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Parashat Balak

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

G-d said to Bilaam, “You shall not go with them! You shall not curse the people, for it is blessed.” (22:12)

At a certain point Bilaam offered to bless the Jews. Hashem replied, “They do not require your blessing. They are a blessed people.” Rashi analogizes this to a bee whose honey is very tasty and beneficial, but, accompanying procuring the honey, is the chance that one might get stung. “We want neither your honey nor your sting.” Apparently, they go together.

A Rasha such as Bilaam generates curse even through his blessing. Anything to do with him is dangerous. This was the man who taught the world the idea of employing moral seduction as a tool for taking down a person – even a nation. Such a man could not be trusted – even for blessing. No good can ever be derived from someone so evil.

Furthermore, associating with Bilaam, even through the medium of blessing can be dangerous, just as in the case with the bee. While one is enjoying the honey, his mind is not on the bee – until he has been stung; then, it is too late; the damage has been done. While the Jewish People would be concentrating on Bilaam’s blessing, he would be occupying himself with destroying them. By the time they would have realized this, they would have been stung.

How careful do we Jews have to be, especially living in L. A. (a magnet for some of the most corrupt people in the world), of who we surround ourselves with.

Parashat Chukat

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

וַיָּ֨רֶם מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־יָד֗וֹ וַיַּ֧ךְ אֶת־הַסֶּ֛לַע בְּמַטֵּ֖הוּ פַּעֲמָ֑יִם
And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.

In this week’s parasha, Moshe hit the rock to get water. He was supposed to teach the Jewish people a new lesson: they will be going to a land where they will be working to produce food and to live, unlike before when Hashem constantly performed miracles for them. The message of hitting was for the old generation that came out of Egypt forty years earlier. Moshe needed to teach the previous generation with strict discipline to keep the nation in line. But now a different lesson was required to show the new generation who were about to enter Eretz Yisrael that they should not just trust in their strength, but rather pray to Hashem for everything. That is why Moshe was instructed to speak to the rock and not hit it. Moshe was connected to the old generation and was not ready to lead this new generation into the land so Hashem told him he will not be joining them.

There are two languages in Hebrew for the word rock. צור, which is a language of strict judgment, and סלע, which is mercy. Moshe’s generation knew the language of צור and understood how to live with fear and harshness of Hashem, experiencing it firsthand with their own bodies as slaves in Egypt. The generation going into Eretz Yisrael was a free nation. They were not slaves; they lived a free life with bread from heaven and clouds of glory protecting them. You cannot force a free person to fear you with a stick. You need to come close to him, talk with him, and understand his sensitivities.

Every generation needs to be understood and treated according to its level. Compelling someone to love Hashem by using a stick to hit like the old generation doesn’t work. Of course Hashem commanded Moshe to bring his stick with him to show fear and strength. But a long term relationship with Hashem needs more than just fear; it needs love and compassion. Let us always speak softly to others and understand each person’s individual needs and sensitivities to guide them on the right path.

Shabbat Shalom

Parashat Korach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

This week’s parasha, parashat Korach, has many fundamental lessons about human behavior.
Let’s look at Korach. He was the richest person in that generation, but he was not happy because he didn’t have the position he desired. He was hungry for honor and power. Korach saw that Moshe was the leader of the people, Aharon was the Kohen Gadol, and his younger cousin was the leader of the tribe of Levi. He became jealous of them. He didn’t care that he had so much money; he was depressed because he was not a leader.

This teaches us something about human nature: man doesn’t look at what he has. Rather, he looks at what he doesn’t have. That behavior eventually caused Korach to rebel against Moshe Rabenu. He gathered people and enticed them not to follow Moshe Rabenu.

Pirkei Avot teaches us that jealousy, lust, and seeking honor take people from this world. This is exactly happened to Korach and his followers.
Let’s learn to be happy with what we have and be happy for the success and happiness of others. Focusing on our own lives will allow us to be happier people.