This week we have a double portion filled to the brim with laws, stories and events. When I first began studying through the portions for the week, I was a little overwhelmed by the wealth of information presented. With so many exciting perspectives and avenues, I decided to bring a bit from as many different perspectives as possible into this observation. So, let’s dive right in!
In Numbers 20, we read the following, “Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there. Now there was no water for the congregation…” Here we see an amazing connection between Miriam and the Well of water, which followed the congregation throughout the extent of their wilderness journey. Miriam dies. Next verse, there’s no water. We read in Taanit 9a:9 (A tractate in the Mishnah) “… Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Yehuda, says: Three good sustainers rose up for the Jewish people during the exodus from Egypt, and they are: Moses, Aaron and Miriam…The well was given to the Jewish people in the merit of Miriam; the pillar of cloud was in the merit of Aaron; and the manna in the merit of Moses…” However, when Miraim dies “Lo-Hayah Mayim L’Edah? —There was no water for the congregation.” The people of Israel gather together against Moses and Aaron and complain. God tells Moses, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation…”
God instructed Moses to “Speak to the rock,” but a couple verses later we instead read, “Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod…” Because of Moses’ striking of the rock, God tells Moses and Aaron that they will not be the ones to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. What is different about this situation as compared to Exodus 17 when God actually did command Moses to strike the rock for water to come out? According to a Drash (Interpretation/Illumination) given by Rav Moshe Weinberger, he states that these 2 circumstances, when Moses is commanded to strike the rock (Exodus 17) and when Moses is commanded to speak to the rock but strikes it instead (Numbers 20), are differentiated by the generations represented at each event.
You see, when Moses was commanded to “strike the rock,” (Exodus 17) the generation watching the incident were former-slaves who understood the concept of force to bring about change. This nation of previously oppressed people knew what it was like to be beaten and whipped. They had become used to the demonstration of violence and brute force. What they saw Moses do to the rock was a remembrance of all they had suffered under Egyptian oppression and of God’s miraculous hand which brought liberating freedom.
“Moses Strikes the Rock” Painted by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)
However, the second time around, Moses is commanded to “speak to the rock,” (Numbers 20) Why? Because this was a new generation of Israelites who had never been slaves and didn’t understand the yoke of oppression. The only yoke this new generation knew of was the yoke of the kingdom of heaven = the Torah. This invigorated nation didn’t need a reminder of Egyptian oppression nor of God’s liberating power, rather they needed a reminder of the words spoken to them at Mount Sinai. This is one of the ideas as to why God told Moses to “speak to the rock.” Because in speaking to the rock, Moses would have also been speaking to the entire nation of Israel.
In the Book, “Sparks of Berditchov” which is based upon the teachings of Rav Levi Yitzack—The Holy Berditchover, it says of this incident, “When we speak, the world responds to what we say. If we are walking in the way God wants, then the world merely responds to the sound of our voice, because we are right with the Creator, creation responds in kind to us. When we aren’t walking in love for those around us (like Moshe’s harsh words against Israel) creation has to be forced to do the will of us, as the protectors and guards of each other and the world …” When we walk in “Ahavat Olam—Love for the World,” the world responds (to do our will) at the sound of our voice. However, when we aren’t walking in love toward God’s creation (People, pets and plants) then the world responds (to do our will) only through brute force. When we walk in love, we don’t need to use force to cause creation to do our will. Rather, we understand that creation and nature are compliments and aides to help us accomplish our mission in the world. Rav Levi Yitzack—The Holy Berditchover writes that creation is our guide in following the will of God. Creation is in sync with its Creator and it communicates to us the will and desires of God. As he writes, “…to receive heavenly messages, we must train our ears to listen well for them, to hear them whispering from throughout our surroundings…If we are living a life with the awareness that ‘the world is filled with [God’s] Glory’ and that Hashem (the Lord) is intimately involved with everything that happens on earth, nothing is random…” God sends us messages. In fact He is constantly and consistently sending us messages through His creation. As I have written before, “God is always talking,” the question is, are we always listening? Rav Levi Yitzack continues, “We must develop different eyes and ears, eyes and ears that can see and hear the Divine messages Hashem is sending us every minute of every day, that can discern the whispers of creation hinting to us what our Father in heaven truly wants…”
All of creation is one big indication or “clue” telling us what God’s desire is. Do we hear the hints of creation signaling to us? In Romans 8, Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) writes, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” Why does the whole world groan and labor in pain? Let me ask a different question. What is the earnest expectation of creation? Creation is eagerly waiting the revealing of the sons (children) of God. All creation groans because its cries are hints to remind the children of God of their purpose and calling in the world. What is the job of God’s children? To bring deliverance from bondage and corruption and to reveal the glorious liberating freedom found through Yeshua, our Master. 
