Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Goal Is Subordination

Sfas Emes blog 

The Midrash relates the argument Bil’am used to try to convince God to side with the nations of the world against the nation of Israel. Bil’am’s point was simple. Would it not be better to be worshiped by seventy nations than one nation? At first glance, Bil’am’s argument to God was a good one. Does it not indeed make more sense to include the nations of the world?


God answered, the Midrash[1] tells us, with a pasuk from Mishlei, “טוֹב פַּת חֲרֵבָה וְשַׁלְוָה־בָהּ מִבַּיִת מָלֵא זִבְחֵי־רִיב/Better dry bread and peace than a house full of contentious celebrations.” (Mishlei 17:1) The Midrash explains the metaphor. The dry bread represents the nation of Israel.The house full of contentious celebrations represents the nations of the world. God would rather be worshiped by the nation of Israel than the nations of the world if their purpose is to insert a wedge of discord between Him and Israel.

This answer seems to beg the question though for if each nation truly submits to God, why would God prefer Israel? The answer, the Chiddushei HaRim says, is that the nations of the world are disingenuous regarding their submission to God. While the nations of the world certainly accomplish great things, Chazal teach us that they are far from altruistic.[2] Rather, their own interests motivate them. They may perform acts of kindness, but it is only to lord it over others. Bil'am himself subordinated himself to God, "... אִם־יִתֶּן־לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתוֹ כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲבֹר אֶת־פִּי ה׳ אֱ־לֹהָי .../.. Were Balak to give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of God, my Lord …” (Bemidbar 22:18) Yet Chazal learn from this very pasuk that Balak really wanted all that money.

Sincerity, then, differentiates us from the nations of the world. God prefers our worship to theirs since it is sincere. The nations of the world use their submission to God as a springboard for self aggrandizement. The nation of Israel also submits. However, for our righteous, the submission is an end in and of itself. Even when we ask God to help us reach higher levels, it is to come closer to Him, to be able to submit even more.

Conventionally, a lowly soul – נֶפֶשׁ שְׁפֵלָה – one of the good character traits that Avraham Avinu teaches his students, is one who spurns the base desires and temptations of the physical world. Bil’am, Chazal[3] tell us, had an expansive soul – נֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה. He surrendered to his physical desires and used his stature to do so.

The Sfas Emes, however, gives us a deeper understanding of a lowly soul. Unlike Bil’am, it is one who does not use his work to come close to God in a self serving way. Of course, he will not use his service to God as a way of satisfying base desires. He also will not use his service to God as a means for reaching higher spiritual levels and gaining more spiritual power. Unquestionably, as a byproduct of his work, he will reach higher spiritual levels. But these achievements are not his goal. Instead, he uses those levels to further subordinate himself to the infinite God.

[1] Bemidbar R. 20:18


[2] Bava Basra 10b


[3] Avos 5:19

אא"ז מורי ז"ל הגיד על המדרש שאמר בלעם טוב להיות נעבד מע' אומות והשיב הקב"ה טוב פת חריבה כו'. אף שכל אומה תתן כחה להכניע להקב"ה. מ"מ אינה באמת כמ"ש חז"ל מה דעבדין לגרמייהו כו'. הרי במה שהכניע עצמו בלעם הרשע לפנים ואמר אם יתן לי כו' לא אוכל לעבור כו' ומזה עצמו נלמד רוח גבוהה שלו. והחילוק הוא נקודה האמיתיות שסט"א מכניע כדי לגנוב ולעלות. ואנחנו בני ישראל גם העליות שמבקשין מהשי"ת שנוכל להתקרב אליו כדי להכניע ולשוב ליראתו באמת. וזהו סוף הרצון שבישראל לבוא לההכנעה [וזהו נפש שפלה שרוצה להישאר כך]:

Our Souls Are Connected To The Land

Sfas Emes blog 

“... 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 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, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos, the three holidays that we celebrate each year.[1] God is berating Bil’am for wanting to destroy a nation that celebrates these three holidays.


