Torah Tidbits

30 August 2014 / 4 Elul 5774

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Issue 1007
Parshat Balak
July 12, 2012
Lead Tidbits
Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary

Aliya by Aliya Sedra Summary

Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p’tucha or s’tuma. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p’sukim in the parsha.

Kohen - First Aliya 11 p’sukim - 22:2-12
[S> 22:2 (95!)] Balak was a weaker king than his neighbors in the region. The defeat of the others (OG and SICHON) instilled fear in Balak’s heart, and he realized that waging a “conventional” war against Israel would be futile. His plan (following research of the matter - without access to Google!) was to enlist Bil’am to curse the People of Israel. To this end, Balak sends a delegation to Bil’am in Midyan. Bil’am invites the envoys to spend the night so that he (Bil’am) can be spoken to by G-d. G-d does “appear” to Bil’am and asks him who these people are. Bil’am tells G-d and He warns Bil’am not to go with the delegation, nor to curse the people, because “they are blessed”.

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Other Tidbits
Jewish Law

"The Trade and Commerce of a Talmid Chacham" (Hilkhot De'ot 5:3) [4]

At the beginning of this chapter, the Rambam describes how just as the wisdom and spiritual thoughts of the Talmid Chacham elevate him above all others, so do his eating and drinking habits, his clothing and his satisfying of natural needs. Indeed, we have always taught and been taught that observing and adopting the habits of great and pious people, even in the mundane and ordinary things in life, is an important and essential principle in our religious education. Surely it is remarkable and instructive that after he enumerates all the areas, Maimonides goes on to describe the commerce and trade of a Talmid Chacham; even the mere idea that such a spiritual leader should be engaged in economics, business or crafts is unparalleled in other faiths and religious thought systems.
No less revealing is the discussion amongst our sages, which profession is more conducive to religiosity and spirituality. Rambam himself considers business and commerce as preferable since they allow more time for Torah study and pious deeds. Others taught that shepherds were constantly exposed to doing chesed by the necessity of providing protection, good grazing, water and shade for their flocks and so became more pious; witness the midrashim of how this profession proved that Moshe was suitable for delivering us from Egypt. Still others maintained that farmers became more religious since they were constantly aware of G-d’s Power because of their familiarity with the natural forces, and they learnt to acknowledge and pray to Him because of their dependence on Him for their crops.
Irrespective, the following words of the Rambam are accepted by all and apply to each of us, whatever our trades or professions are. “The commerce of the Talmid Chacham is conducted in truth and faith, his yes means yes and his no is no, he is exact in his accounting regarding that which is due to him but is patient and forgiving to those who owe him, nothing is bought on credit when he has available cash, accepts obligations beyond that which the Torah obligates him, never competes with his neighbor nor causes anybody anguish [neither with his body nor with his money]” (Halakha 13).
This definition of the type of commerce exemplified by that of the Talmid Chacham is the halahkic formulation of the concepts that can bring us to attain kedusha and become elevated spirit- ually. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch comments consistently that lifnim mishurat hadin, the ability to waive some of our legal and moral rights to property is the ideological basis of many monetary halakhot; in leaving Pe’ah in our fields, in observing dina bar metztra whereby a neighbor or one whose interests are adjacent to ours is given the first right of refusal, in the dictum ‘one has a benefit while the other suffers no loss, etc. “According to din Torah a transaction is not completed when only verbal and each party can retract yet the Talmid Chacham is machmir and so keeps his word ” (She’iltot 336).
“A psalm of David: HaShem, who may sojourn in Your Tabernacle, who shall dwell in Your Holy Mountain?
[From the continuing verses we learn that one who desires to be close to Hashem must implement His teachings bein adam l’chavero].
He who walks in faith that G-d provides all his needs [so that his parnasa can be earned with integrity], he who creates justice [through economic righteousness], he who speaks the truth in his heart [making full disclosure of any faults in his goods or services and does not steal the mind of (deceive) his neighbor]. He who has no slander on his tongue [does not deprecate the goods or prices of his competitors] nor does evil to his fellows [by causing damage of any form] or by encroaching on their livelihood] nor casts disgrace on anybody [through harassment or embarrassment of workers or debtors]. In whose eyes that which is despicable is repulsive but rather honors those who fear Hashem. He who He who has sworn but does not change his oath [in order to evade his obligations or default on business contracts]. He who has not lent his money at interest [even not through stratagems nor legal fictions, but is careful to make interest free loans] nor has taken a bribe against innocent people [to obtain business advantages or to evade fines levied in breach of the law or commercial regulations].
He who fulfills all these shall not falter or waver forever” (T’hilim 15).

