Friday, July 11, 2008

Balak 5648 Second Ma'amar

Note: Click here for a fascinating story concerning this ma'amar told over by the Tolna Rebbe and brought to my attention by anonymous.

... וַתֹּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם מֶה־עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ כִּי הִכִּיתַנִי זֶה שָׁלֹש רְגָלִים/(The donkey) said to Bil’am, ‘What did I do to you that you hit me these three times?” (Bamidbar 22:28) The word “time” is found many times in the Torah as “פַּעַם.” This is the only place in Tanach where the word regel is used to mean “time.” Why? The Midrash answers that the Torah is alluding to the shalosh regalim, the three holidays that the nation celebrates. God is berating Bil’am for wanting to destroy a nation that celebrates the three holidays, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos.

The nation keeps many mitzvos. Why did God hint specifically at the shalosh regalim? The Sfas Emes explains that from the three holidays we learn the special connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel. The allusion to the three holidays specifically, is a response to Balak’s complaint. Balak’s stated purpose was to prevent the nation from entering the land of Israel, “... אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה־בּוֹ וַאֲגֳרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן־הָאָרֶץ .../… Perhaps I will be able to strike them and banish them from the land …” (Bamidbar 22:6) God is telling Bil’am that there is a special relationship between the nation of Israel and this particular land. No other land will do.

How do we learn of this relationship from the shalosh regalim? One of the main components of the shalosh regalim celebrations is the aliya laregel, the requirement for every male to go up to the Beis HaMikdash on the holiday. The Sfas Emes explains that aliya laregel is a testimony that land of Israel was set aside specifically for the nation of Israel as David HaMelech wrote in Tehillim (122:4), “שֶׁשָּׁם עָלוּ שְׁבָטִים ... עֵדוּת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל .../For there the tribes ascended … a testimony for Israel …” Bil’am himself prophesied this, “כִּי־מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ .../For I will see him from the top of mountain peaks and will view him from hills.” (Bamidbar 23:9) The plain meaning of this prophecy is that every mountain peak and hilltop was designated for the nation of Israel. He saw the nation from everywhere in the land.

Chazal also mention this relationship. Chazal teach us that God acquired, as it were, five things in this world. Three of the five are the heavens and the earth, the nation of Israel and the Beis HaMikdash. That these are mentioned together in this mishna indicates that there is a strong relationship between them.

What is the nature of this relationship? The Sfas Emes explains that the children of Israel have qualities which exactly match the qualities inherent in the land of Israel. Just as, according to Chazal,[1] the land of Israel and the Beis Hamikdash are the foundation from which the entire Creation sprung, so too, the Sfas Emes teaches, the children of Israel are the foundation for all the souls in the Creation.[2]

The land of Israel needs the nation for its rectification. Chazal teach us that the blessing, “מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב .../Who can count the dirt of Ya’akov …” (Bamidbar 23:10) is referring to the many mitzvos which are fulfilled only in the dirt of the land of Israel. The mitzvos of tithing, shmitta and many other mitzvos can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel. These mitzvos are needed to rectify the land and only the children of Israel are able to perform these mitzvos. This is why God blessed Ya’akov by comparing his descendents to the dirt of the land, “וְהָיָה זַרְעֲךָ כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ .../Your progeny shall be like the dirt of the land.” (Breishis 28:14) The Creator prepared the dirt of the land of Israel specifically for the descendents of Ya’akov. Only we can rectify it.

Just has He measured the land, “מִי־מָדַד ... וְכָל בַּשָּׁלִשׁ עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ .../Who measured with a shalish the dirt of the land …,” (Yeshaya 40:12) he also measured the dirt of Ya’akov, “מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב .../Who can count the dirt of Ya’akov …” The Sfas Emes teaches us that that a Jewish soul is designated for each grain of dirt in the land of Israel. May we merit appreciating the integral connection between us and our land and to fulfilling the mitzvos needed to rectify it!

[1] Zohar 2:222a-b

[2] The Creation is structured as a hierarchy leading from most to least spiritual. Life giving energy flows from the Creator through the spiritual realms and finally to the physical world, giving existence to all. The souls of the nation of Israel are an integral part of this hierarchy. (see Nefesh HaChaim 1:17 and 2:17)


Anonymous said...

פרדס יוסף (ויקרא י:ג): ובענין שתיקה, כשאדמו"ר מגור שליט"א היה בארץ ישראל שאל אותו הגאון רבי אברהם יצחק קוק ז"ל מה שאמרו חז"ל (בבא בתרא קנח:) אוירא דארץ ישראל מחכים האם מרגיש זה, וענה לו סייג לחכמה שתיקה (אבות ג:יד):

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Thanks. The Gerrer Rebbes were known for not talking much. A great grandson of the Sfas Emes told me that someone once came to the Imrei Emes upset. He explained that he went to the Sfas Emes for a haskama and all the Sfas Emes said was, "Ni, ni." The Imrei Emes responded that if he said "ni" twice, that was already a lot!