Friday, July 06, 2012

Balak 5633 First Ma'amar

Balak complains to Bil'am, "... עם יצא ממצרים הנה כסה את עין הארץ .../… a nation came out of Egypt, behold it covers the face of the land …" (Bamidbar 22:8)  Literally, "… it covers the eye of the land …"  The Sfas Emes explains that this wording can be understood in two ways.
1.       People perceive reality in two ways.  Most see things as they appear physically.  Some also see the inner wisdom and spirituality within the physical.  The nation of Israel that left Egypt was on a high spiritual level.  The people saw the inner spirituality in themselves and everything that surrounded them.  Their spiritual power was so strong that it affected their environment to the extent that the nations they passed also experienced a revelation of the spiritual latent in everything physical.  The nations though, because of their low spiritual level, were unable to assimilate these experiences.  Instead of being enlightened and recognizing the spiritual as reality, they experienced it as a veneer that covered their reality – the physical world with which they were familiar.  Balak expressed this feeling when he said, כסה את עין הארץ/it covers the eye of land.  The eye of the land refers to his physical reality which was being covered by an experience of the truth, the connection of everything to God.  Naturally, this was disconcerting for him.
2.      כסה את עין הארץ/It covers the eye of land, can be understood in another way.  עין הארץ/Eye of the land refers to God's providence over the physical world as we find, "... תמיד עיני ה' א-להיך בה .../… God your Lord's eyes are always upon it (the land) …" (Devarim 11:12)
God's providence is hidden in everything.  God's providence is hidden in each one of us.  This is the spiritual power that is within us.  We have the ability to use this power, latent within us, for spiritual goals.  We can also abuse it by applying it to further physical goals.  Everything has a consequence, though.  If we use our spiritual power to better our position in the physical world, we expose that power to the physical world and the nations of the world can rule over it.  It is then that we are harassed by the nations.  It is then that the nations are able to make religious life difficult for us.  However, to the extent that we protect our spirituality, it is not exposed to the nations and they cannot touch the holiness of the nation of Israel.
כסה את עין הארץ/It covers the eye of the land, means that the nation of Israel used the spiritual power within to attain spiritual goals.  We thereby protected that power from exposure to the nations.
The Sfas Emes explains that both understandings flow from the same concept.  To the extent that we do not use our inner spiritual life-force to further physical goals, we recognize that the spiritual is reality.  We attach more importance to the spiritual than to the physical.  In fact, when this recognition is total – at the final redemption – the physical will be understood clearly to have no separate existence.  It is simply a manifestation of the spiritual reality.
In essence, this represents the ultimate rectification of the physical world.  Balak and Bil'am recognized this and were concerned.  They wanted no part of this rectification.  They liked the physical world as they perceived it.  This is what Balak meant when he said that they are covering God's providence (they are not using it to enhance the physical) and they are sitting directly opposite me (they are going to affect me as well!)
May we merit recognizing the spiritual power that is latent within us and using it to bring us closer to God.  Amen!

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