointed ones. The first was King David, who saved the Jews from the hands of their enemies. The second is Moshiach who will usher in the Messianic Age by rescuing the Jewish people from the hands of Esau."

Why does Maimonides compare these two, aside from the obvious reason that Moshiach will be a direct descendant of his great-great-grandfather, King David? The Torah tells us that Moses "was the first and will be the last redeemer." Would it not, then, have been more logical to liken Moses to Moshiach when speaking of the great deliverers of Israel? There must, therefore, be another underlying, fundamental connection between King David and Moshiach which must be explored.

Maimonides emphasizes in his writings that Moshiach does not have to perform miracles in order for us to recognize who he is. He will, however, restore the sovereignty of the House of David, rebuild the Holy Temple and gather in all the Jewish exiles. The significance of the rule of the House of David is that it symbolizes a perfection in Torah and mitzvot which is impossible today. Moshiach, through his actions, will enable the Jewish people to return to the full Jewish existence they enjoyed in former years, during the reign of King David.

The role of Moshiach, then, is the restoration of Jewish integrity, and this is reflected in the laws which govern how we will recognize him. Maimonides wrote: "If a king shall arise from the House of David, speak words of Torah, both Oral and Written, be occupied in mitzvot like his forefather David, bring Israel to the ways of the Torah and adherence to its laws, fight G-d's battles, etc." Such a person, we are told, is to be considered Moshiach. Once he has succeeded in vanquishing all the enemies of the Jews, has rebuilt the Temple and gathered in all the exiles--then we shall know that he is indeed Moshiach.

This, then, is the essential link between King David and Moshiach--the restoration of a completeness which we cannot experience while in exile. The coming of Moshiach, like King David's rule before him, will remove our spiritual limitations and enable us to live a fully Jewish life.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

SHE Knows Her Place
by Shoshanna Silcove

Is it possible for a woman to be a wife, mother of 11, grandmother, teacher, and school principal all at once? Mrs. Sara Labkowsky is. Is she a superwoman? "Every Jewish woman is a superwoman. All she has to do is reveal her inner potential," Mrs. Labkowsky asserts sincerely.

Mrs. Labkowsky wasn't always so content with the traditional role that Judaism had bestowed upon her. Growing up in a Chasidic family that can trace its lineage back to the Maharal of Prague, she was the quintessential tomboy. "I had three brothers and no sisters. I was very jealous of them as a child and wanted only to do boys' things. When I got a little older I wanted just to sit in yeshiva and learn all day like men do. It wasn't until I studied Chasidic philosophy and I learned that a woman's role in Torah is really quite elevated that I became content to be a Jewish woman."

From her earliest days Mrs. Labkowsky was known as a dynamo. In high school when learning about African culture her teacher joked that someday Sara would open up a Chabad house in the Congo. In the end, however, it was in her own home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where she put her energy and idealism to work.

After the birth of her daughter, twenty-one- year-old Sara was eager for a challenge. That was in 1972 when the "baal teshuva" movement (returnees to traditional Judaism) had just begun. There were only a few baalei teshuva women in the community and they were in search of a Jewish education. Mrs. Labkowsky began teaching them in her home on a weekly basis over coffee and cake. "I found they were deep, truth seekers." Mrs. Labkowsky recalled. "My goal was to direct their idealism to a Torah path which was the actual truth they sought."

Later that year the Lubavitcher Rebbe requested that 70 new institutions be opened in honor of his seventieth birthday. Mrs. Labkowsky wasted little time and set about doing what was considered revolutionary: to establish the first yeshiva for baalei teshuvah women in the U.S.

She immediately wrote to the Rebbe asking for his blessing in this endeavor. He answered her that an institution of this type holds an even greater responsibility, and is of perhaps even greater importance than one for men. The Rebbe gave her specific guidelines, and soon the Machon Chana Jewish Women's College would become a beacon of light to its thousands of alumni worldwide.

"My daughter recently gave birth to my first grandchild. When I see that my daughter has her priorities straight, and that she knows how to care for her child both physically and spiritually, I feel as if I have been successful as a mother. I feel the same way about all of my students when I see them set up in there own Jewish homes." Mrs. Labkowsky says, "It is very fulfilling to me that they stand on par in their Jewish education and values with my own child."