The nation keeps many mitzvos. Why did God hint specifically at the shalosh regalim? 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) The Sfas Emes explains that from the three holidays we learn of the special connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel. By alluding to the shalosh regalim 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 the shalosh regalim indicate a special relationship between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel? A primary element of the shalosh regalimcelebrations 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 the 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 (the nation) 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 filling the entire land. 


Chazal also mention this relationship.[2] 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 the Zohar[3] teaches that 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.[4]


The land of Israel needs the nation for its tikun/rectification. Chazal teach us that Bil’am’s 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 as He measured the land, “מִי־מָדַד ... וְכָל בַּשָּׁלִשׁ עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ .../Who measured with a measure 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 each grain of dirt in the land of Israel is associated with a Jewish soul. May we merit appreciating the integral connection between us and our land and to fulfilling the mitzvos needed to rectify it!




[1] Bamidbar R. 20:14
[2] Avos 6:10
[3] Zohar 2:222a-b
[4] 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)


במדרש ג' רגלים רמז לו שביקש לעקור אומה החוגגת ג' רגלים. ולמה דוקא מצוה זו. אך דהג' רגלים שעלו בנ"י לרגל הי' עדות שהמה מיוחדים לירושת הארץ וביהמ"ק כדכ' יראה כל זכורך כו' במקום אשר יבחר. וכ' ששם עלו שבטים כו' עדות לישראל. וכן אמר אותו רשע כי מראש צורים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו. לפי פשוטו שראה בנבואה כי כל צור וגבעה בא"י מיוחד לבנ"י. וארץ ישראל אשר הנחיל השי"ת לאבותינו ולנו אינו במקרה רק כשברא העולם והי' יסוד העולם ארץ ישראל וביהמ"ק. כמו כן בנ"י יסוד הנפשות וכל הציור של א"י וביהמ"ק הוא מכוון לציור של בנ"י דאיתא ישראל קנין אחד כו' שמים וארץ כו' ביהמ"ק כו' וכל אלה הקנינים שייכים זה לזה. ולאשר אמר ואגרשנו מן הארץ הראה לו הקב"ה כי הארץ מיוחד להם. וכ' מי מנה עפר יעקב מצות שעושין בעפר. פי' מצות שהם חובת קרקע ונוהגין בארץ כי הם תקונים השייכים לא"י ואין מי שיתקן זאת רק בנ"י. וכ' והי' זרעך כעפר הארץ ומי שאמר והי' העולם הכין עפר הארץ לזרע יעקב. וכמו שנתן מדה ומנין לעפר הארץ כדכ' מי מדד כו' וכל בשליש עפר הארץ כן מי מנה עפר יעקב ולכל גרגורי עפר מארץ ישראל מיוחדים נפשות פרטיות מישראל:

תרמ"ח ב' 

Disciples of Avraham and Disciples of Bil'am

Sfas Emes Blog 


Chazal[1] in a Mishna in Avos teach us that the disciples of Avraham Avinu are recognized by three character traits. They are generous, humble and live simply. The disciples of Bil’am the wicked have three opposite qualities, stinginess, arrogance, and greed. Bil’am’s students have poor character traits, to be sure. But one need not be a disciple of Bil’am to learn these traits. In fact, any fool can develop these bad character traits without learning from anyone. What exactly, then, do the disciples of Bil’am learn from him? Conversely, what do the disciples of Avraham Avinu learn from him?


The interesting thing about Bil’am is that he subordinates himself to God. For example, in response to Balak’s appeal that he curse the nation of Israel, he claims that even if Balak would give him his entire estate filled with silver and gold he cannot transgress the word of God.[2] Yet, from this very response Chazal learn that Bil’am was greedy.[3] Why do Chazal consider him to be so wicked? The Sfas Emes explains that Bil’am viewed himself as a very important person who does God’s will notwithstanding his own importance. 


Bil’am used service to God for his own ends, to increase his own egotism. This idea is alluded to in the pasuk describing Bil’am, “... נֹפֵל וּגְלוּי עֵינַָיִם/… fallen and revealed to him.” (Bamidbar 24:4) True, he falls before God. But he does so only to achieve a higher level to feed his bloated ego. Bil’am teaches his students to use service to God to achieve personal goals.


The righteous, on the other hand, have a simple soul. They ask nothing for themselves. Their sole desire is to be close to God, the source of life. They want to be God’s tool in this world, like an axe in the hands of a wood chopper. 


