Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Balak 5775

Balak 5775

New Stories Balak 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Balak 5775

Integral to Creation


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the dialogue that the donkey had with Balaam. It is noteworthy that the Mishna in Avos (5:8) states: asarah devarim nivriu bierev Shabbos bain hashemashos vieilu hein pi haaretz upi habieir pi haason vihakeshes vihaman vihamateh vihashamir hakesav vihamichtav vihaluchos viyeish omrim af hamazikin ukivuraso shel Moshe vieilo shel Avraham Avinu viyeish omrim af tzevas bitzevas asuyah, ten things were created on Shabbos eve, at twilight. They are: The mouth of the earth; the mouth of the well; the mouth of the donkey; the rainbow [which was Noach’s sign that there would be no future floods] the manna; the staff, the shamir worm; the script, the inscription; and the Tablets. Some say also destructive spirits, Moshe’s grave, and the ram of our forefather Avraham. And some say also tongs, which are made with tongs.

Ten Things Associated With Shabbos

One must wonder why these items were specifically created immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos. Perhaps we can suggest that these items are associated with Shabbos in some manner. The mouth of the earth was created to swallow up Korach and his assembly. The Zohar (Korach) states that Korach disputed the concept of Shabbos, so it is fitting that the mouth of the earth be created immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos to swallow up Korach and his assembly in the future. Regarding the mouth of the well, it is noteworthy that the Rema writes (Orach Chaim 299:10) that one should drink water from a well on Motzai Shabbos as the well of Miriam circles on Motzai Shabbos and all the water that is in wells is healed at that time. The mouth of the donkey, as we all know, functioned as a vehicle for putting Balaam in his place. The Halacha (see Mishna Berurah Orach Chaim 307:5) is that one should minimize his speech on Shabbos, so the mouth of the donkey teaches us that one should only speak what is necessary. The rainbow symbolized that HaShem would not destroy the world.

Moshe and Shabbos

In the prayer of Kegavna recited by those who pray Nusach Sefard, we recite that with the onset of Shabbos, all harsh judgments are removed from her. The manna is clearly associated with Shabbos, as it is said (Bereishis 2:3) Vayivarech Elokim es yom hashevii vayikadeish oso, HaShem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:2) states that HaShem blessed the seventh day by providing a double portion of manna on Friday, and HaShem sanctified the seventh day by not allowing manna to fall on Shabbos. The staff, which belonged to Moshe, reflected the supremacy of Moshe and his prophecy. The Gemara (Shabbos 88a) states that the Jewish People forfeited the crowns that they received when they accepted the Torah. The Zohar states that Moshe returns the crowns to the Jewish People on Shabbos. The shamir worm was used to hew the stone for the construction of the Bais HaMikdash, as the Torah forbids the use of sword or iron to be used in the construction of the Bais HaMikdash. The reason for this prohibition (see Rashi Shemos 20:22) is because the Bais HaMikdash and the Mizbeiach are symbols of peace and it is improper to use weapons that symbolize war and strife. Similarly, Shabbos is referred to as shalom, peace. The script refers to the form of the Hebrew alphabet and the inscription and the Tablets refer to the inscription on the Luchos, the tablets which had the Ten Commandments inscribed upon them.

The Shabbos Connection

In the Shabbos Shacharis prayers we recite the words yismach Moshe bematnas chelko ki eved neeman karasa lo kelil tiferes birosho nasata lo biamado lifanecho al har Sinai ushnei luchos avanim horid beyado vichasuv bahem shemiras Shabbos vichein kasuv bisorasecho, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion: that You called him a faithful servant. A crown of splendor You placed on his head when he stood before You on Mount Sinai. He brought down two stone tablets in his hand, on which is inscribed the observance of the Shabbos. So it is written in Your Torah… Destructive spirits alludes to the idea mentioned previously, that with the onset of Shabbos all harsh judgments depart from her. Moshe’s grave alludes to the idea that Moshe passed away on Shabbos (see Tur Orach Chaim 292 and commentators ad loc). The ram of our forefather Avraham alludes to the devotion that Avraham displayed for HaShem, as he was ready to slaughter his only son for the sake of HaShem’s will. This is akin to the statement of the Gemara (Yoma 28b) that Avraham fulfilled the entire Torah before it was given to the Jewish People at Sinai, including the mitzvah of Eruv Tavshilin, a sign that one is prepared for Shabbos. Regarding tongs which are made with tongs, perhaps we can suggest that this alludes to the idea that everything in creation has a counterpart. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:8) states that every day had a mate except for Shabbos and HaShem told Shabbos that the Jewish People will be its mate. Hashem should allow us to merit preparing for Shabbos properly and deriving benefit from all of the wonders that He created for us.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

