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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Balak

Parshat Balak

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Balak 17th of Tammuz, 5776 | July 23, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb Nee


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Balak
17th of Tammuz, 5776 | July 23, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb
Needing to be Needed

אם יתן לי בלק מלא ביתו כסף וזהב

Even if Balak were to give me his houseful of silver and gold… (Bamidbar 24:13)

I remember once being approached by a psychiatrist with a problem. “Rabbi,” he said, “I need your help. I have been through five relationships, and every one of them ended the same way. The other person left me. I cannot understand what happened though. I am well-to-do and very generous with my time, money and concern. I gave them my attention, shared my wisdom and we traveled together. But they all walked out on me.”

Listening closely to this psychiatrist’s dilemma, I turned the tables around. “Let me ask you something. You say that you did an inordinate amount for them; but what did they do for you?” Within a heartbeat, he replied, “Oh Rabbi, I’m not a taker! They didn’t do anything for me; I did everything for them.” As soon as he said that, I knew the answer. “That’s exactly your problem,” I explained. “Everyone you entered into a relationship with felt like a fifth wheel. They felt useless and unvalued. And no one is happy if they are made worthless.”

But he couldn’t hear me. “Rabbi,” he insisted, “I gave them so much!” “Okay,” I said, “if that is the case, on to number six.”

It has been said numerous times that people do not say to their spouses and children as often as they should the three very important words of “I love you.” That is most certainly true. However, ask yourself when was the last time you told your spouse, “I need you.” How often do we use this trio of words? In a marriage, these words are just as vital as “I love you.”

Giving to another is one of the most important essentials of life and builders of self-esteem because it enables a person to feel that he is someone important and needed by others. Regrettably, this concept is misunderstood. There is an entire organization devoted to integrating self-esteem into American society called NASE (National Association for Self-Esteem). And yet, surprisingly, when I looked through their materials to see what secular sources say about the causes for improved self-esteem and what threatens it, I was astonished. They do not mention that giving to others is a contributing factor.

What you may be wondering, though, is how everyone can always be a giver? For one person to give, a second person must take.

But that is not necessarily true. Rav Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav Mei’Eliyahu Vol. 1, pp. 48-49) brilliantly suggests that one can go through an entire lifetime as a giver. And that is because there is a very important distinction between taking and receiving.

Suppose someone approaches you for advice, and happily complying, you offer your guidance. Who gave to whom? We would likely argue that you gave to the person who came to you. You helped him because you shared with him your wisdom, suggestions and time. But did the other person give anything to you? He most certainly did. He gave you a very important message. “I think you are smart, well-educated and experienced. I regard your opinion and think you are kind enough to share your wisdom with me.” Doesn’t that build your self-esteem and make you feel needed? While you gave him your advice, he gave you his validation. He received your advice and you received his admiration. We would be wise to redefine our terms as giving and receiving as opposed to giving and taking.

It follows that if giving builds a person up, allowing the opportunity for a person to give is equally important. And that is what this psychiatrist was missing. He recognized the importance of giving himself, yet failed to realize that receiving can also be an avenue for giving. He considered receiving to be taking and thus an expression of egotism and selfishness. But he had skewed his terms and his relationships suffered in consequence. Had he allowed these women to give to him, they would have felt useful. They wouldn’t have viewed themselves as an extra fifth wheel. At the very heart of self-worth and happiness is the feeling that you are needed. And as the old adage goes, “Everyone needs to be needed.”

Rabbi Daniel Staum
A Diamond Marriage

מה טבו אהליך יעקב

How goodly are your tents, Jacob… (Bamidbar 24:5)

As has been the traditional custom amongst Jews, a chattan (groom) typically gives his kallah (bride) a diamond engagement ring. Why exactly is this so?

I once heard from Rav Moshe Wolfson a beautiful idea in explanation. In Kabbalah, every color represents a different character trait. In the case of a diamond, any which way you turn it, all the colors of the rainbow can be seen in the prism. The same is true in a marriage. Every middah (character trait) is necessary. One must mold him or herself into a person who possesses refined middot on all levels.

However, just as the base color of a diamond is white, so must one’s home be. White represents chesed, kindness, and that is what every Jewish home needs to be firmly built upon. When chesed permeates the house and each spouse looks to altruistically care for each other’s needs, a beautiful family will flourish.

I remember feeling a bit sad on the last day before my first year anniversary. Although it had been a wonderful year since the time of my engagement through my wedding, sheva berachot and entire first year of marriage, I realized that it was now ending. The special feeling one has when he or she is a chattan or kallah cannot be captivated in words. Although my brother related to me that one of his teachers beautifully told him, “A chattan remains a chattan as long as he treats his kallah like a kallah,” I wished to ask my own Rebbe for some personal advice.

He told me that this special feeling one has when entering into marriage and which continues to last for some while can remain with a person forever. As long as you remember that everything your husband or wife does for you is a chesed, you will appreciate each other. If for every small action he or she does you express your gratitude and avoid glossing over, you will never lose that initial special spark. You will forever remain a chattan and your wife a kallah as long as you carry this attitude within your heart.

Rebbetzin Sarah Meisels
Perfect Timing

וירא בלעם כי טוב בעיני ד' לברך את ישראל

And Bilaam saw that it was good in Hashem’s eyes to bless Israel… (Bamidbar 24:1)

As I have consistently done for a number of years, every summer I come to America from Israel. It was during one of my visits that my mother a”h was not doing well, and appeared to be taking a turn for the worse. With my family members alternating to visit her, the time came when it was my turn. That was one issue which preoccupied my mind at the moment.

