Friday, July 03, 2009

Parshat Balak - פרשת בלק

"כי מראש צורים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו. הן עם לבדד ישכון ובגוים לא יתחשב.
For I see it from the top of the rocks, and I behold it from the hills; this is a people that dwell in solitude and not count itself among the nations."
(Bamidbar 23:9)

In the Pasuk above, we read the opening words of Bilam's blessing of Am Yisrael. Although the Pasuk following this one is more well known, this Pasuk too should be noted, even if it's message is slightly less obvious. After all, what's kind of blessing is solitude? For a nation that believes in the need to engage and perfom tikkunim (corrections of spiritual imperfections) in the world, why should solitude be held in such high regard?

The Sfat Emet examines this Pasuk and points out Rashi's comment that at times when Jews are happy, the nations of the world do not share in our happiness. While we boisterously celebrate a Chatuna, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or a Brit, the people of the world are entirely unconcerned. The Sfat Emet continues by explaining the reasons for our isolation. He explains that the Jews are charged with the task of Bitul, (subordination of the self) in order to come closer to something bigger than ourselves. Such subordination is the essence of the existence of the Jewish people.

We understand that it is not through our own work that we attain anything in this world, but rather that we are given everything by God. By understanding this situation properly, we may reach a state of menucha, (peace/restfulness) where we are free from mundane worries and understand that we will receive all that we are deserving to receive, no matter how much we work. This does not mean that we have total disregard for good food, health and a livelihood, but it does mean that we realise that these things have no inherent value - they merely allow us to reach a closer state toward Hashem.

From this, it is possible to understand the concept of Shabbat in a different light. While it is possible to think of Shabbat as a time to switch off and relax, we can now see it in a different light. With what we have learned in mind, we can see how our observance of Shabbat throws the labours of the week into stark contrast with our desire to be at rest. We work toward something, not for the sake of that thing itself. We can now really grasp just how inherently worthless worldy activities are - and how much value there is in rest.

Wishing you a restful Shabbat from Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh!

No comments:

Post a Comment