Dr Tamari’s new book - “Truths Desired by God: An Excursion Into the Weekly Haftarah” is published by Gefen Publishers

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TTriddles "Report"


This week’s TTriddles:
[1] 1005-7: kit, eke, ilk
[2] Clintonsterdam
[3] Right holds firm; left up six
[4] The Avraham, Yaakov, Moav, Shaul connection
[5] The donkey is one of ten in more ways than one
[6] a man, his plan - anagram
[7] The two Get up & Go Donkey guys
[8] Connect Shimshon’s father to Balak
[9] The Torah-Haftara anagram
[10] The goats against our brothers, this nation in your nation, to his mother and his father, we are Jews, to life in honor!
Rabbi Atik z"l used to ask…
HaShem asks Bil’am about the people who came to him.
To whom else does HaShem ask questions in the Torah?
Taken from a new book: Rabbi Atik’s Torah Teasers by Rabbi Moshe Erlbaum - keyword Torah Teasers


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ParshaPix Explanations

Parsha Pix

Upper-left is part of one of the very first ParshaPixPuzzles of years ago. There is a BLOCK (sounds like BALAK) in a nest, which makes it BLOCK BEN TZIPOR
Globe wearing an eye patch. Balak said that Israel was so numerous that we covered EIN HAARETZ, the eye of the Earth
Messengers from Moav came to Bil’am with K’SAMIM B’YADAM, represented by the magic trick in the hand
Bil’am’s donkey saw the sword drawn in the angel’s hand; Bil’am did not see it at first (or second or third)
When the donkey talks to Bil’am, she asks him why he has hit her these three REGALIM, three times. Commentaries point out that it doesn’t say P’AMIM, three times, but rather uses the word that refers to our cycle of holidays and to the People who observe them. The angel repeats the reference to SHALOSH REGALIM. The speech- bubble for the donkey contains the question (mark) about the three festivals, represented by the Lulav, Matza, and Torah
Chicago basketball player, one of the BULLS and a St. Louis football player, one of the RAMS. Bulls and rams, 7 of each, (hence their jersey numbers) were repeatedly offered as sacrifices by Bil’am and Balak
Clapping hands - a representation of Balak striking his hands together in disgust at Bil’am’s repeated failure to do as requested. VAYISPOK. A unique word in Tanach
The Xed out snake is also from Bil’am’s words, that there is no NACHASH in Yaakov. His meaning is that we do not rely on omens
A “houseful of silver and gold” - sort of what Balak told Bil’am that he missed out on by not uttering one teeny weeny curse
The shul in the lower-left corner reminds us of the famous MA TOVU OHALECHA YAAKOV…
Lying across the bottom of the ParshaPix is the ROMACH, the spear that Pinchas used to protect G-d’s honor
The river of oil from the pitcher is mentioned in the haftara
On the reverse side of a US dollar bill is a picture of the Great Seal: A pyramid with an all-seeing eye on top. Sometimes called the enlightened eye. Bil’am calls himself the man with SH’TUM HA-AYIN. Living Torah offers these translations: enlightened, future-seeing, seeing, open, true- sighted, sleepless, evil, dislocated, blinded.
