Illuminations #214, Tammuz, 5779, Parshat Balak

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Illuminations #214, Tammuz, 5779, Parshat Balak

Torah Gems

When Balak wanted Bilaam to curse Bnei Yisrael he brought Bilaam to the top of the mountain to look at them. Why did Balak want Bilaam to curse Bnei Yisrael while gazing at the Jews; Bilaam could have just cursed from the friendly confines of his own home? The Ramban answers, there is no comparison to seeing with one’s own eye. For Bilaam to effectively curse Bnei Yisrael he had to see exactly what he was dealing with. Similarly, we find that when Amalek attacked Bnei Yisrael immediately after all the miracles of the exodus of Egypt, Moshe Rabbeinu went to the top of the mountain to pray. Let Moshe pray from where he was, why go to the top of a mountain? The Rambam explains that Moshe wanted to see the plight of his brethren to arouse the most effective prayer. Rav Wolbe derives from here a lesson for life. If you want to understand a situation or know how to respond to different circumstances, there is nothing better than knowledge of the situation first-hand. One example could be if  someone wants to donate money, whether privately or publicly , let him get a look at the scene and that will help him determine how much to give.

Parsha Pearls

In his last attempt to curse Bnei Yisrael, Bilaam tried to put an evil eye, Ayin Hara, on the Jews. When Bilaam saw, however, how modest the Jews were, he had no power of Ayin Hara. There are two questions on this. First, why did he wait until now to do it? Second, being modest is the antidote to Ayin Hara. The Taz on his commentary to Shulchan Aruch explains Ayin Hara only reacts on something when it is not hidden. Until now the Cloud of Glory hid us, however, with the sin of the Golden Calf, it was taken away and we were no longer protected by the Cloud of Glory. This is what Bilaam thought, but then he saw their modesty, which means they were doing things privately and away from the public eye. He realized that Ayin Hara would not be effective. We see the power of concealing things rather than flaunting what we have.

Glimpses of Greatness

There is a sweet and uplifting story that is told about a few small children who were drafted into the Russian Army. The children were locked into a house that they could not get out of. The children wanted to pray but did not have a Prayer book or know the prayers by heart. One child suggested that they sing the tune of the Tehillim they were used to saying because that they knew. They sang the tune with hearts full of joy. Soon after, the decree was nullified and the children were sent home. Prayers of children are so precious!!

Halacha Weekly

Q. When is one permitted to use a non-Jewish name? [I-YD-9-241]

A. Maharashdam ( YD 199, R. Shmuel Ben Moshe of Medina, Z”L) writes that the ruling in these matters was decided for those that were compelled to leave Portugal and take non-Jewish names who later returned, came to search out G-d and His Torah, and subsequently changed their names to Jewish names. Also those who need to leave the place they reside as Jews to a place where they have names like those used amongst the non-Jewish Nations are permitted to write and change their names according to the names that the non-Jews have, and they need not refrain except as a matter of discretionary piety from doing this.

He brings a proof from the  Talmud  in Gittin (11b) that relates that one who comes from overseas bearing a get, even though in the place from where they came the names are similar to non-Jewish names, the get is kosher since the majority of Jews that are overseas (i.e. outside the land of Israel) have names which are like the names of the non-Jews.  Furthermore, he writes that we do not say that it is permitted to use non-Jewish names; it refers to names that are frequently used by Jews and non-Jews as well.  However, he writes that the names which are used specifically by non-Jews one may not use. Since we learn from the words of the Rosh (on the Talmud cited, R. Asher Ben Yechiel Z”L) that there are cases we disqualify a get with witnesses with non-Jewish names, it is implied that those Jews were called also by names specifically used only by non-Jews.