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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Opening the Donkey’s Mouth

By Rabbi Sender Haber

I officiated at two funerals last week. The first was at Bnai Isreal cemetery at the same time as the massive funeral in Modiin for the three boys murdered by terrorists. The second was at Forest Lawn at the exact same time as the unveiling of my grandfather’s monument at his grave in Beit Shemesh.

The services had nothing to do with each other but I think they are what the Jewish people are all about.

It doesn’t matter if we are famous or infamous, old or young, related or strangers, in Israel or in Norfolk. All of us are all linked by a common belief in Hashem and the very wise traditions of burial and mourning that have been passed down and cherished from generation to generation. We are linked to Hashem and to each other.

As my siblings drove home from my grandfather’s unveiling they were able to see the fires from the Palestinian riots in Jerusalem. They are upset and the world is upset with them. Never mind that Hamas is the only party that says it is ok to kidnap sixteen year olds. Never mind that the Israelis are making this investigation a top priority while hamas was publicly opposed to any effort to help the three boys. Nobody cares. People are just upset.

Liron is our new Schwarma chef over at Chumus Express and I consulted him on this situation.

Liron said that he didn’t follow the story of the three boys. He said he gave up when Gilad Shalit was a prisoner of war. If the world couldn’t see Hamas for it was back then, he doesn’t see how anything will ever change. Theit are just people out there who a mental block to the fact that Hamas is a terrorist group and that Israel needs to get rid of terrorists in order to survive. It’s obvious, but it’s not what we hear when we turn on the news and read the paper. It’s not what we hear after a mother of a kidnapped sixteen year old cries to the UN security council in Geneva. The world is seeing the same things we are seeing and thinking that maybe we are the bad guy.

This week’s parsha contains the same dynamic. It is in the same region, perhaps the same players, and definitely the same attitude. Balak was the king of Moav and an Anti-semite. He wanted to curse the Jews so he hired his arch-enemy Bilaam to join him in the desert and say bad things about the Jews. Bilaam was the most eloquent speaker alive and he agreed.
BIlaam was Moshe’s nemesis. He was the man who counseled Pharaoh to kill Moshe back in Egypt. He was a natural for coming up with all of the bad things about the Jews and saying them in the worst possible way.

And that is what is happening now. People look at a story of violence and murder, of a civilized country and an uncivilized group of people, of people who treasure life and people who are obsessed with death, and they somehow end up with eloquent criticism of Israel. They tell us not to get too upset.

But that’s not what happened in the desert. Bilaam got up with all of the worst of intentions but he could not see or say anything bad about us. He talked about how great our tents, how great we are, and how we have the power to last forever.

Our problem is that our enemies get up say bad things about us, and we have no donkey opening its mouth. We don’t seem to have Hashem putting words into Bilaam’s mouth. It would be nice if Hashem made the world say only good things about the Jeiwsh people.

Everyone wants to solve the world’s problems, and I’m no exception. I did some research into this week’s Parsha. What did we do to deserve that everyone see things for what they are? How do we recreate that and make it happen again?

In what merit did Hashem make the donkey talk? In what merit was Bilaam forced to speak about our greatness?

I found nothing. We had a well in the merit of Miriam and the Purim Story in the merit of Ester. We had clouds of glory in honor of Aharon and it was in Moshe’s merit that the earth opened up and swallowed Korach and his people. But I could not find one word explaining why we deserved to have donkey open her mouth or why deserved to have Bilaam change his curse in to a blessing.

In the haftorah, Micha tells us “remember what Balak wanted to do to you and what Bilaam ended up doing – so that you will know the righteousness of Hashem”.

Hashem did this “just because”. He helped us and helped everyone see the good in us because He is who He is we are who we are. That’s it.

So as the world still fails to recognize Israel predicament surround by seventy wolves, as the world has nothing serious to say or do to an organization that condones kidnapping and murder and trains suicide bombers, all that remains is for us to be who we are. We need to cling tightly to our Torah and to our Tradition and to each other. We pray that if we work hard enough at being who we are, the nations of the world will one day see that too. They will condemn those who need to be condemned and they will support the one reasonable country in the region and it’s right to arrest a few terrorists.

May we be zoche to see only the good in each other, and may we hear only good things said about us.

Good Shabbos.

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