In the upper-right corner of the ParshaPix is a MEM, representing the MEM that is at the upper-right corner of the column in the Torah that starts with MA TOVU OHALECHA YAAKOV… What is remarkable about this MEM is that there is a Scribal Tradition that six specific columns in the Torah (out of 245 or so) need to start at a specific point in the text. All other columns are flexible, in a sense, and the exact beginning of each column will vary from Sofer to Sofer. (Actually, today’s Sifrei Torah are written by copying from photocopies of a small number of existing Sifrei Torah whose writing is considered particularly good. So there is more uniformity from Torah to Torah - more than would be expected from the Tradition we’re talking about.) This Tradition clashes a bit with another Tradition that each column begin with a VAV. This is a standard feature of most Sifrei Torah today, although it is only six specific columns that “must” begin the same way. Of the six, one starts with a VAV anyway, leaving 5 of about 245 columns that do not start with a VAV. One is the first column, which starts with the big BET of B’REISHIT. The MEM in Balak is another. The mnemonic device is B’KAH SH’MO
The lion cub is mentioned in Bil’am’s description of the people of Israel - “Behold, the people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion…” (Bamidbar 23:24) and “He crouched and lay down like a lion, and, like a lion cub - who can stand up to him?” (24:9)
ET is for ITI, with me. The occurs 52 times in Tanach and brings to mind the extraterrestrial who wanted to phone home. Balak asks Bil’am to go with him to another vantage point and see the Israelite camp.
The Shofar and crown go together and represent the pasuk, Bamidbar 23:21, in which Bil’am proclaims, “He has not seen iniquity in Jacob, nor has he seen perverseness in Israel; HaShem his God is with him, and the TRUMPET BLAST OF A KING (UTRU’AT MELECH) is among them.”
Below the crown on the right side is CHEF-E, as in SHEFI, from 23:3. It has the meaning of He went alone
In the lower right is another BALAK, a BEN TZIPOR, that is. A baby bird is a BEN TZIPOR; so was BALAK.
The name of the ZIM shipping company comes from Parshat Balak (Bamidbar 24:24): “V’TZIM, large ships shall come from the ports of the Kitim, and they will lay waste Assyria and Eber…”
The haftara begins with V’HAYA SHE’EIRIT (or SHE’EIRIS - hashgacha)
an ox grazing, to match Balak’s description of his impression of the multitude of Israel.
The picture next the hand-clap is of R’ Eliyahu KiTov. The phrase KI TOV occurs 15 time in the Torah. We’ll focus on the combination of VAYAR (and he saw)... KI TOV, that it was good. This cuts our 15 down a bit. In the account of Creation, we find that G-d saw… that it was good - six times. I guess we need to add Chava to the list. With her, the word is VATEIREH, the woman (Chava) saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good looking and looked delicious. The Baker in prison with Yosef saw that Yosef had interpreted the Wine Stewards dream well, KI TOV PATAR. Another woman with VATEIREH, this time Yocheved, who saw that baby Moshe was good, and she hid him… And then it was Bil’am who saw that it was good to bless the people of Israel… Something about the use of KI TOV with Bil’am strikes as an arrogance in light of the repeated use of the term in the Creation account. Also, in Yaakov’s blessing to Yissachar (B’reishit 49), the Torah says VAYAR MENUCHA KI TOV… “And he saw that resting was good, and that the land was pleasant.” Commentaries variously explain that Yissachar was to favor staying on its land, working it, not into travel and warfare… and was to develop a commitment to Torah learning with their stay-at-home attitude.
And then there is one UNEXPLAINED to challenge you.

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"From Machon Puah"

Puah Conference on Intimacy and Fertility

The Puah Institute has been active worldwide for over 20 years and we have presented many lectures and programs throughout the world and especially in Israel and North America.
After holding many successful conferences and seminars we received many calls to hold a conference in the New York area together with the Orthodox Union. The subject that was chosen was “Intimacy and Fertility” and the idea was to have some sessions for the public and dedicate the morning to a professional meeting on this subject. In the morning session Rabbis and mental health professionals would be able to have an open dialogue with each other together with doctors and other medical professionals.
We held this conference with great trepidation and a good deal of hesitation not knowing whether people would feel comfortable discussing these issues in such a forum. In addition, the Mishna guides us that such matters should not be discussed publicly and should be taught and studied only from a teacher to one student.
However the issue of intimacy needs to be discussed and the problems associated with it are more acute than there were in the past. Outside influences and the increased divorce rates combined with a lack of basic understanding among so many couples that come for counseling and guidance have shown that there is a need for Rabbis to be educated in the area of counseling for couples with questions related to intimacy. In addition many counselors are faced with halachic questions related to their work with such couples and they require clear answers and guidance as to the halachic interface with treatment of intimacy issues.
The Conference was hosted by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky and Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, and featured lectures and seminars from leading experts in the field of counseling, therapy and medical procedures.
Despite our concerns, the conference was very well attended and was a great success. Over 200 participants enjoyed the informative and productive sessions and a very fruitful discussion was generated during both the professional and public portions of the program. The participants were a good mix of mental health professionals, Rabbis, doctors and others who are involved on a regular basis with treating questions and problems with intimacy and the conference was a perfect forum for them to voice their opinions, ask their questions and get some advice from the experts as well as hearing the experience of their colleagues. They represented a crosssection of the religious affiliations within the Jewish community.
In the next few weeks we will recount some of the highlights and messages from this wonderful conference.

- Rabbi Gidon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

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Portion of the Portion

Was Bil'am Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde or Both?

Did you ever wonder how Bil’am got prophecy? Was he really worthy to have G-d speak to him? Bil’am, who is described in Pirke Avot (5:19) as possessing AYIN RA’A, RUACH G’VOHA, V’NEFESH R’CHAVA - jealousy, haughtiness, and lust, doesn’t seem to have the qualities enumerated by the Rambam in his SHMONEH P’RAKIM (7), as prerequisites for receiving prophecy -  which includes both intellectual abilities and high moral qualities. So how did a man such as Bil’am get prophecy?

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Parsha Points to Ponder

Parsha Points to Ponder

1) Why does the Torah emphasize that Balak was king of Moav AT THAT TIME (22:4). He is the king in this story, so of course he was king at that time?
2) Why does G-D ask Bilaam WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WITH YOU (22:9)? If G-D does not want Bilaam to go along with these people as He expresses later (22:12), why doesn’t He simply say that without engaging in questions which He already knows the answers to? Furthermore, why does Bilaam answer G-D with a description of who these people were as if G-D did not know (22:10)?
3) Why does G-D instruct Moshe to kill the leaders who sinned OPPOSITE THE SUN and then G-D’S ANGER WILL ABATE (25:4)? What difference does the time of day make in reducing G-D’s anger?

Parsha Points to Ponder by Rabbi Dov Lipman
Rabbi Lipman is an educator, author, and community activist in Bet Shemesh and also serves as Director of Anglos for Am Shalem. [FACEBOOK: “Anglos for Am Shalem”]

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Chizuk and Idud

CHIZUK and IDUD for Olim not yet Olim respectively

People who have not made aliya tend to focus on how many difficulties they will face. They see family pressure, financial pressure, cultural pressure, pressure, pressure and more pressure

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Wisdom & Wit

Wisdom and Wit

In their efforts to force the Jews to give up their faith, the Russian authorities in the 19th century instituted the famous Cantonist decree. They would often seize Jewish children and make them serve in the Czar’s army. These children would be shipped off to distant locations for a period of twenty-five years. Thus the Russian authorities worked to ensure that the children would lose all contact with Jews and would adopt the local religion.

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Divrei Menachem

Divrei Menachem

In our parsha the infamous sorcerer Bilaam blesses the people instead of cursing them. Moreover, the heathen prophet exudes the glory of Israel in the most exalted language. Take, for example, his exclamation that: “He saw no iniquity in Yaakov, and saw no perversity in Israel. Hashem, his G-d, is with him, and the friendship (UT’RU’AT) of the King is in him” (Bamidbar 23:21).

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