Tuesday, April 28, 2009

stop waiting for angels

You will have to excuse me for being a few parshiyos too early with this vort, but it is inyana d'yoma...

Parshas Balak relates that as Bilam was travelling to carry out his evil plan to curse the Jewish people his donkey abrubtly veered from the path. Bilam responded angrily, taking a poke at his poor animal. The donkey started moving, but again it veered off the path, earning another smack. Yet again the donkey started to proceed, but again it veered off, smashing into a wall, and this time earning a good beating. Suddenly an angel appeared to Bilam. "Why have you hit your donkey!?" the angel demanded, explaining that the donkey only veered because it was frightened at the appearance of the angel that only it, and not Bilam, saw.

The Berdichiver asks a simple question. If Bilam did not see the angel, and indeed no one in his travelling party saw the angel, why is he blamed for hitting his mule? How else should he have reacted when his formerly reliable ride, the donkey that he probably rode day after day without problem, suddenly started crazily veering into walls for no apparent reason?

The Berdichiver answers that Bilam's hitting the donkey was symptomatic of a greater defect in his approach to life. A person who desires to fulfill Hashem's wishes needs first to open his eyes and ears to the messages that Hashem sends. When the ordinary becomes extraordinary and it makes no impression, when a person witnesses the inexplicable and ignores it and just pushes down the same old road, such a lack of hisbonenus is tantamount to deliberatly ignoring G-d. You don't need to wait for an angel to appear to hear Hashem's message! Instead of beating his donkey back on track, Bilam should have reflected on what was occurring -- why would the donkey that always proved reliable suddenly start acting strangely for no reason? -- and realized that these signs point to the fact that he should reconsider his mission. The failure to hear Hashem's message until delivered in an overtly supernatural way was Bilam's failure.

To those waiting for Eliyahu haNavi or some other angel to appear before they acknowledge an "aschalta d'geulah" and find something worth celebrating, all I can say is that maybe it's time to start listening to the lessons of the chamor/chomer; maybe the success that the "chomriyus" secularist pioneers who toiled to build a State have seen against the wildest most impossible odds heralds a lesson we need to hear. Tomorrow is a good day to reflect on what that lesson might be... without waiting for angels.


  1. Daas Yuchid9:28 PM

    So how do you explain that davka those who follow in the ways of the the Berdichiver , the chasidim, are amoungst the one who see little importance in the day?

  2. You would have to ask a chassidishe rebbe that. Your question assumes that present day chassidim all "follow the ways of the Berdichiver" -- maybe that assumption needs to be looked at.

  3. Daas Yuchid9:36 PM

    I knew you would say that! But really, even the more "liberal" and outgoing groups, know for their ahavas Yisroel, have not come to terms with the State. There must be more too it.

  4. If by outgoing you mean Chabad, the answer is the Rebbe Rashab's anti-Zionism is in their way. As for others, the Satmar Rebbe's views are part of the answer, and in the Yehsiva world you have R' Elchanan's scathing critique of Zionism.

  5. Daas Yuchid8:45 PM

    I just looked inside the Kedushas Levi to the vort you brought. How does what he says there - basically that from the obstacles in ones way, one should realize Hasehm is sending him a message - shtim with what is brought in many chassidisher seforim, that when often when we are doing Hashems will, we will davka experience obstacles which we need to overcome and continue on?

  6. good question. I think the answer is that the Berdichiver does not say the obstacles necessarily prove that the mission is wrong -- he says that they are there to arouse hisbonenus. If a person is misbonein and is convinced that he/she is still on the right path and the challenges are a nisayon then full steam ahead. That is a very difficult cheshbon to make...