In fact, this is the only way to merit the next world. Chazal[4] tell us that this world is a corridor leading to the next world which is compared to a hall. The corridor is the only path to the hall. The only way to get to the next world is through this one. This is because the next world is so completely holy and spiritual that it is beyond our comprehension. It is impossible for someone who is completely disconnected from anything spiritual to merit the next world. What must we do, then, to merit it? The Sfas Emes explains that by revealing holiness in this world we connect to holiness, to God’s life force. This connection enables us to experience the next world.


The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that this is the meaning of the second half of the mishnah quoted above. The second part of the mishnah states that the disciples of Avraham Avinu benefit (lit.אוֹכְלִין /eat) in this world and נוֹחְלִין/inherit in the next world. The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that Chazal are not simply listing the rewards awaiting the disciples of Avraham Avinu. Rather they are teaching us about the relationship between this world and the next. Chazal alluded to this relationship by using the word nochlin for inherit instead of the more common יורשים.  Inherit - נוחלין, has the same root as the word נַחַל/stream. The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that benefiting from this world is not part of the reward. Rather, it is part of the work. Whenever we benefit from this world we must channel the stream of God’s life force into the activity. Chazal are telling us that we must inject some of the next world’s holiness into our activities in this world. 


By revealing the hidden holiness inherent in this world, we will merit experiencing the hidden holiness of the next world. The mishnah brings proof from a pasuk in Mishlei (8:21), “לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי יֵשׁ וְאֹצְרֹתֵיהֶם אֲמַלֵּא/I have something to bequeath those who love me and I will fill their storehouses.” The next world is referred to as אַיִן/nothing because it is not tangible and it is beyond our comprehension. When we reveal hidden holiness in this world, we develop a connection to it. This connection allows us to see and experience the אַיִן/nothing of the next world as יֵשׁ/something.


This, then, is the teaching of Avraham Avinu. Once we view ourselves as agents of God and consider that God is the absolute and singular force giving life and existence to everything, then generosity, humility, and living simply, follow.


Bil’am teaches his students exactly the opposite. He teaches that we can and should gain personally even from subservience to God. Chazal in fact teach us that that any kindness the nations of the world did, they did for their own benefit.[5] This is why the mishnah states that the students of Bil’am inherit gehinom. Gehinom represents God’s concealment, the opposite of the next world. By introducing evil into the good that they do, Bil’am’s disciples conceal even the Godliness that would otherwise have been revealed by their positive actions. They, thus, inherit the ultimate concealment of God.


May we merit being the disciples of Avraham Avinu. Amen!


[1]Avos 5:19
[2]Bamidbar 22:18
[3]Tanchuma Balak 6
[4]Avos 4:16
[5]Tikunei Zohar 6:22b


ב"ה פ' בלק 

במשנה מי שיש בו ג' דברים הללו מתלמידיו של א"א ע"ה עין טובה רוח נמוכה נפש שפלה כו' ולהיפוך בלעם הרשע כו' מה בין תלמידיו כו' תלמידי א"א אוכלין בעוה"ז ונוחלין לעוה"ב שנאמר להנחיל אוהבי יש ותלמידי בלעם הרשע יורשין גיהנם ויורדין לבאר שחת כו'. 

