This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Journeying Through Life
We read in this week's Parshah of the equitable division of the land of Israel. Every single Jew had and has a portion in the Land. First, the land was divided it into 12 regions, one for each of the tribes; it was then further subdivided, so that every family was allocated an individual plot of land for a homestead.
(Parenthetically, this gives the lie to those who would foolishly relinquish parts of your inheritance in exchange for some meaningless promises and vague international approval. Putting aside the stupendous irresponsibility involved, the land being discussed isn't theirs to give away. It is yours. Your inheritance, from your parents, and no politician, whether cynical or just stupid, has the right to rob you of your birthright.)
It was the method of division of the land of which a gambler would approve. They held a lottery. Equal chances for all. I can just imagine the scene "Roll up, roll up! Where are you and your children going to live and work? Who fancies the mountain region? How about a cottage by the sea? Take your chances. Come one, come all!" Your name along with all your neighbors' went into the same pot and, as the shards inscribed with the subsections of land was plucked out, a corresponding name would be announced, settling the question of where to settle.
We've all looked around on occasion and asked, "How did I end up here? Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?" Placed in a situation not of my choosing, facing odds seemingly stacked against me, why shouldn't I just walk away from the table?
Life is inherently a lottery. Try as we might to influence the odds in our favor, G‑d still fixes the game the way He wishes. It's neither fair nor unfair, just the way G‑d wants it. You can complain and criticize, you can moan and mourn, but it won't change the facts, so you might as well play the hand you've been dealt.
And because G‑d is the dealer, we're guaranteed that if we play the game by His rules; live up to our potential and His purpose, then, come the end of the game, we'll definitely be left holding onto the jackpot.
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.