בּוֹ מָצְאוּ עֲגוּמִים, הַשְׁקֵט וּבִטְחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, on it grieving people find tranquility and trust – Shabbos of contentment. What is the association between Shabbos and trust? In a simple sense we can say that because one refrains from work on Shabbos, he trusts in HaShem to provide him a livelihood. In a deeper sense, however, the trust that one has on Shabbos stems from the testimony that HaShem created the world in six days and rested on Shabbos. One who can testify to HaShem creating the world can certainly trust HaShem to govern his affairs and he need not worry how he will live and attain spiritual growth in a world that is decadent and corrupt. HaShem specifically gave the Jewish People His Holy Shabbos as a gift to escape the shackles of the weekday that the rest of humanity is chained to.

Shabbos Stories

I don’t know why I’m Crying

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: On one of the final days of the Six Day War the Israeli troops pierced through enemy fortifications and forged their way through the ancient passageways of Jerusalem. As if Divine gravitational force was pulling them, one group of soldiers dodged the Jordanian bullets and proceeded until there was no reason to continue. They had reached the Kotel HaMaravi, the Western Wall, the holiest place in Judaism, the site of both the First and Second Temples. The young men, some of whom had yeshiva education, others who came from traditional backgrounds, stood in awe and began to cry in unison. The Kotel had been liberated! One young soldier, who grew up on a totally secular kibbutz in the northern portion of the state gazed at the sight of his comrades crying like children as they stared up at the ancient stones. Suddenly, he too began to wail. One of the religious soldiers, who had engaged in countless debates with him, put his arm around him and asked, “I don’t understand. To us the Kotel means so much. It is our link with the Temple and the holy service. This is the most moving experience of our lives. But why are you crying?” The young soldier looked at his friend, and amidst the tears simply stated, “I am crying because I am not crying.”

The Animals and the Butcher

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: A pious and very talented Jewish scholar was placed on trial in a small Polish town outside of Lvov. The charges, brought by a local miscreant, were based on some trumped-up complaint. The young scholar was beloved to his townsfolk as he served in the capacity of the town’s shochet (ritual slaughterer), chazzan (cantor), and cheder rebbe. Thus, many people in town were worried as he appeared before a notoriously anti-Semitic judge. As he presented the charges, the judge mockingly referred to him as Mr. Butcher. In fact all through the preliminary portion of the kangaroo court, the judge kept referring to the beloved teacher and cantor as a butcher, meat vendor or slaughterer. Finally, the young scholar asked permission to speak. “Your honor,” he began, “before I begin my defense, I’d like to clarify one point. I serve in many capacities in this shtetl. The people at the synagogue know me as the cantor. The children at the school and all of their parents know me as the teacher. It is only the animals that know me as the butcher!” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Permitted Methods of  Kneading

 שינוי בלישה – A Shinui in the Method of Kneading

 After the ingredients have been combined, mixing or stirring them is itself an act of kneading. To stir the ingredients, therefore, one must mix them in an irregular manner. The Poskim approve a number of permitted methods. Here we will focus only on the practical methods.

b) Mixing With the Bare Hand

 One is allowed to stir a mixture with one’s bare hand or finger. However, one may not wear a glove while doing so.

c) Mixing with the Handle of a Spoon

One is permitted to stir a loose mixture with the handle of a spoon or fork, or with a knife (handle or blade). This modification, however, is not valid for thick mixtures.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Balak 5775

