Everyone I know that has a blog, or uses any social media at all, seems to have had a lot to say in recent weeks about the horrible tragedy(ies) of the past few weeks.  I have been keeping quite quiet (yes me, quiet). I haven’t felt that there was anything that hasn’t been said by lots of other people. And the truth is that I have been so heartbroken and sad that there has been little room for me to think or feel anything else.  There isn’t much to say about that other than “I am heartbroken and sad”, which I did.

Having a chayal boded (a “lone soldier”) living with us  helped me feel like I was taking care of my own little corner of the IDF. Helping in our own way. That will be a topic for another post, at another time.

Everyone around me here in Gush Etzion has been helping in their own way, heroically, going so above and beyond. They did because Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali were all of our boys… but they also did because that’s what people here do. It is one of the many reasons we are just blessed to be where we are. I wrote a dvar Torah for work this week, but I have decided to share it here too. This is what I finally have to say…..

Some thoughts on Parshat Balak: 

What a difficult week it has been for Am Yisrael. When I sit down to prepare this week’s email, I am immediately struck by just how full of hope we all were just one week ago.

For the past several days it has been difficult at times to work, concentrate, move on with business as usual. As some of you know, I spend a fair amount of time on “social media”. As a result, one of the hardest part of contending with this tragedy, for me, has been the amount of hate expressed around the world. Two “bad guys” committing an inhuman criminal act was made far worse by the apparent dismissal by some and outright celebration by others.

But our one constant as a nation is always the study of Torah, and as Meryl Lee Avraham [my colleague, mentor, teacher and friend] expressed so beautifully last week, “It is amazing how every week when we read the parsha, we can find relevance and insights to what is currently happening.”

In this week’s parsha, Balak, King Balak from the kingdom of Moav petitions the grand wizard Bilam from the kingdom of Midian to curse the Jews. Balak has seen the Jews’ military success as they have forged their way to Israel. He is worried about our numbers, and has seen that military acumen is not going to be a successful way to stop Am Yisrael. He asks Bilam to curse the Jewish people.

It makes sense; since Moshe’s relationship with G-d is clearly helping Am Yisrael, certainly a different Navi should be able to counter that better than swords and arrows. Bilam makes it very clear from the beginning that he can only say what Hashem tells him to. He brings sacrifices to G-d, but instead of curses, only blessings spill forth from Bilam. After several attempts to change location (maybe they need to find Moshe’s “magic mountaintop”?) it is clear this just isn’t going to work.  “Mevarechecha Baruch v’orerecha arur”, “Blessed are they who bless you, Accursed they who curse you.” (Bamidbar 24:9) is Bilam’s reminder in his blessing, to the promise made to Avraham by G-d.

Almost the entire parsha is taken up with this strange story which seems to be about our enemies, not us, and a thwarted attempt to foil our entry into Eretz Yisrael through a spiritual plot, rather than a military one. However, the end of our parsha begins a different narrative. It describes the inappropriate relations that the Israelite men were having with Moabite women. It what seems like an abrupt change of subject, that begins with “So, while this was going on [with the non-Jews] and the Israelites were in the place called Shittim, they started being inappropriate with the women of Moav.  And these Moabite women enticed them to join in some Baal Peor worship, which made Hashem very, very angry – “Yachar Af”, incensed.  

The result of this was a plague in which 24,000 Israelites died!

Not only is this particular chapter added on after a long, fluid narrative, but the rest of the story of their relations with the Moabites continues immediately after in next week’s parsha, Pinchas.

So why is it here? Why not just tell the next story… next? 

The Midianites and Moabites aren’t really allies, but they form an alliance of sorts in an attempt to destroy Am Yisrael. We are told a great deal, in detail, about the Ancient non-Jewish world’s perception that they cannot destroy us militarily. That our real power comes from our bond with Hashem. So it is there that they will try to undermine us, and bring us to our knees. It specifically states that Balak’s concern was our size, our numbers:  “…they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land.”  (Bamidbar 22:6). Balak’s efforts, through Bilam don’t work. He can’t cut down our numbers. He cannot get the greatest spiritual guru of the age to curse the Jews. Hashem just won’t let it happen.

… And still, a few lines later, Hashem strikes down 25,000 of our men? How can that be?

The answer, was that the only way for us as a people to be cursed was to bring it upon ourselves. No nation can come from the outside and truly address the “Jewish problem”, or find a successful “final solution”. Military might won’t work, spiritual leadership won’t work. No tactic can help an outside people or force destroy the Jews.   We all know that this has been proven out over thousands of years. Certainly not for lack of trying!

The reason it is so important for the parsha to include the plague at Shittim, the licentious behavior of the Jews, and its disastrous consequence is to remind us that we are not invulnerable. We are our own worst enemy. The non-Jews cannot curse us no matter how hard we try… but if we stray from Hashem’s ways, become comfortable and are “romanced” by the world’s peoples, cultures and religions, we won’t maintain Hashem’s protection. They can’t take it away from us; we can take it away from ourselves.

The past few weeks have been so trying, such a strain. We maintained such hope. Everywhere around me the people of Gush Etzion have been looking for every opportunity to do more mitzvoth to merit the safe return of our boys. There have been extra shiurim, gatherings to say tehillim, chessed drives, and more, all in the merit of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal. At times it has felt like the support for the terrorists involved was shockingly overwhelming. Worse, the silence and apathy from much of the Western world felt isolating. The reminder that there are so many people out there who still want to curse us, to bring us down, to drive us out, added great insult to injury.