As I was writing about these “hints” that are seen throughout creation, I was reminded of a passage I read in a book called “Lone Survivor” about a Navy Seal. He tells the story of an operation, which took place back in 2005 known as Operation Redwing. This Navy Seal (Marcus Luttrell) was the only remaining Seal left alive (from a 4-man fire team) in the Afghanistan Mountains after the Seal team’s mission was compromised.
As I read through one of the chapters where he writes about some of the pre-training he went through to become a Navy Seal, I found something very applicable that I would like to share here. He writes, “…when a special forces commander makes even a slightest reference to an issue that may be helpful, listen and then do it. Even if it was…not a proper command, maybe even starting with ‘I think it might be a good idea…’ Always pay attention and then carry out the task, no matter how minor it may seem.”
If this is how one ought to act with a Special Forces commander, then how ought we to act as servants of “Hashem TzevaotThe Lord of Hosts?” You see, a son knows and does the will of his father. As the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) writes, “…he who loves the Creator with true love…he goes in the way of a son who loves his father, who, when his father reveals his will in a certain matter, he quickly runs to fulfill it. And even if his father told him only one time, or merely hinted to it, it is enough for the son to understand the direction in which the father’s will is pointing, since he is able to determine that this will provide his father pleasure.” A son knows the hints of his father, because he knows his father. And if this is the situation found in an earthly relationship, how much more so should we be in tune with the will of our Heavenly Father, because, we know Him.
In the portions for this week, we read about two different prophets. Moses and Balaam. Moses was a leader of the nation of Israel; Balaam was a loner without a nation. Moses pursued God; Balaam pursued the purse. But there is something that connects these two characters, just as it connects the two Torah portions for this week (Chukat and Balak).
Moses strikes the rock in the portion of Chukat; Balaam strikes his donkey in the portion of Balak. Moses is called into account for his action, but Balaam is allowed to seemingly get away with his action. But, understand this, the greater the man = greater responsibility to God = greater accounting for individual actions. God wouldn’t allow Moses to go on after striking the rock without some kind of rebuke because “whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” In Balaam case, God allowed him to continue his journey, all the way to his bitter destruction. Why did it work out this way? Because as our Master Yeshua said, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Moses was a true “Oved HashemServant of God,” Balaam was a self-server who used God if it helped his own interests. They both tried to get creation to side with them through brute force. Moses, recognized his error and corrected his course, but Balaam even after he was corrected, still continued on his way to curse Israel, even though God turned Balaam’s curse around for good. Balaam didn’t know God as a Father, therefore, he couldn’t hear creation literally rebuking and correcting him through his donkey.
As I wrote before, all of creation hints to our purpose and mission in the world; if we walk in love, then the world responds to our voice, but if not, then it is only by force that we can accomplish things on this planet. When we walk in love, the world works with us, when we don’t walk in love, then creation works against us. God will put talking donkeys and rocky springs in front of us; we have the choice. Will we heed the hints of God, found in His creation, or ignore the braying voice and walk the path of destruction?
“Balaam and the Ass”
Painted by Rembrandt (1606-1669) 
On this topic the book “Sparks from Berditchov” says, “Let us not be like Bilaam who, even when his donkey began to talk and the greatest of all heavenly street signs stared him straight in the face, ignored this warning and continued driving—directly off the cliff. Let us [instead] heed these heavenly letters…” Don’t ignore creation. God uses His creation to speak to us and to guide us in the paths He has for us. Don’t ignore the “heavenly street signs.” These street signs are the ones which lead to the times of the “Mashiach—Messiah.” Just as Moses was told to “Speak to the rock,” so too, we are to speak to this generation in love and follow the hints of creation, which lead to redemption. The times we live in are not the times to “Strike the rock.” It is not the time to force creation or people to do or believe what we think. It is the time to use words of love, even as God did with His people when they left the Land of Egypt. In Hosea 11, God says, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love…” With gentle words we bring the times of the Messiah. As Rabbi Moshe Weinberger wrote, “Persuasion through conversation is the way to bring redemption in this generation. In fact, the Hebrew word ‘Mashiach—Messiah’ shares the same root as the word ‘Shicha—Conversation.’ The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah 11:4) says about Moshiach that “he will smite the Land with the rod of his mouth and will put the wicked to death with the breath of his lips.” Using only his mouth, words of dialogue, teaching, conversation, and persuasion, will he turn the wicked around and bring about the ultimate Redemption.” How do we turn the world around? Through words and actions of love…The Messiah will change the world through His words, why don’t we prepare His way, by changing the world through ours? A choice is offered, as the Lord says in Isaiah 6, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”Are you willing to accept His challenge?Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

58 thoughts on “Parsha Chukat/Balak Numbers 19:1-25:9

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