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Tammuz 12, 5773 · June 20, 2013
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Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
"A Ruler Shall Go Forth"
One of the prophecies of Billam recorded in the Torah portion of Balak is that "a ruler shall go forth from Yaakov."1 Rashi explains2 that this refers to Moshiach, concerning whom the verse adds:3 "he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth."
Since the obvious intent of the verse is that Moshiach will rule the entire world, why doesn't it simply say so? Moreover, why is it necessary to state "from sea to sea" when Moshiach's primary dominion will be over the land masses and their inhabitants?
The Alter Rebbe explains4 4. Tanya , beginning of ch. 37.
that the "ultimate perfection of the Messianic Era . is dependent on our actions and [divine] service throughout the period of exile." The spiritual service of the Jews prepares the world as a whole, and themselves in particular, for the ultimate perfection that will be realized in the Messianic Era.
Since G-d repays "measure for measure,"5 it follows that those "actions and service" that lead to the Messianic Era are to be somewhat similar to the events of that time. In other words, in order to attain the revelation of Moshiach's kingdom, a dominion that stretches "from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth," it is necessary that our individual spiritual service be performed in a like manner.
This will be better understood in light of the statement of the Baal Shem Tov6 Quoted in Ma'or Einayim, Parshas Pinchasthat "it is necessary for every Jew to rectify and prepare that portion of the rank of Moshiach that is allied with his particular soul." For each and every Jew has an element within his divine soul that is a portion of Moshiach's stratum.
In light of the above, we can understand why the verse states that Moshiach's rule will be from "sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth," rather than simply stating that Moshiach will rule the entire world. By doing so, it informs us that in order to merit the general redemption which Moshiach will bring about in the entire world, we must redeem our particular souls. We accomplish this by seeing to it that the spark of Moshiach within each of us - the innermost point of our heart7 - rules all the components of our persona.
These components are referred to by the phrase "from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth." They are so designated for the following reason:
The difference between "sea" and "land" is that "sea" denotes those things that are hidden, just as the creatures of the sea are concealed by its waters. "Land," on the other hand, alludes to that which is revealed. Thus, in terms of man's divine service, the "sea" represents a person's individual soul powers and actions as they pertain to his own self, while "land" refers to his actions as they relate to the world around him.
Since the verse says "from sea to sea," it is to be understood that in terms of man's spiritual service, "sea" has two elements. These are in accordance with another verse regarding the Era of Moshiach, at which time "living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half to the foremost [eastern] sea and half to the endmost [western] sea."8 8. Zecharia h 14:8.
In terms of man's service, the "foremost sea" refers to the foremost soul power of wisdom, while the "endmost sea" refers to the lowest of our powers, the power of action. The verse is thus telling us that just as Moshiach will rule "from sea to sea," man's service is not complete until he achieves dominion over all his powers, from his lofty intellect to his lowly power of action; all of them are to be used in his divine service.
But the above kind of service alone does not suffice. Man must also "rule" unto "the end of the earth." Not only is he to see to it that he is as he should be, but he is to purify, sanctify and elevate the world around him as well.
It is this kind of effort, both regarding ourselves as well as the world around us, that assures the complete and perfect divine service that will lead to the ultimate perfection realized with the speedy arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.
Based on Likkutei Sichos , Balak 5751, pp. 8-10.
Two Forms of Trust
According to Jewish law, the weekly Haftorah reading from the Prophets is to be "in the spirit of the Torah portion."9 The relationship between the Torah portion of Balak and its Haftorah is seemingly obvious: The Haftorah relates that G-d says to the Jewish people:10 "My nation, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Billam the son of Beor answered him; the events from Shittim." This is a clear reference to the portion of Balak.
Yet the Haftorah should relate to the Torah portion not only through a specific verse, but in its overall content. Especially so, since the Haftorah reading originated when it was decreed by the nations that the Jewish people could not read from the Torah itself.11
Since the contents of all Torah passages are alluded to in the way they start,12 it follows that there is a connection between the beginning of this Haftorah section and the general content of the Torah portion of Balak.