Aside from that, I was contacted by Mrs. Gottlieb from the Shalhevet Organization. An organization founded in Boro Park by Rabbi Ezriel Tauber and Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l, the intent is to provide Jewish women with an avenue to grow in Yiddishkeit and gain inspiration. Aside from a large library of CDs which can be borrowed, speeches are given and classes are held on an array of topics.

It was around the same time that my mother was not doing too well that Mrs. Gottlieb asked me to deliver a series of lectures every Tuesday. Agreeing to do so, I went on to speak about the importance of the Jewish home, the power of Tefillah and Divine Providence. It was the following Tuesday that I intended to speak about the power of answering Amen.

But then my mother was admitted into the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Knowing that I would need to look after my mother, I realized that I would be unable to give the class. Calling Mrs. Gottlieb, I explained my situation and apologized for the last minute cancellation. “You have to come!” Mrs. Gottlieb tried to convince me. “There will be a few hundred women waiting.” Reiterating that my mother was in the hospital, I was not getting too far. “I will even send an ambulance to take you back and forth from the hospital,” Mrs. Gottlieb kindly said. “You will be able to return immediately after the lecture.” I continued to remain adamant that I remain with my mother and not leave her even for a short period, but then Mrs. Gottlieb finally convinced me. “If you speak, it will be a zechut (source of merit) for your mother to have a refuah sheleima (complete recovery).” As I heard that, I could not say no. And so, I finally acquiesced.

Telling the nurse that I would return in an hour, I quickly made my way over to where the class was being held. Speaking about the impact of reciting Amen, as soon as I finished, I was taken back to the hospital by a member of Hatzalah. I continued to stay with my mother until one o’clock in the morning, at which time I was forced to leave the ICU. Driving to my sister’s house to spent the night, I anticipated that I would return to the hospital the next morning to be with my mother.

As I awoke the next day, even before I started heading to the hospital, I received a phone call. It was a very close friend of mine. “Did you hear what happened last night?” “No,” I said. “I was in the hospital until very late.” “Did you notice who was sitting in the front row when you were speaking?” “I’m sorry, but I didn’t. There were a lot of women there.” “You didn’t see Rivki Biller?” my friend asked. “She, I did actually see,” I said. Rivki Biller was my sister’s classmate.

After returning from hearing me speak about the impact of responding Amen, Rivki was indelibly inspired. I had noted how the gematria (Hebrew numerical value) of Amen and malach (angel) are the same – 91 – signifying that every time a person answers Amen, an angel is created which protects the person.

Now let’s turn to Rivki Biller’s story.

It was later that night when Rivki was home with her husband that she came up with an idea. Having unfortunately lost a daughter, Rivki said to her husband, “You know what, let’s do something special with regard to saying Amen. Let us resolve to answer Amen to each other’s berachot with heartfelt concentration as a source of protection for our home and children.” My husband agreed to do so.

Shortly thereafter, I was thirsty and told my husband that I would take a drink and make a beracha out loud, whereupon he should answer Amen! And that is what we did.

Not too long afterwards, the phone rang. It was my son. He had been staying with us at our home, while the rest of his family was out in the country. “Mommy,” he said, “don’t worry.” As soon as I heard that, I knew I should start worrying. “Mommy, I’m okay, but I was in a car accident. I have to tell you that the car is totaled and not salvageable. When the ambulance arrived along with the police and looked at the current condition of the car, they guaranteed us that no one could have walked out alive. But then there I was alive, walking and breathing. ‘An angel must have come here and plucked you out of the car!’ the police affirmed. ‘There is simply no way we can make sense of your survival other than attribute it to a miracle.’”

After relating the details of this traumatizing incident, my son said, “Mommy, just wait at home. The police will bring me back.” Hearing that, Baruch Hashem, my son was safe, I went on to ask him one question which had been in the forefront of my mind. “What time did the accident occur?” “10:34 pm,” he said.

As soon as he said that, everything made sense. It was only earlier that day that I had heard about the greatness of Amen and how every utterance of this powerful word creates a protective malach. And indeed, later that night, my husband and I sat down together and looked to implement that which I learned. I remember the exact scenario. We were sitting in the kitchen when I made the beracha and he said Amen. But there was more to the scene. Our kitchen clock was facing right across from us.

And as I vividly remember, the minute my husband said Amen, the clock struck 10:34 pm.

Such is the power of Amen. It not only enables us to reaffirm our emunah in Hashem, but brings blessing and protection to our families, communities and world at large. That one little word holds endless potential for having the greatest of impacts. We would be wise to eagerly seek out every opportunity to answer a loud, resounding Amen. We can accomplish so much by doing so little.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Malcolm Herman

I always used to, somewhat humorously, tell my wife that the biggest proof to an Oral Law accompanying the Written Torah is a shopping list. Oftentimes what it says and what it means are not the exact same. Therefore, the solution to unlocking the somewhat mysterious list you hold in your hands is each spouse teaching the other their own unique “language.” Learn the exact nuances of your husband or wife’s expressions and remember them. As in all areas of marriage, clear and effective communication goes a long way. It will avoid forcing you to return to the store just when you thought you would never need to go back.

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