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  JEWISH AND KOSHER UNITED STATES       
 
 
  KD MAGAZINE!                      ב"ה     
 

A Top Down Model of Hidden Love 

 

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert or leave Italy . There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy ; if the Pope won, they would have to leave. The Jewish people met and picked an aged but wise Rabbi, Moishe, to represent them in the debate. However, as Moishe spoke no Italian and the Pope spoke no Hebrew, they all agreed that it would be a "silent" debate.

On the chosen day, the Pope and Rabbi Moishe sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Rabbi Moishe looked back and raised one finger.

Next the Pope waved his finger around his head. Rabbi Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope then brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. Rabbi Moishe pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared that he was beaten, that Rabbi Moishe was too clever and that the Jews could stay. 

Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope, asking what had happened. The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He had me beaten and I could not continue."


Meanwhile the Jewish community were gathered around Rabbi Moishe . "What happened?" they asked. " Well," said Moishe, "First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I wagged my finger and said to him: "No Way"!

Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him, Mr. Pope, we're staying right here."

"And then what," asked a woman. "Who knows?" said Moishe, "he took out his lunch, so I took out mine."

 

Context matters! In our  efforts to deeply understand, it behooves us to probe behind the scenes.

 

Now ponder this puzzling fact: Moshe's name does not appear in the first 95 pesukim of our parsha - marking the longest stretch in the books of Vayikra/Bamidbar[1] of non-Moshe until we hit Sefer Devarim[2]

 

Why?

 

A remarkably simple and poignant comment of Rav Leibele Eiger[3] confirms a suspicion that Rabbi Avraham Willig suggested many years ago. First, let us look at the opening and closing lines of the Bilaam story:

 

2. Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Emorites.   3. Moab became terrified of the people, for they were numerous, and ....  became disgusted of the children of Israel.   ... 5. He[Balak]  sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, "A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the "eye" of the land, and they are stationed opposite me.

 

A subtle psychological battle of wills between Bilaam and Balak begins. Chazal are full of poignant insight into the tragedy of Bilaam - of the squandered greatness of a man that saw right and desperately wanted to die right[4], and yet was utterly consumed by the noxious mixture of  greed, lust and power. Ironically, Chazal speak of Bilaam[5] as having many talmidim (students) [Would one want his name on one's shidduch resume as a reference?]  and warn us that one's role in life is ultimately a choice between Rebbe Avraham or l'havdil Rebbe Bilaam.    

 

Playing hard to get, but ultimately wanting to please Balak,  Bilaam (42 altars and a lot of words later) ends up as a massive failure. They part ways:

 

25. Bilaam arose, went, and returned home, and Balak went on his way.

 

There is so much here, but note what is not!  One gets the sense of a private [albeit an extended one] conversation between two antagonists united in their hatred of all things Jewish. What is missing is the Jewish response. Where is Moshe and where are Klal Yisrael ? We seek to understand where is the Jewish voice in all this.  

Now the beautiful comments of Reb Leibele [in Imrei Emes on Balak] based on the opening words of the Haftora [Micha, 6:5]  

 

My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab planned, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him. From Shittim to Gilgal, may you recognize the righteous  צדקות ה']] deeds of the Lord.

שבת הוא  מלזעוק  ור פ ו א ה  קר ו ב ה  לב א  . הו אמר ו מ ז  בס י ד ר א  זו שהיא הס י ר ר א  הש ב י ע י ת . וכ ב ר  מלתינו אמ ו ר ה  בזה שהסידרא  השביעית הואבבחי׳ שבח ונ ם  היא חביבה .  וכידוע  מא מ ח ז ׳ י ל  ( ב מ ד ״ ראמ ו ר  פכ ״ מ  ע״ש) כל השביעי חביבין . ובוודאיבהת ו ה ״ ק  גו פ א  פשיטא שהשביעית הו א  חב י ב  כי כלהישועה המ ו ב א  בס ׳  זו במ ע ש ה  בלק  וב ל ע ם  היהמשונה מכ ל  הישועות שהי׳  מק ו ד ם ,  כי בכ ולם יד מ ו  ישראל את  צרת נפשם להחחנן ולזעוק אל הש״י  להושיעם מי ד  צריהם כמש״נ ויאנחו בנ״י ויזעקו . וה יה  ישועתם ע״ י  את ד ל ״ ת  . ובישועה הזו לא יד ע ו  דב ר  ממ ה  שהאויב המציק חשב עליהם לאבדם  חל י ל ה . ורק הש״י ברוב רחמיו וצדקותיו הפליא חס ד ו  ע מ ה ם . אף  בלתי יד י ע ת ם  . וזהו מה  שנ׳  בהפטרתעמי  זכר נא  מה  יעץ בלק וכו׳ למען דע ת  צדקות ה׳  .