The Haftorah begins with the verse:13 "Then the remnant of Yaakov will be in the midst of many peoples . they will [need not] place their trust in man, nor count on the sons of men." It speaks of the very beginning of the Redemption, and not of the time when the era of Moshiach is firmly established.
This can be seen from the fact that the Haftorah goes on to state that at that time, there will still be wars with the nations.14 Moreover, at that time evil will still exist within the Jews themselves.15
The Torah portion of Balak speaks of a time, just prior to the Jewish people's first entry into Eretz Yisrael , that will be similar to their entry into Eretz Yisrael at the time of the Redemption.
The preparation for the Redemption is as mentioned at the beginning of the Haftorah : "they will [need not] place their trust in man, nor count on the sons of men." Although this situation will precede the complete Redemption, it will even then not be necessary to rely on man - although such reliance is normally acceptable.
For the verse tells us:16 "G-d will bless you in all that you do," which our Sages17 interpret to mean that a person must make a vessel for G-d's blessing by using natural means.1818. See introduction to Derech Chayim; Sefer HaMitzvos LehaTzemach Tzedek, Mitzvas Tiglachas Metzora, ch. 2 ff.; Kuntres U'Mayon, Maamar XVIIff.
"One may not rely on a miracle."19 19. See Pesachim 64b; Zohar , Vol. I, pp. 111b, 112b.
Since in the normal course of events, one must count on the assistance of other people, it follows that this is permissible. Nevertheless, at that time even this kind of trust will not be necessary.
G-d's ultimate intent is not to negate natural conduct, but to purify and elevate it,20See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 752ff.; Vol. V, p. 80.
until it becomes clear to all that nature too is united with Him. We thus understand that it does not mean that at that time man will not depend on other men, but rather that one will then see only G-dly assistance even in that form of conduct.
For "in all that you do" may be understood in two ways:
a) The person may come to know that nature is merely "an ax in the hands of the hewer," but that since G-d wants us to make an appropriate vehicle, nature retains some degree of importance.
b:) The person can see nature as having no importance at all, viewing it entirely as a means of accomplishing G-d's ends.21
In the first instance, a man's actions are separate from his Torah and mitzvos ; when the two clash - such as when one feels that by giving too much charity he will not have enough for himself - he must vanquish his natural inclinations.
However, in the second instance, all of one's actions are permeated with the desire to fulfill G-d's will. Such a person will not need to vanquish his natural inclinations, for they will be in harmony with G-d's desire.
The Haftorah thus informs us that as we prepare to enter Eretz Yisrael for the last time, it is within our power to lift ourselves up until we view everything as being utterly united with G-d.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 293-298.
1. Bamidbar 24:19.
3. Tehillim 72:8.
4. Tanya , beginning of ch. 37.
5. See Mishnah , Sotah 8b, 9b, et al.
6. Quoted in Ma'or Einayim, Parshas Pinchas.
7. Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle IV, (p. 105b).
8. Zecharia h 14:8.
9. Tur and Shulchan Aruch (so too Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein) Orach Chayim, beginning of ch. 284; Tur and Ramo, ibid., end of ch. 428.
10. Michah 4:6.
11. Avudraham; Levush; Bach; Taz; and Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein beginning of Ch. 284.
12. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 58 fn. 12, et al.
13. Michah 5:6.
14. Ibid., verses 7-8.
15. Ibid., verses 11-13.
16. Devarim 15:18.
17. Sifri, ibid.
18. See introduction to Derech Chayim; Sefer HaMitzvos LehaTzemach Tzedek, Mitzvas Tiglachas Metzora, ch. 2 ff.; Kuntres U'Mayon, Maamar XVIIff.
19. See Pesachim 64b; Zohar , Vol. I, pp. 111b, 112b.
20. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 752ff.; Vol. V, p. 80.
21. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 74.