The philosophy of education which Mrs. Labkowsky imparts to her children and to her students is the Torah view of the woman's role as elucidated by Chasidic teachings. A woman is placed on an elevated plane as the foundation of the home that is the foundation of the Jewish people and of all of Judaism. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe has said repeatedly, it is taught that the Jewish people left Egypt in the merit of the righteous women. It will also be in the merit of the righteous Jewish women that the Jewish people will soon be liberated from the present exile with the coming of Moshiach.

"It is us, the Jewish women, who will bring Moshiach by giving to others. By teaching Torah to our own children and to others, and by doing a favor for another Jew, we will bring peace and harmony to the entire world." Mrs. Labkowsky believes.

Mrs. Labkowsky will admit that her life is a constant balancing act. At times she can be pulled in many different directions simultaneously by the needs of her family and her students. " I feel as if I am constantly changing hats. If a child needs me, I go to him. If the school needs me, I go to it. I do my best. I find I am constantly having to restructure my life."

Mrs. Labkowsky, however, does not believe that anything gets neglected in the long run. Having more children teaches them to share and get along with others. Having outside interests makes for a happier wife and mother at home. A woman must know that her priorities are her home first, and then she can go out and accomplish things in the world. For her, self-nullification is the greatest satisfaction that a woman can have in life. "There are women out there who are so busy with themselves that they have no energy to give to others. It is easier to give to the world at large when you are fulfilled at home."

Energy is certainly something that Sara Labkowsky has in large quantity. Being one who takes pride in doing all of her own cooking and baking, she worked long into the night preparing a brit for her first grandson. When her mother scolded her for not taking a caterer Mrs. Labkowsky answered, "Mom, G-d should always give me the strength not to have to take caterers for the simchas of all of my grandchildren, and He should also give you the strength to always be able to scold me for it!" Mrs. Labkowsky is a woman who knows her place!

What's New


Lubavitch of Toronto has initiated a new project called, "Put a Smile on a Child." Lubavitch of Toronto is acting as a conduit to "recycle your bicycle" by passing them on to children in need. Anyone requesting a bike simply has to complete a form and bring a safety helmet. Strict confidence will be maintained. For more info call (416) 731-7000.


A new Chabad Center has opened in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rabbi Benyamin and Sharonne Zippel arrived in Utah recently and are already organizing classes, Shabbat programs and special summer activities for children. The Chabad Center will be serving the Jewish community of 4,000 with many other exciting activities.


Prayers and increased mitzvot to hasten the Lubavitcher Rebbe's recovery continue throughout the world. In addition to the daily recitation of Psalm 91 (corresponding to the Rebbe's 91st year), many people have increased or strengthened their performance of mitzvot in honor of the Rebbe's recovery. If you would like to send get-well wishes or a report on enhanced observance you can send it directly to the Rebbe at 770 Eastern Parkway, Bklyn, N.Y. 11213. If you can, include yours and your mother's Hebrew name.



From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In reply to your letter, briefly:

  1. You ask how can we reconcile the attributes of G-d of mercifulness and kindness with cosmic catastrophies, such as, volcanic eruptions and the like, involving the loss of human life, etc.?

    There are many circumstances involved in each event, in addition to time and location. However, there is one general answer to such apparently inexplicable occurrences which will become clearer through the following illustration: Suppose one encounters an individual for a brief period of time, finding him asleep, or engaged in some arduous toil. Now, if the observer should want to conclude from what he sees during that brief period of time as to the nature of the individual he had observed, he would then conclude that the individual has an unproductive exis-tence in the first instance; or leads a hard life in the second. Obviously, both conclusions are erroneous inasmuch as what he saw was only a fraction of the indiviudal's life: and the state of sleep was only a period of rest and preparation for activity: and in the second instance, the toil was a means to remuneration or other satisfaction which by far outweighs the effort involved. The truth is that any shortsighted observation, covering only a fraction of time of the subject is bound to be erroneous: and what may appear as negative will assume quite a different appearance if the full truth of the matter before and after were known.

    Similarly in the case of any human observation of a world event. The subject of such an observation is thus taken out of its frame of eternity of a chain of events that occurred before and will occur afterwards. Obviously we cannot expect to judge about the nature of such an event with any degree of accuracy. A volcanic eruption or earthquake and the like are but one link in a long chain of events that began with the creation of the world and will continue to the end of time. We have no way of interpreting a single event by isolating it from the rest.