ומהו שם תלמידי בלעם. כי מה נלמד ממנו. ומדות רעות הללו עין רעה ורוח גבוהה כו' יוכל למצוא כל שוטה בלי לימוד. אך כי גם הרשעים מכניעים עצמם והרי אמר אם יתן לי כו' מלא ביתו כו' לא אוכל לעבור כו' ומזה עצמו נלמד שהי' נפש רחבה. כי זה נחשב אצלו לחשיבות להקב"ה מה שהוא מכניע עצמו אף שהוא חשוב מאוד. וכל ההכנעה שלו רק כדי לבוא למדריגה מה להתגאות אח"כ וז"ש נופל וגלוי עינים שע"י ההכנעה בא למדרגתו. אבל הצדיקים נפש שפלה שאין מבקשים רק להיות דבוק בחי החיים לידע תמיד שאין חיות לשום ברי' רק כח ה'. כגרזן ביד החוצב. וכל פעולה יהי' דבוק בכח הפנימיות. ומסיים מה בין תלמידיו כו' ופי' הבעש"ט אוכלין בעוה"ז ובזה עצמו נוחלין לעוה"ב מלשון נחל שממשיכין חיות השי"ת גם לעניני עוה"ז ע"ש. כי באמת עוה"ז דומה לפרוזדור כי עוה"ב למעלה מהשגה ואיך יוכל אדם לגשת לזה רק ע"י שמקרב עניני עוה"ז להקדושה זוכה שיתגלו לו עניני עוה"ב כי ב' אלו העולמות תלוין זה בזה. עוה"ז נעלם הקדושה ע"י התאוות וקליפות. ועוה"ב נעלם ע"י שמאין תמצא ונעלמת מכל. אך מי שמוציא הארה הגנוזה בתוך ההעלם שבעוה"ז. זוכה שיתגלה לו ההעלם שבעוה"ב ג"כ. וז"ש להנחיל אוהבי יש שזוכה לראות בבחי' אין כאילו הי' ממשות [וזה כל ענין הבריאה יש מאין שמקודם הי' רק אין. והש"י ע"י העשרה מאמרות שבתורה ברא העולם. באורייתא ברא קוב"ה עלמא. שפנימיות העולם הוא בחי' אין באמת כנ"ל] וזהו שעוה"ז כפרוזדור כו'. וזה לימוד אאע"ה להמשיך כל העשי' אחר חיות הפנימיות וממילא עין טובה כו' כיון שהכל כח הש"י בלבד. ולהיפוך לימוד בלעם הרשע שאף הכנעה לצורך גיאות. וז"ש לגרמייהו עבדין להיות לו מדרגה והתנשאות. ועי"ז יורש גיהנם ג"כ היפוך הנ"ל שאף שהי' לו קצת מדרגה בקדושה שהרי הי' נביא. רק ע"י שהמשיך החטאים בתוך קצת מעש"ט שהיו לו. עי"ז הכניס הרע לתוך הטוב ויורש גיהנם כנ"ל:

תרל"א מאמר א'


What Happens When We Stay On The Path Of Truth

The Sfas Emes blog 

In the haftara of Balak the prophet exhorts us to remember the story of Bil’am and Balak, “עַמִּי זְכָר־נָא מַה־יָעַץ בָּלָק מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב וּמֶה־עָנָה אֹתוֹ בִּלְעָם בֶּן־בְּעוֹר ... לְמַעַן דַּעַת צִדְקוֹת ה׳׃/My people, please remember what Balak, king of Moav schemed and what Bil’am son of Be’or answered him … in order to recognize the righteous acts of God.” (Micha 6:5) Also, Chazal relate the importance of remembering the story of Balak. There were even those who wanted this story to be a part of Kri’as Shma.[1] It isn’t, the Gemara tells us only because it would have inordinately lengthened Kri’as Shma. What is so important, so significant, about the story of Balak that the prophet asks us specifically to remember it and that it almost became a part of the Krias Shma?


The story of Balak is unique in that an implacable enemy was not only ineffective; he actually blessed us against his own will instead of cursing us. When the nation follows the path of truth and is aligned with God’s will even their most implacable and hostile enemies submit to God’s will.


We find this same idea on a personal level as well. Chazal tell us that two angels, a good one and a bad one, escort each of us home from the synagogue Friday night. If they find a home prepared for Shabbos, the good angel says, “May it be your will that this will happen next Shabbos as well.” The bad angel answers Amen against his will.


We actually pray for this in the prayer that we say immediately following the Amida, “וְכָל הַחוֹשְׁבִים עָלַי רָעָה מְהֵרָה הָפֵר עַצָתָם וְקַלְקֵל מַחְשַׁבְתָּם/And all who wish me ill, quickly overturn their scheme and corrupt their thoughts.”


Many times we are faced with hostile and vicious enemies. There seems to be no way to overcome them. From the story of Balak we learn that although we may not be able to overcome the enemy in a direct manner, there are other options. Although it seems improbable, it is an important part of serving God to cultivate a strong belief that all our enemies, even those who are the complete antithesis of holiness must subside and submit to the will of God. There is no such thing as a creation acting autonomously, even our cruelest enemies.


