Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ki tov b'einei Hashem l'vareich es Yisrael -- a bracha of the eyes and how to earn it

Continuing the theme from last week’s post on the topic of seeing as it relates to Tamuz and parshas Balak, I want to point out a piece in the Radomsker that I saw over Shabbos.  Va’yar Bilam ki tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael… “(24:1) Bilam saw that it was good in the eyes of Hashem (there’s that word “eyes” again) to bless Bnei Yisrael, so he gave up any pretense of trying to curse them and instead gave a bracha.  The Radomsker asks the obvious: Bilam knew from the moment he left his house, or certainly from the moment his donkey began to speak and he saw the angel blocking his path on the road, that Hashem was not going to let him curse Bnei Yisrael.  Why does the pasuk make it sound like there was some new revelation here, that suddenly only now Bilam saw that Hashem wanted to only bless Bnei Yisrael? 

The Radomsker teaches that there are two types of brachos.  Bracha cam be transmitted by the laying of hands upon the recipient, e.g. when Ya’akov blessed Ephraim and Menashe, he placed his hands upon them; when the kohanim bless us, it is through nesi’as kapayim, raising their hands.  Bracha can also be transferred by sight, e.g. “kol makom she’nasnu chachamim eineihem…” the gemara tells us that whatever the Chachamim set their sights on with good intent they delivered bracha (they can do the opposite as well).

When the Mishkan was completed, the Torah tells us that after his first avodah, “Va'yisa Aharon es yadav el ha’am vayivarchem,” Aharon lifted his hands and blessed Bnei Yisrael (Vayikra 9:22).  Moshe, however, gave his bracha by gazing at the work Bnei Yisrael had done, “Va’yar Moshe es kol ha’melacha… va'yivarech osam Moshe” (Shmos 39:43).  Again, we have bracha delivered through hands and bracha delivered through sight.

Let’s try to translate the mystical jargon into something meaningful for us.  A lot of times someone will come over and ask for a favor and in your heart and mind you could care less about the person’s needs or you are not really in the mood to listen to their tzaros, but you do the favor anyway because that’s the fastest way to get rid of the person.  On a little higher madreiga, someone asks for a favor and you really don’t want to be involved, but you know you owe them one (or you want them to owe you one), so you take care of it.  A little higher madreiga, you feel a moral obligation to respond when someone needs help – here too, it’s not about the other person per se, but it’s about your need to quell your conscience.  In all of these cases, make no mistake about it, you are doing the other person a favor, but it’s a bracha that comes only from the hands -- it's a utilitarian response.  The heart and mind have not been touched by the person’s story or the person’s needs. 

Then there is the rare case when someone comes to ask for a favor and you really feel their need and you empathize with their plight.  When you respond, the action taken is not just a means to an end, a way to get them off your back or get the problem out of the way, but rather is because you can genuinely identify with the person’s plight.  The ability to see other people in that way, apart from the action taken, is itself a bracha.

Bracha delivered though the eyes, explains the Radomsker, is vastly greater than bracha delivered though the hands alone.  We ask Hashem every day that it should be “tov b’einecha l’vareich es Yisrael…” good in his eyes to give us bracha.  We don’t just want Hashem to do us favors, we want him to look at us with love and empathy and give us bracha in that way. 

Bilam knew that Hashem was only interested in blessing Bnei Yisrael, but he did not realize the full extent of what that meant.  It is only after time and again that his attempt to muster any type of curse was thwarted that he realized that Hashem’s bracha for Bnei Yisrael is that special type of “Va’yar ki tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael,” the bracha that comes through seeing us in that special way.

How were Bnei Yisrael zocheh to this special bracha?  Because “v’kisah es ein ha’aretz,” their physical eyes, as we discussed last post, were closed.  Because, as Rashi writes on “mah tovu ohalecha,” their tent doors were turned away from each other; no one looked inside another person’s tent and intruded on their privacy.  People kept their eyes to themselves, v’ain kan makom l’ha’arich on the obvious lessons.  Midah k’neged midah, if we use our eyes properly, Hashem will respond in kind with “tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael…”

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