  2. The difference between "G-d is all" and "All is G-d" is in the approach and deduction. In the first instance, our starting point is G-d, and through study and research we can deduce that G-d's being is revealed even in material and natural things. Our study of the Unity of G-d and His other attributes will lead us to recognize the same attributes in nature and the world around us, the practical results of which find expression in unity among mankind and the practice of G-d's precepts as the proper application of G-dly attributes in our own life, etc. One who sets out in this path dedicates himself wholly to communion with G-d. He is averse to all material aspects of life, including even the bare necessities connected with his physical well-being, and tries to avoid them as much as possible. Being engaged in spiritual communion with G-d, he considers all material and physical necessities even those permitted by the Torah, as a hindrance in his consecrated life. However, his intelligence convinces him that the material and physical world is but an expression of Divine Being and that in them, too, G-d is to be found.

    In the second part of the statement, "All is G-d," the starting point is the outer shell of the universe and all material things in it. The study of this will lead to the conclusion that there is cosmic unity in the whole world and that there is a Divine "spark" engaged in the material aspects of life. The apprehension of this concept brings joy, inasmuch as it is in them and through them that man recognizes the greatness of the Creator and they help strengthen his unity with G-d.

    Thus we have two ways in the service of G-d, of which the first is the easier one, while the second leads to a better fulfillment of the objective of making this lowest physical world an abode for G-d.

  3. An observation of my own: It seems a novel way of trying to learn Chasidut by correspondence. Even when there is no other choice it is difficult to cover such a subject in the course of a letter. But in your case, you are within personal reach of receiving oral and fuller explanation. In the normal course of study under the teachers of Chasidut at Tomche Tmimim, and with the aid of the senior students of Chasidut who have been learning it for years. Why not use this better method?


Why do we fast on the 17th of Tammuz?

We fast because of five disasters that occurred in Jewish history on this date:

  1. Moses broke the Tablets of the Ten Commandments when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf;

  2. The Tamid sacrifice was abolished by Nebuchadnezzer;

  3. The Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem in 70 c.e.;

  4. On that same day they publicly burned a Torah scroll;

  5. An idol was erected in the courtyard of the Holy Temple.

A Word from the Director

This Shabbos we learn the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avot. In it we find the words, "Whoever repeats a thought in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world--as it says in the Megillah (Esther 2:22) `And Esther told it to the king in Mordechai's name' and because of that the Jews were saved."

The Rebbe explains this Mishna most beautifully. "The one who said it" refers to G-d. This means that when we are involved in studying the Torah, from learning the Hebrew alphabet to the most esoteric, mystical concepts, we need to keep in mind that all of this is part of G-d's Torah.

What comes out of educating oneself in this manner? "He brings redemption to the world." The Hebrew word for "world" is from the same root as concealed and hidden. When we learn Torah in this manner, we take the cover off the G-dliness that is in this world, thus bringing a level of redemption into the world.

Another way of looking at the Mishna is that "whoever repeats a thought in the name of the one who said it" means that a Jew should train himself to see in everything in the world "The One who says it"--G-dliness. When he goes beyond his natural tendencies and sees that which exists above nature he reveals that everything was created by G-d. Through this behavior, a Jew brings redemption to the world, for he redeems the world from the concealment and hiddenness in which it is masked.

The last part of the Mishna, "And Esther said to the king in the name of Marchecha" is also quite significant. For it teaches us that this type of behavior applies even when we find ourselves in a setting like that of the times of King Ahasuerus, an era when the world was entirely hidden by nature.

Rabbi Shmuel Butman

It Once Happened

Our Sages said that whoever has not seen the Second Holy Temple has never seen a beautiful building. The fabulous restoration and enlargement of the Holy Temple was undertaken by King Herod as an act of atonement for his murderous savagery. Herod was an Edomite slave owned by the Hasmonian royal family. With the complicity of the Roman rulers he seized the throne and proceeded to completely wipe out all the remaining descendants of the Hasmonian dynasty, eventually even his own queen, Mariamne. He ruled, unchallenged for thirty-three years, from 3723 to 3756, and was a cruel and savage despot who bitterly oppressed his Jewish subjects.

The Torah Sages were the particular victims of his hatred, and he had most of the Sages murdered. Only Bava ben Buta was allowed to live, albeit blinded, in order that the king might avail himself of the rabbi's wisdom. How then can we understand why this cruel butcher took it upon himself to engage in the holy work of beautifying the Holy Temple?

According to the Sages, Bava ben Buta was responsible for giving the king this advice. One day Herod went to visit Bava ben Buta. The king disguised his voice and his identity went undetected by the rabbi, who took him to be an ordinary visitor. The king initiated the conversation with Ben Buta saying, "It seems to me that Herod is nothing more than a wicked slave! Just look at all the evil he has done!"