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New Stories Balak 5775

5 Powerful Lessons about Giving

How Cami Walker’s book, “29 Gifts”, changed my life.

by Eliana Cline        

A month after her wedding Cami Walker, 33, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) – an auto-immune disease which affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Looking back she realized she had been experiencing many symptoms for close to a decade, they never presented close enough together for doctors to identify MS. As MS progresses it brings with a myriad of debilitating and agonizing symptoms; Walkers could barely walk, was constantly in excruciating pain and had lost vision in one eye. Not surprisingly she was angry, resentful and depressed. Her life as she knew it was destroyed. Her imagined bliss of being a newly-wed was replaced with frequent trips to the ER. Her flourishing career in advertising was ruined. She was left with nothing but bottles of pills and her own misery.

With nothing to lose, she took the unconventional advice of her spiritual mentor to give away 29 gifts for 29 days. In her memoir “29 Gifts” she describes her astonishment at becoming stronger as she focused outwards on what she was able to give. She found hidden reservoirs of optimism, faith and generosity. At the end of the 29 days she was working part time, walking and her pain levels were manageable. And her passion for living and belief in her unique purpose was rekindled.

Walker’s journey resonated deeply with me as my husband suffers from fibromyalgia (also a chronic auto-immune disease). I have witnessed first-hand the all-consuming challenges of chronic illness. Whether or not one follows the “29 gifts” project, the lessons from her journey and the movement she has spearheaded show how a mentality of giving offers one a more meaningful and joyous existence.

  1. The most meaningful gifts are not physical

The most meaningful gifts we can give don’t cost a cent. The list is endless: Time is a luxury these days – giving your children or loved one undivided attention. A phone call to a friend in a challenging situation. A hug to someone who looks like they need it. An email to an old friend to say you are thinking of them. A visit to an elderly relative. Making dinner for your family. Doing the carpool even though it’s not your turn. A listening ear to someone who needs to let off steam. A hug to someone who looks like they need it. A sincere word of thanks to a hard-working colleague.

  1. No matter how limited you are, you always have something to give

Walker was severely limited – physically, financially and emotionally. But once she started focusing outwards on what she did have to give she found she had an abundance of unexpected resources to share with the world. Giving a weeping friend a tissue at her support group showed she cared and was feeling her pain. Scarcity or abundance is an outlook, not a reality. When we feel we don’t have enough, we focus on what we are lacking and feel stingy and afraid. When we realize how blessed we are and how much we have to offer the world, we begin feeling grateful and valuable.

  1. How we choose to view ourselves influences our lives

Seeing ourselves as lacking generates self-preservation mode. We hold onto whatever we can – time, energy, money, emotional investment. We don’t trust that there is enough and live in fear of being depleted. But choosing to see ourselves as conduits of God’s infinite kindness, we can realize that there is abundance of resources and we don’t have to be stingy. This leads to generosity and an ability to give without fear of lacking. And in turn, we become more connected with the people around us.

  1. Being a gracious receiver

Walker tells a story of how her acupuncturist (in addition to giving her free treatments) would drive her to and from her office in busy LA traffic. She was struggling to accept this until she realized that accepting graciously was the best response she could have.

It’s easy to feel bad when people are kind to us. We don’t feel worthy of receiving love. You shouldn’t have bought anything, we say shrugging off the kindness. But when people do things for us or give us gifts, they want us to be happy. So be gracious. Put aside your inadequacy and believe that you are worthy of receiving love. Receiving graciously is a big gift in itself that brings joy to the giver.

  1. Giving to oneself is crucial

Conscious giving means being discerning as to when you need to give yourself. Your body is the vehicle God gives you to express your soul’s potential, so be kind to it. Ensuring you have a good night’s sleep, a healthy meal and making time to exercise is just as important as giving to other people. Emotionally, one also needs to nurture oneself. Giving yourself acknowledgement, compliments and forgiveness is the starting point for giving to other. Your soul also needs to be nurtured; it needs learning, relationships and inspiration to keep moving forward. These things are not selfish but are what enable ones to give outwardly in the future. (



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