Our worst enemies will submit to God’s will though, only if we compromise not an iota, if we stay on the path of truth, the path of God. Then we will merit not only the destruction of our enemies but their blessing, just as the nation of Israel merited it on the plains of Moav.

[1] Brachos 12b

בפ' זכר נא כו' גם בגמ' בקשו לקבוע פ' בלק בק"ש בכל יום. כי צריך אדם להיות חזק בעבודת השי"ת להאמין כי אף כל הסט"א ומתנגדים להקדושה כולם מתבטלין לרצון הקב"ה ורק כשאדם הולך בדרך אמת שהרי בלעם על כרחו בירך אותם כענין שכ' בעל כרחו יענה אמן ודבר זה נוהג בכל זמן לכל איש ישראל שחושבין עליו עצות רעות וע"ז מבקשין הפר עצתם כו':

שנת תרל"ב


The Concealed Light

The Sfas Emes blog 

וירא בלק ... את כל אשר עשה ישראל לאמורי: ויגר מואב מפני העם מאד כי רב הוא .../Balak … saw everything that Israel did to the Emorites. Moav was very afraid of the people for they were many …" (Bamidbar 22:2,3) Why was Moav afraid? The nation of Israel had no designs on Moav's land. Israel even acquiesced to Moav's request that the people not traverse Moav in order to enter Cana'an.[1]



Balak and Moav were not concerned that Israel would conquer their land. They were concerned about something far deeper. We can learn what was bothering Balak from the Zohar's[2] explanation of a pasuk in Tehillim (31:20), "מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליראיך .../How great is the good that You have hidden for those who are in awe of You …" 


What is the "good" that God has hidden for the righteous and where did He hide it? The Zohar teaches that the good is the first light that God created, "וירא א-להים את האור כי טוב/God saw that the light was good." (Breishis 1:4) The Zohar says that this first light was not the physical light that we see today. The physical light of today comes from the celestial bodies and from fire in all its forms. The first light must have been something else since it was created before the celestial bodies and before fire. Rather, the first light may be better understood as enlightenment. It was the enlightenment that came from the Torah which God used to create the world[3] and which is hidden within the works of the Creation.


Chazal[4] teach us that the pasuk, "וירא א-להים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד/God saw everything that He did and behold it was very good," (Breishis 1:31) refers to the angel of death and the evil inclination. How so? The angel of death and evil inclination represent God's concealment in the physical world. They represent the concealment of the hidden light of the Torah. God saw that everything He made was very good because the light of the Torah, which was referred to before as "good" was hidden in everything that God had made.


While there will come a time when God, according to His Divine plan will reveal the hidden light, our mission is to find that hidden light now. The result is a revelation of the undeniable truth. In this way we can influence our surroundings to become subordinate to God. The children of Israel as they sojourned in the desert experienced the hidden light all the time. They lived with daily miracles. The effect on their surroundings was dramatic.


Balak was unavoidably affected as well. "וירא בלק .../Balak saw" that God's glory was revealed, "ואמרו אל יושב הארץ הזאת ... אשר עין בעין נראה אתה .../They will say about the inhabitants of this land … that God appears to them eye to eye …" (Bamidbar 14:14) This revelation of holiness totally contradicted Balak's view of reality. In fact, Balak refers to this when he says, "... עם יצא ממצרים הנה כסה את עין הארץ .../… a nation left Egypt; behold it covered the face (lit. eye) of the land …" (Bamidbar 22:5) ארץ/Land represents nature. It represents Balak's view of reality. He considered the holiness to which he was exposed as covering up his own eyes so that he could not see reality clearly. This is the exact opposite of the truth.


Balak saw this and was afraid. He was afraid of the aspect of "hidden light" represented by מאד/very in the pasuk, a reference to the hidden light which is described in the story of the Creation as "very good". The nation of Israel caused him to be exposed to the hidden light. The words, "כי רב הוא/for they (the people of Israel) are many," is a reference to, "מה רב טובך/How great is your good (i.e. the hidden light)."


