21 Jul 2016 Poetic Blessings, Eternal Truths
In this week’s fascinating parsha, Parshas Balak, we meet Bila’am the monotheist (as he is called by R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch), Bila’am the masterful hypocrite (as he is called by R’ Yisrael Meir Lau), Bila’am the prophet (as he is called by the Sages) – Bila’am who accepts the invitation of Balak, the king of Moav, to go curse the Jews.
Bila’am eagerly accepts Balak’s invitation and utilizing the power of speech and words, he hopes to bring ruination upon the Israelite nation. His plans are thwarted when he opens his mouth to curse them, and out comes beautiful, poetic, hopeful blessings, words which G-d puts into his mouth.
The people, Bila’am soon learns, are a blessed nation, not cursed.
Amongst his many blessings, Bila’am says, לא הביט און ביעקב ולא ראה עמל בישראל, ה׳ אלקיו עמו ותרועת מלך בו – He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov, and saw no perversity in Israel, Hashem, his G-d, is with him, and the friendship of the King is in him (Bamidbar 23:21).
Rashi explains that even when Israel causes anger and rebels against Hashem, He does not move from its midst. And the friendship of the King is in him: Rashi teaches that this is an expression of love and friendship, as Targum Onkelos explains, “And the Shechinah of their King is among them.”
On this verse, R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch writes, “Hashem, his G-d, is with him: Hashem, the Invisible One, Whom we know as the Source of all existence and creation and as the Ruler over heaven and earth – He is the Owner, Guide and Director of this people in their fate and in their actions. He, this G-d, is with them as their G-d, assisting them and accompanying them in their wanderings through the ages.”
As for ותרועת מלך בו, R’ Hirsch explains: “This denotes the feeling of complete homage and submission, engendered by an overwhelming awareness of G-d’s greatness. Thus, here we are told: G-d is with him and within his heart, and Israel pays homage to G-d and acknowledges His kingship, and this homage pervades all of Israel’s inner being.”
The awareness that He is always amongst us; the knowledge that His Presence permeates our every thought, action and word; the awe and reverence we feel to the King of kings – for He is the Director, Guide and Owner of our nation…All of this shapes our lives, ourselves, our nation, our Land.
Ten years ago, 18 year old Eliyahu Asheri HY”D, was kidnapped by terrorists while waiting for a ride in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem. He was murdered and his body was found after three days of searches by the IDF.
His mother, Miriam, said: “He was in his senior year at the Elisha pre-army academy, and he took his Torah learning very seriously. Eliyahu prayed from the heart. They told us that he would become so deeply immersed in prayer that nothing would bother him.”
Eliyahu’s parents, Yitro and Miriam Asheri, recently spoke with Arutz Sheva about their son, revealing what investigators learned about his final moments.
Eliyahu’s mother recalled the details of her son’s final moments as described by interrogators of the murderers. “After the shiva, the Shin Bet told us that during the interrogation of the terrorists, the main kidnapper said that he had asked Eliyahu if he had a final wish, and Eliyahu asked for a cup of water, then blessed “Shehakol” – ברוך אתה ה׳ אלקינו מלך העולם שהכל נהיה בדברו”… Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, by Whose word all things came to be… by Whose word all occurs, by Whose word all comes into being… Blessed are You Hashem, by Whose will we live, and by Whose will we die…
“Those were his last words,” Miriam Asheri said, “and the terrorists said he blessed with great fervor. There was here a total acceptance of God’s will.”
ותרועת מלך בו: “This denotes the feeling of complete homage and submission, engendered by an overwhelming awareness of G-d’s greatness.”
Just as the curses of Bila’am ha’rasha were changed from curses to blessings, so too may the King Who is always amongst us overturn the evil curses of our enemies today. As we merit redemption, may we be moved from darkness to light, from despair to triumph, from curses to blessings – שהכל נהיה בדברו, for all that happens is by His word and His will.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,