Saturday, June 26, 2010

[KollelH blog] BALAK

We find the incredible report of Bil'am's donkey talking to him! Although we know that animals can communicate, the power of speech is unique to humankind. This is not a privilege or side benefit granted to the homo-sapien, but specifically the direct expression of the different, not just better, mind and soul that humans possess.

We do not find in chazal that G-D bestowed a mind or soul upon the donkey of Bil'am, rather, in pirkei avos, it states that the mouth of Bil'am's donkey was created on erev shabbos. This would seem that the words of the donkey were not a product of its mind at all, but solely from its mouth. How then can the Torah say that the donkey spoke if the words just eminated from its mouth?

Similarly we may ask regarding Bil'am himself. What was the point of G-D placing the words of brachah into Bil'am's mouth if he surely had no intention of blessing the Jews? Wouldn't those words then be quite meaningless? Yet, we see that Balak was greatly upset by the blessings; obviously, he understood the words would be quite effective!

It seems very clear that the spoken word is powerful, regardless of the mindset or complete lack thereof of the speaker!

This is strongly illustrated once more by the fact that G-D did not merely de-activate Bil'am's power to curse the Jews. This indicates that de-activating the power of one's words would be a greater miracle and change of world order than placing different words into Bil'am's mouth!

We often read and hear about the tremendous importance of having proper concentration during tefilah. Without doubt, that is definitely true! However, we must also recognize the great power of every word emanating from our mouths even when spoken absentmindedly!

This applies not only in Torah and prayer but with words used in social settings as well.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller z"tzl had the beautiful custom to quietly bless pedestrians who passed him by on his daily walk. He would also pause in front of the Mirrer Yeshivah daily and bless all of its students and faculty. In accordance with the passuk, "Va'avarchah mivarachekah" - "And I (Hashem says to Avraham) will bless those who bless you", Rabbi Miller said, he would look forward to blessing others so he would be blessed himself.

There can be no better appliction of the above lesson than to actively start blessing others, without concern as to how much we really mean it. If words can do harm, they most certainly can do tremendous good!

T'hiyu Bruchim!

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 6/27/2010 12:14:00 AM

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 6/26/2010 07:50:00 PM

The spoken word is powerful, regardless of the thought, intent or sentiment behind the words.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 6/26/2010 07:50:00 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2010

[KollelH blog] BALAK

Anyone familiar with this week's parshah and its midrashim about Bilam, would be quite mystified by a related mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5.19).

"One who has these three attributes is amongst the students of Avraham avinu, whereas having their opposite traits would render him a student of Bilam the rashah. Ayin tovah, Ruach n'muchah, & Nefesh sh'failah........ What is the difference between their students? Avraham's students reap reward in this world and inherit the world to come...."

The questions abound.
  1. Are there only three opposing approaches in the schools of thought of our great patriarch and the evil Bilam?!
  2. Secondly, how can the mishnah ask what is the difference between them - one would assume they are quite distinguishable from each other!
  3. Thirdly, from the mishnah's response, it seems as if their difference lies only in their reward & punishment, which is blatantly self understood. The question and answer seem to be completely uninformative!
  4. Lastly, why does the mishnah refer to those possessing these traits as talmidim - students? There are many Tanaim suggesting good practices throughout pirkei avos, yet seldom are the followers of these middos called talmidim of their originators!

I would like to share my simple understanding of this remarkable mishnah.

The Medrash Rabbah (parshas toldos) states, that so long as Yakov and Eisav were under bar mitzvah, they both studied in yeshivah and one could not notice any difference in their spirituality. It was only after they turned thirteen, when Eisav left for the fields and Yakov remained to learn, that their differences were exposed. It is not necessarily one's actions that will shape his future, but his underlying middos.

R' Chaim Vital writes (Sharei Hakdushah; qouted in many sifrei mussar) that middos are the foundations upon which all of torah rests. Our character traits and moods are what largely push us either to perform mitzvos or do aveiros.
When a person is accustomed to specific traits, they will usually end up leading his life, and controlling most of his decisions in the future. It is in this training ground that the mishnah refers to us as being talmidim - students. Some traits have a more all-encompassing control over our lives than others. As one trains himself specifically in the above three middos, our mishnah informs us that REGARDLESS of what our actions are at the time, we are students being indoctrinated into the path of either Avraham or Bilam. Our actions at the time may show us to be great tzadikim or vice versa, but we are sure to end up in the manner of our training in these three middos.
This is why the mishnah does not notice any obvious difference between the two "students". It is not discussing someone who has already matured into being an Avraham avinu or a Bilam harashah. Rather it is referring to two people who are quite the same, yet they are practicing and training in the 'schools' of these 'headmasters'.

As the summer rolls in let us check which school we're registered in for the coming semester!
  • Ayin tovah - 'a good eye' - a general feeling of good will for others. As opposed to being stingy and unhappy about the success of others.
  • Ruach n'muchah - a humble spirit. As opposed to looking for honor and recognition.
  • Nefesh sh'failah - a simple 'apetite' - being satisfied with one's lot. As opposed to desiring more and wanting what others may have.

The above especially true regarding children in their formative years, before their actions can properly portray their personality. These youngsters, whose temporary role in life is to be students - learning and training from all their experiences,  are definitely included in this mishnah.

Posted By Dovi milstein to KollelH blog at 6/25/2010 02:58:00 AM

Saturday, June 19, 2010

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 6/19/2010 09:18:00 PM

Any misdeed, when done in public, has a permanent effect in people's minds.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 6/19/2010 09:18:00 PM

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 6/19/2010 07:49:00 PM

Your worst enemy can teach you a lesson (or two) so long as your willing to listen.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 6/19/2010 07:49:00 PM

Monday, June 14, 2010

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 6/14/2010 05:32:00 AM

When we lack understanding it is our choice to view the wise as foolish or recognize their true superiority.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 6/14/2010 05:32:00 AM