Around the Shabbos Table – Balak (Mussar)

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A nobleman heard that a doctor in a distant country had formulated an ointment that renders a person invulnerable. Since he often traveled through dark forests, he made his way to the inventor and purchased the ointment. Before leaving for home, he applied the ointment to every part of his body.

On the path home he was attacked by a group of thieves. They fell upon him and beat him from head to toe, but found that he was impervious to their blows. Thinking that their must be a magic spirit protecting their victim they left him and fled in terror.

They were quite shocked when he called out to them and offered them some brandy to drink. They asked him why would he be so kind to them when they had just sought to rob and kill him? He replied, “I went to great trouble and expense to purchase an ointment which renders a person immune to attack. However, I had no way to know if the ointment was effective until your futile efforts to attack me proved that I had not been cheated.

The people of Israel, like the nobleman, presumed that they were immune to all black magic and sorcery, as the verse says (Bamidbar 23:23): “For there is no black magic against Jacob and no sorcery against Israel.” Their ancestor, Jacob, had served Laban for 20 years, and during that entire period Laban attempted to cast evil spells on Jacob, but to no avail. Jacob could not be harmed. The descendants of Jacob assumed that they had inherited this same protection, but they had no way of confirming whether they were truly insurmountable.

However, after they saw that not only were Bilaam’s vain attempts to curse the people ineffective, even more, his curses were turned into blessings-then they saw living proof that they were just as protected from evil as was their Patriarch, Jacob. In this light, the end of the verse says: “In due time it shall be said to Jacob and to Israel: What had HaShem done for you,” i.e., placed His blessing of protection upon you. The reality of our existence despite 2000 years of exile is a living confirmation that HaShem protects Klal Yisrael. May we walk with confidence and joy, knowing that throughout the ages, HaShem safeguards the people of Israel (based on the parables of the Maggid of Dubno).

Today: Feel a sense of tranquillity knowing the we are sheltered by the Divine blessing.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation


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