According to the Sfas Emes, Balak saw the revelation of God's glory. He was unable to assimilate the holiness and was therefore afraid. It totally contradicted his view of reality.


The nation's sojourn in the desert, then, was an important preparatory period for the nation before entering the land of Israel. It was during this period that the notion of the hidden light became totally ingrained and internalized in the national psyche. 


The land of Israel, according to the Zohar[5] is the center point of the entire world. The very force that causes the entire Creation to exist comes first from this center point and sustains all. Experiencing and being exposed to the hidden light was thus crucial to being able to benefit fully from life in the land of Israel.


[1] Viz. Shoftim 11:17
[2] Zohar 3:88a
[3] Zohar 1:5a Introduction
[4] Breishis R. 9:7,10
[5] Zohar 1:108b


וירא בלק כו' ויגר כו' מאוד כי רב הוא. כתיב מה רב טובך כו' אור הגנוז כו' כי הקב"ה גנז אור התורה במעשה בראשית וע"ז כ' וירא אלקים כו' כל אשר עשה כו' טוב מאוד ודרשו חז"ל על מה"מ ויצה"ר ע"ש. ועבודתינו הוא למצוא הארה הגנוזה ואז נתגלה האמת ומכניעין הכל להקב"ה. ובנ"י דור המדבר כן היו שהאירו אור הגנוז בכל מקום מסעם. וכתיב וירא בלק שבע"כ ראה מה שנתגלה כבוד מלכותו עין בעין נראה כו' וזה הי' נקרא לבלק הרשע כיסוי עינים כמ"ש כסה כו' עין הארץ. כי אין הרשע יכול להסתכל באמת. ויגר כו' מאוד מבחי' מאוד הנ"ל שהיה עומד שיבררו בנ"י כל הבירור כראוי וז"ש כי רב הוא כנ"ל. וקודם שהלכו בנ"י לא"י הי' זה הכנה להתקשר באור הגנוז כנ"ל. [בחי' א"י הוא נקודה אמצעיות שבכל העולם כמ"ש בזוה"ק וירא]:

שנת תרל"ב

Seeing The Ruchniyus In Everything

From the Sfas Emes blog

Balak complains to Bil'am, "... עם יצא ממצרים הנה כסה את עין הארץ .../… a nation came out of Egypt, behold it covers the face of the land …" (Bamidbar 22:8) Literally, "… it covers the eye of the land …" The Sfas Emes explains that this wording can be understood in two ways.

1. People perceive reality in two ways. Most see things as they appear physically. Some also see the inner wisdom and spirituality within the physical. The nation of Israel that left Egypt was on a high spiritual level. The people saw the inner spirituality in themselves and everything that surrounded them. Their spiritual power was so strong that it affected their environment to the extent that the nations they passed also experienced a revelation of the spiritual latent in everything physical. The nations though, because of their low spiritual level, were unable to assimilate these experiences. Instead of being enlightened and recognizing the spiritual as reality, they experienced it as a veneer that covered their reality – the physical world with which they were familiar. Balak expressed this feeling when he said, כסה את עין הארץ/it covers the eye of land. The eye of the land refers to his physical reality which was being covered by an experience of the truth, the connection of everything to God. Naturally, this was disconcerting for him.
2. כסה את עין הארץ/It covers the eye of land, can be understood in another way. עין הארץ/Eye of the land refers to God's providence over the physical world as we find, "... תמיד עיני ה' א-להיך בה .../… God your Lord's eyes are always upon it (the land) …" (Devarim 11:12)
God's providence is hidden in everything. God's providence is hidden in each one of us. This is the spiritual power that is within us. We have the ability to use this power, latent within us, for spiritual goals. We can also abuse it by applying it to further physical goals. Everything has a consequence, though. If we use our spiritual power to better our position in the physical world, we expose that power to the physical world and the nations of the world can rule over it. It is then that we are harassed by the nations. It is then that the nations are able to make religious life difficult for us. However, to the extent that we protect our spirituality, it is not exposed to the nations and they cannot touch the holiness of the nation of Israel.
כסה את עין הארץ/It covers the eye of the land, means that the nation of Israel used the spiritual power within to attain spiritual goals. We thereby protected that power from exposure to the nations.
The Sfas Emes explains that both understandings flow from the same concept. To the extent that we do not use our inner spiritual life-force to further physical goals, we recognize that the spiritual is reality. We attach more importance to the spiritual than to the physical. In fact, when this recognition is total – at the final redemption – the physical will be understood clearly to have no separate existence. It is simply a manifestation of the spiritual reality.
In essence, this represents the ultimate rectification of the physical world. Balak and Bil'am recognized this and were concerned. They wanted no part of this rectification. They liked the physical world as they perceived it. This is what Balak meant when he said that they are covering God's providence (they are not using it to enhance the physical) and they are sitting directly opposite me (they are going to affect me as well!)
May we merit recognizing the spiritual power that is latent within us and using it to bring us closer to God. Amen!