 

This parsha, the seventh in Bamidbar represents the essence of Shabbos and is most dear ... as Chazal teach that all sevens are dear .... And certainly in the Torah itself the seventh is the most dear ... for the salvation in this story of Balak and Bilaam was different than all previous salvations - for all the others, Yisrael conceived  of their troubles and thus  cried out to Hashem to save them from their enemies as it says and Bnei Yisrael sighed and cried out to God ... but in this salvation they did not know at all that enemy had plotted to destroy them God forbid ... it is just that Hashem with his great mercy and righteousness showered his kindness without their knowledge[6]- and this is what is written in the Haftorah in order to know Hashem's charities

 

Why is Moshe absent and where is the Jewish voice? The simple answer is that Bnei Yisrael had no clue of the enemy's plot [nor that that Hashem had foiled it] - until Hashem recorded it in the Torah itself, not merely for posterity, but for reflection[7]:

Far from being a one time phenomena, this is Hashem's modus operandi - for in the Master of the Universe's hiddenness, one finds the highest tzedaka - the tzedaka of hidden love.    

 

Thrice daily, we thank Hashem for the daily miracles. Note the double terminology:

Al nisecha shebechol yom imanu, v'al nifloesecha v'tovosecha shebechol eis

for Your miracles which are with us daily, and for Your wonders and beneficences - which are at all times  

What distinguishes the neis [miracle] from the peleh [wonder]? It's a juicy question - but simply note that neis is a banner which secondarily means a miracle. We pledge allegiance to the Divine flag when God so obviously intervenes. But then there is the peleh - which is a hidden, mysterious reality that also connotes wonder[8].

 

The Master of the Universe is the ultimate Hidden Force. Every once in a  while He gives us a window to see the complexity - reminding us that there is so much tzedakah[9] lurking behind the scenes that we can not possibly fathom the extent of it all - for at any given moment the Bilaams, Bin Ladens and Ahmadinejads of the world are plotting our downfall.  

 

Is this simply Jewphobic paranoia?  2000 years of Jewish history does not lie. Yet, we are here to tell the story - for Hashem [who is ne'elam in the olam] is constantly watching out for us. To the extent that we recognize Hashem's hidden love for us, we will feel loved, live empowered and be able to pass it forward to the next generation and to all in our world.

 

Good Shabbos from Eretz Yisrael,

Asher Brander

 

[1] Tetzaveh, which has 101 pesukim is the longest omission of Moshe's name and much has been written on this. Cf. Baal Haturim on Shemos 27, 20

[2] Which from chapter 5 until 27 does not have Moshe's as he is the speaker himself.

[3] Reb Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888) was the son of Rav Shlomo Eiger and grandson of Rav Akiva Eiger. Much to the dismay of his family he joined a circle of brilliant scholars who surrounded the Chiddushei HaRim of Ger. He became a disciple of the Kotzker but left him together with Izhbitzer. Reb Leibe's seforim "Toras Emes" and "Imrei Emes" were published posthumously.

[4] Cf. 23, 10 [let me die the death of the straight ones - a reference to Avraham] or  

[5] Avos, 5:19: Whoever possesses the following three traits is of the disciples of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three traits is of the disciples of the wicked Balaam. The disciples of our father Abraham have a good eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul. The disciples of the wicked Balaam have an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a gross soul. What is the difference between the disciples of our father Abraham and the disciples of the wicked Balaam? The disciples of our father Abraham benefit in this world and inherit the World To Come, ....The disciples of the wicked Balaam inherit purgatory and descent into the pit of destruction, as is stated, ...

[6] In this beautiful piece, he contrasts Shabbos to the moadim in this same way - shabbos requires no awakening from below [is'arusa diletata] as opposed to Yom Tov:

שזהו עי ק ר  בחי׳ צדקה   השפעת  הנותן להמקבל  בלתי ידי ע ה  המ ק ב ל  כי ד ו ע מחכז״ל* . וזהו עי ק ר  בחי׳ שבת . כי בזה משונההשבח מכל המועדים .  כי המ ו ע ד י ם  ישראל מקדשי לה ו . והוא ענין את ד ל ״ ת  . לא ק הש״ק כי הוא קביע אוק י י מ א  . היינו שקדושתו אינו תל ו י .  בפ ע ו ל ה  הא ד ם כלל . רק  הי כ ף  אח ר  שי ה ״ מ .  איתער  לעילא לברךולקדש את  יום הש ב י ע י

[8]Cf. Rashi, Devarim, 30:11 לא מכוסה היא ממך. - לא נפלאת היא ממך -    

[9] Jonathan Rosenblum's cogent analysis of a behind the scenes Nixon-Kissinger dialogue yields this gem:

Israeli prime minister Golda Meir credited Nixon with having saved Israel in 1973 by ordering a massive airlift of arms to Israel, while war still raged. Nixon not only responded to Israel's pleas for new arms, at a time the Soviets were busy rearming Egypt and Syria, he did so over the foot-dragging of the Pentagon and State Department. He specifically ordered Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger to expedite the transfer of supplies to Israel. At one point, he asked for an assessment of Israel's military needs. When Schlesinger provided him with it, he told his shocked Secretary of Defense to double it.  In particular, Nixon overruled Kissinger on the airlift. The latter hoped that a more vulnerable Israel would be more compliant with his grand diplomatic designs to both bring peace to the Middle East and freeze the Soviets out of the action. 

[9b] A similar notion is also expressed on the pasuk on Tehillim Halelu es Hashem kol Goyim - Shabechuhu kol Haumim - the nations of the world are uniquely capable of praising Hashem - as they knew what they were plotting

[9c] Also cf Rashi on Chukas - V'eshed Hanechalim - for perhaps another example of this notion

 

 

Good Shabbos,

Asher Brander


 
   
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