But we came together as a people, clinging not only to each other, but to Hashem’s ways.  It is in the studying of Torah (to prepare this) that I have found the most solace in a most difficult week, and it is in the studying of Torah that we will guarantee ourselves Hashem’s ongoing protection.

We couldn’t do enough to save those boys’ lives. But we know the warning encased in the last narrative of our parsha. We do not run into the arms of a different people, seeking approval and connection there. We respond to the greater attempt to once again address the “Jewish problem” by crying out to – and clinging to – Hashem.

May the tremendous Achdut, unity, and swelling of mitzvoth that were there the result of this terrible tragedy remain an indelible imprint to bring blessing to the memories of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad, z’l.  — Shabbat Shalom. 

Related Reading:

This edition of the Haveil Havelim is dedicated to those that have fallen or have been injured due to terror. In Boston, in Israel, in the world. When the world wakes up to global jihad as an international problem, perhaps we will finally stand up to evil and end the suffering.

I haven’t had the time to post my many thoughts and feelings about my first Yom Hazikaron back in Israel, my first Yom Haatzmaut back in Israel, and the rattling of my former home in Boston. I am fortunate that so many other wonderful bloggers have written their thoughts and I can share them with you in digest form.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, jointly coordinated through our Facebook Group. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means”Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English,’vanity.’

What a roller-coaster week!!! If there was ever a time to remember to hold life precious, it would be now.

 

Boston Marathon Terror attack: 

Batya looks at the horrific tragedy this week in Boston through her Israeli lens, positing that America is a “more frightening place”. Does it strike the world as odd that there are ‘settlers’ like us that feel that way? See if you agree and weigh in at What Was The Point of That Boston Marathon Bombing? over at Shiloh Musings.

 

Yom Hazikaron: 

Yaelle brings us her take on the Yom Hazikaron experience in Yom Hazikaron l’Chalelei Maarachot Yisrael… at Yaelle Yells… Softly

Having begun work recently as the Spokesperson at OneFamily Fund in Jerusalem, my experience of Yom Hazikaron has become very different, sharper, harder, and more real. I invite you to watch this very brief and extremely moving recap of the ceremony at OneFamily. It is a safe haven for bereaved children, who have a second home where they can share their loss openly. What a blessing for them…. and what a horribly difficult thing for the rest of us to hear.

It is because of that experience that I have learned so much more the truth in Batya‘s posit that “Time Doesn’t Heal” over at Me-Ander

A late edition that’s worth the read: The Real Jerusalem Streets shows us in beautiful images the reality of Yom Hazikaron in Jerusalem….

Yom Haatzmaut: 

One follows right after the other in the blog roll, as in life. Some love it, some  hate it. I am surprised no one weighed in on just that.

… and Sharon once again captures the day on The Real Jerusalem Streets in Yom Haatzmaut Favorites in Jerusalem.

Batya connects Yom Haatzmaut to Shiloh’s local, important – and very long – history  in Celebrate Israeli Independence Where We Had Our First Capital City, Shiloh! at Shiloh Musings.

 

Controversy: 

First, let’s start with the Temple Mount. Always a great source if you are looking for some people to disagree about stuff:

Esser Agaroth shares a Palestinian article about a Jewish demonstration about the Temple Mount, in Palestinian Press Posts Pretty Pictures…Of Temple Mount Activists 

… and follow us with a very insightful – and humorous – rant (forgive me for calling a spade a spade) on MK Miri Regev’s recent declaration to tour the Temple Mount, in Jewish Prayer on The Temple Mount. Sigh… I personally cannot wait until such a decision is no longer a “declaration”.  KudosEsser Agaroth.

Then…. let’s move down below, to the Kotel, an equally generous spot for dissent and ill-will, while we offer up our holiest supplications to our Creator.

I had to include this post, because in addition to being a radical and often unheard point of view, I couldn’t agree with Leah Zakh Aharoni more in Times of Israel’s The Misogyny of the Women of the Wall. 

The Torah Revolution is tired of the fighting too, and gives his own suggestion as to what we are all doing wrong, in Strange Coincidence

 

Other: 

I learn from Tomer Devorah that the missiles that rained down on Eilat may have been targeting a US military target in Missiles on Eilat. Chilling, and logical.

Why all of the interest by women in going out to daven in public if “Women Don’t go to Shul?”  – Hadassah Levy generates some great discussion in her Times of Israel piece on Why Women Don’t Go to Shul. Don’t forget to read the comments and of course weigh in.

Tomer Devorah presents an interesting set of coincidences regarding explosions in Texas in Very Coincidental. It sounds like the makings of a great new Gabriel Allon novel. Are you reading, Daniel Silva??

Shlomo writes a Re-review of Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat in Thinking Torah:  This post looks at how the siddur uses images to enhance the meaning of Psalm 92 – Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbat.

 

Two final thoughts:

If everyone reading this invited one blogger to submit to HH that hasn’t before (or hasn’t in a long time), we would all get to enjoy some new blogs and spread the Jewish-blogger-love. Why not send a brief email to a blogger you love right now? Or just a little fb post?

I also want to give a quick shout out to Trip’n Up’s Amy today, because, well, she could use it. Find a post she has written that you like and just leave a comment or a hello. Just stop by, and tell her that Ima2seven sent you.  :  )

Wishing everyone a happier, easier week than last. With no terror attacks, no memorial days, no strife and maybe, just maybe a little bit of seasonally appropriate sunshine! 

 

 

Related Reading: