This week's parsha
Moses the Rebuker?
This Shabbat, we will be reading from the Torah some of the most beautiful blessings and praises ever showered upon our nation:
"G‑d perceives no iniquity in Jacob, and sees no perversity in Israel; the L-rd, his G‑d, is with him, and the friendship of the King is with him." "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!"
The highlight of these blessings is the only clear prophecy written in the Torah concerning the coming of Moshiach:
"I see it, but not now, I look at him, but it isn't near. A star has issued from Jacob and a staff will come forth from Israel…"
What is astonishing about these blessings is their source -- Balaam, the malicious anti-Semite who eagerly accepted Balak's invitation to curse the Jews. Why couldn't these prophecies have been transmitted through Moses, the champion of the Jews? Instead we find that Moses' prophecies are replete with rebukes and admonitions, and warnings of the misfortunes which would befall our people as a consequence of disobeying G‑d's word. Is this a classic case of role reversal?! Moses should have showered us with blessings and honor, and Balaam should have been the mouthpiece for G‑d's reprimands!
And the Midrash answers: "Yes, it would have been proper for the rebukes to emanate from the mouth of Balaam, and the blessings from the mouth of Moses. However, if Balaam had rebuked, the Jews would have [disregarded the rebukes,] saying, 'our foe is rebuking us.' And if Moses would have blessed, the nations of the world would [disregard the blessings,] saying, 'the one who loves them has blessed them.' Therefore, G‑d said, 'Let Moses who loves them rebuke them, and let Balaam who detests them bless them.'"
We are often inclined to chide others who have erred in their ways. In these situations, it is vital to bear in mind that the only legitimate admonition is one which derives from love and care. If the recipient of the reproach senses that the rebuker is speaking out of anger or self-righteousness, the rebuke is futile and will accomplish no good. The verse says, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow." First be certain that you harbor no animosity in your heart, and only then you may chastise.
This lesson is especially appropriate now, at the onset of the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple. We are told that the Temple was destroyed because of a lack of harmony amongst the Jews; and through increasing our love, blessings, and praises for our fellow Jews, we will merit seeing the Third Holy Temple, and the Three Weeks will be transformed into a period of happiness and joy.