Ben Buta replied only, "What can I do about it?"

The king answered, "Why don't you curse him, then?"

"Does it not say in the Torah, 'Thou shalt not curse a king?'" Ben Buta replied. He then continued explaining, "Even if he were not the king, but merely a prince, it would be forbidden to curse him, for it also says, 'A prince in your nation, you must not curse.' And even if he were merely a wealthy man, it would not be permissible, since it is written, 'Do not curse the rich man, even in the privacy of your bedroom.' "

But Herod replied, "This refers to a prince who acts like one of you, like a Jew. But Herod does not even stem from the Jewish nation and certainly does not act like a Jew!"

To this Ben Buta replied, "But I am very much afraid of him."

Herod answered, "There are only the two of us here. There is no one to report to him what we are saying." But Ben Buta replied by quoting a verse from Koheleth, "Even the birds of the sky will carry the voice."

When he heard this reply, the king became angry, and blurted out "I am Herod! Had I known how careful the Torah Sages were in their speech and actions, as I have now seen, I would not have had them killed. But now that the deed has been done, what can I do to atone for it?"

Bava ben Buta answered him, "When you killed the Torah Sages, you extinguished the light of the world, as it says, 'For a mitzva is like a candle and the Torah is light.' Go now, and occupy yourself with the light of the world. Go, rebuild the Holy Temple anew in greater majesty and splendor, for it, too, illuminates the world, as it says, 'And all the gentiles shall stream to it.'"

In return for this act of piety, Herod would be able to attain some degree of atonement for his sins. When Herod heard this advice, he wanted to follow it, but was afraid of the reaction of the Roman Empire.

To this, Ben Buta answered, "Send a special messenger to Rome asking for permission. This messenger will travel for a year's time, will stay in Rome for another year, and will return only after a third year. In this time you can demolish the old building and rebuild it."

Herod accepted this suggestion, and proceeded with the project. Addressing his subjects, Herod promised to rebuild the Temple according to its original splendor which had been prevented before because of the domination of foreign kings. The people, however, were not happy with Herod's proposal. On the contrary, they were frightened, fearing that Herod would demolish the existing structure and then never rebuild. Herod reassured them, promising that he would gather all the necessary building supplies before pulling down the existing Temple. True to his words, he collected a thousand wagons for transporting materials and recruited ten thousand skilled carpenters and craftsmen. Ninety thousand woodcutters and 30,000 stonecutters were employed. Fifteen hundred priests and Levites took part in the construction. In all, 181,500 men were employed in the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. [Josephus] All expenses were covered from the king's personal fortune. As Herod had promised, all preparations were firmly in place before he began the demolition.

It happened as Ben Buta had said. After three years the messenger returned with this reply, "If you have not demolished the old building yet, do not do so. If you have already demolished it, do not rebuild it. If, however, you have already done it, you are no better than any other willful slave who first does what he wants and then asks permission. You may flaunt your power, but we know what you are! You are neither a king nor the son of a king, but a lowly slave who freed himself!" But, by the time the reply was received, the work was under way and could not be reversed.

Construction continued for eight years. The newly rebuilt Holy Temple was completed in the year 3738 and stood for ninety years, until the ninth of Av, 3828.

Thoughts that Count

He has not beheld any wrong in Jacob, nor has he seen evil in Israel: The L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the king dwells among him. (Num. 23:21)

Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka used to say: It states in the holy Zohar that "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, the Torah and Israel are one." The same way one cannot pick G-d or His Torah apart by saying, "This particular verse of the Torah doesn't appeal to me," so too, should we approach our fellow Jew, treating him with respect and acknowledging his importance to the Jewish People as a whole."

What this people will do to your people in the end of days (Num. 24:14)

The Torah tells us that right before Moshiach's arrival there will be those who will want to turn "this people" into "your (Balak's) people"--for Jews to adopt the ways and practices of the non-Jewish nations.

(Reb Bunim)

And now come, I pray you, and curse me this people (Num. 22:4)

It is interesting to note the language Balak used when he asked Bilaam to curse the Jewish people: "Curse me" he said, words which can also be interpreted to mean that he himself should be cursed, which is exactly what eventually happened. One must always think before speaking and pay attention to the words we use.

(Shaloh Hakadosh)

Moshiach Matters

The Hebrew word "Moshiach" can also be read as two distinct words--Mei siach--meaning, "from talking." By increased talking about Moshiach one hastens his arrival.

(Sifrei Kabala)

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