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A very pessimistic man

The Torah portion of the week, Parashiyot Chukat-Balak, starts by teaching us what happens when crashing into a rock wall!

The first parasha contains a variety of events whose common denominator is difficulty and frustration – from the commandments of a red heifer (for purification) that is beyond human comprehension; Miriam’s death; Moses’ anger when hitting the rock; the nation of Israel’s retreat in face of the resistance of the Edomites who did not let them pass through their land; Aharon’s death; and the plague of poisonous snakes.

Sometimes we are faced with seemingly unsurmountable obstacles – lack of understanding; death, thirst, war against overwhelming enemy forces and plague.

We would very much like to understand; we would very much like to overcome; we would very much like that this be behind us; to smash the stubborn boulder and be done with it – but that doesn’t happen!

What do we do in such a situation?

The answer is given in this Torah portion: it is not possible to prevent death, but one can be purified from it; it is not possible to hit the rock – but one can talk to it; it is not possible to conquer the Edomites right now – but it is possible to conquer the land of Sichon; Aharon dies – but his son Elazar is appointed in his place.

In other words: the solution is not immediate, but in progress over time. And a partial solution is also a solution; actually, it’s the real solution!

When speaking to the rock; we raise our eyes upward in prayer – understanding that in the end, the rock will crumble and give water; the snake that kills also resuscitates; the previous leadership has ended its job – but a new leadership is born.

A plague does not disappear immediately, but gradually dissipates.

In the end we reach Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel!

And our Rabbis tell us that Balaam knew how to aim for the instant each day in which God is “angry”. In other words, he was a brilliant, critical, and pessimistic person who knew how to identify a weak point at any given moment.

Balaam knew how to “lekalel, lecharef and lakov”, three different terms for cursing: The word “klala”, curse, from the source “KL”, to cynically explain how everything is trivial and worthless; “lecharef” – to disparage everyone by cutting intellectual analysis; “lakov” – from the source of NKV – to pierce – to perforate and destroy the credibility of those standing in front of him.

Today, there are people whose profession is a form of ‘cursing’.

They are very talented and very clever people, with the gift of brilliant and glittering speech – whose message is that life is bad – that everyone is lying, and that everyone is deceitful; they have a pessimistic vision that the world is going to ruin.

These voices are heard louder when the world is in distress.

We must not listen to them!

We must not listen to them, but not because they are talking nonsense.

They know how to identify the correct problems, but they are losing the forest for the trees.

In the end, Balaam is forced to admit that “Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha Yisrael” – how good are your tents Jacob; your tabernacles, Israel. The good tents of the Jewish people, the inner modesty – these are what are victorious. While looking at the “Rosh Tzurim”, the mountain tops, – we connect to the peak of the mountain, to the strong root of life; when looking at a small baby, at a plant that grows – we are filled with optimism and faith.

Bottom line, everyone feels deep in their heart that the world is not bad. Despite all the difficulties, despite all the disappointments, it will be good. Someone is up there.

The bad will pass.

The good will prevail.

With the help of G-d.

Original: Rabbi Hagai Londin – Arutz Sheva