כסה את עין הארץ כו'

 י"ל ב' פירושים שבנ"י מכסין השגחה החיצוניות בגשמיות. רק להיות ניכר חיות הפנימיות בכל דבר. וכאשר בנ"י יצאו ממצרים האירו פני תבל עד שנתגלה הקדושה בכל מקום עד שגם האומות ראו שלא בטובתם כמ"ש וירא בלק. וחרה להם ע"ז כמ"ש פן יראה בעיניו כו'. 

ועוד יש פי' שבנ"י בעבודתם צריכין להסתיר נקודה הפנימיות מלכותו ית' אשר בכל משלה והשגחתו ית' נסתר בכל דבר ובנ"י צריכין לשמור נקודה זו. והענין כפי מה שאדם שומר כח פנימיות שבו שלא להשתמש בו לגשמיות. כמו כן נשמר ואין שולט מגע נכרי בפנימיות. וכל מה ששולטת עין רע שלהם בקדושת ישראל הוא ע"י חסרון שמירת הפנימיות כנ"ל. וז"ש כסה כו' עין הארץ היא השגחה האמיתיות כמ"ש תמיד עיני ה' אלקיך בה כו'. ומצינו שיוסף הגין שלא יביט עשו ברחל והוא כענין הנ"ל. וב' אלו הפירושים הם ענין אחד שכפי מה ששומרים חיות הפנימיות שלא להשתמש בו לגשמיות ממילא מעלין החיות שבכל דבר לשורשו עד שמתבטל כל החיצוניות כמו שיהי' לעתיד שלא יהי' כלל חיות רק לסטרא דקדושה. וזה העיקר שחרה לבלק ובלעם כי רצו שבנ"י שיצאו ממצרים ילכו לדרכם ולא יכנסו בתיקון הגשמיות. אך ואעפ"כ והוא יושב ממולי דוקא כנ"ל:

שנת תרל"ג

The Modern Music Explosion

When I was a kid there were about two popular Jewish singers [Carlebach and MBD] one popular choir [Miami] and that was about it. 

In the last decade or two there has been an explosion of Jewish music [I am listening to music as I write this]. 

I see that as a positive development. A]  Better Jewish music than the alternative. B] Music makes people happy and often more connected to spirituality. C] A lot of people are making a good parnassa off this market. 

Recently someone desscribed how he went to a store in Bnei Brak to buy Mordechai Ben David's latest album. He was told that they were already all sold out.

He went to a second store and managed to salvage the very last copy.

It made me wonder. There is already SOOOOO MUCH music out there. Bnei Brak is a poor town [very large families, very low income]. Yet, people have a need to rush to the store to spend money on the latest album. What does this reveal?

Like we have pointed out numerous times on these pages, everything we do is in order to fulfill a need, whether it be spiritual, emotional or physical. If we were truly content we would do nothing. The goal is to feel a minimal amount of material needs and a maximal amount of spiritual needs. 

What is so lacking in people's lives that they need to buy the latest album right away??

I'll tell you who WASN'T at the store purchasing a copy: Rav Chaim Kneyevski, Rav Shteinman and Rav Berel Povarsky [the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch]. Why? They are not lacking another music album.

I write this not as a criticism with an expectation that people should be on the level of gedolei torah, but as a trigger to think about what we feel we lack, how we go about fulfilling those needs and what it says about us.