Balak — Who Deserves to Be Blessed

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    Balak 1 — Who Deserves to Be Blessed?

    מה אקב לא קבה קל
    How can I curse whom G-d has not cursed (Bamidbar 23:8).

    Rashi offers a novel interpretation on the above pasuk. Bilaam was saying, “How can I curse whom G-d has not cursed?” For even when they deserved to be cursed, they were not cursed. When their father Yaakov recalled the wrongdoing of Shimon and Levi, he cursed only their anger, and not them: “Arur apam — Cursed is their anger” (Bereishis 49:7). When Yaakov deceived Yitzchak, he deserved to be cursed, but Yitzchak said, “Gam baruch yiheyeh — He, too, shall be blessed” (ibid. 27:33).”

    The Maharal, in Gur Aryeh (43), explains that we can see this from the tense of the pasuk. Bilaam did not speak in the future tense: “How can I curse whom Hashem will not curse,” meaning, “How can I curse the Jews if Hashem does not want to curse them?” Instead, his words were in the past tense: “whom Hashem did not curse,” which indicates that the pasuk is speaking about instances when Hashem did not curse even those who had been worthy of being cursed.

    The Kli Yakar points out that most nations, when facing adversity or misfortune, react with resentment and anger toward those in power and to their gods. They attempt to lay blame, never thinking that they are the cause of their own misfortune and that whatever befell them is deserved. But Klal Yisrael is different, as the Kli Yakar proves from his reading of the pasuk. He explains that the words “Mah ekov lo kaboh Kel,” can be translated to mean: “How can I curse the one who has not cursed Hashem?”

    The name Kel refers specifically to the unforgiving manifestation of Divine power, the Middas HaDin. Even when Hashem, acting with Middas HaDin, appears to be treating them strictly, Bnei Yisrael do not resort to complaints and curses; they do not reject and turn their backs on Him, but they accept His decrees unquestioningly and without resentment.
    Since they do not allow themselves to curse Him, He will not allow them to be cursed either. Even if Bilaam would have found some defect to render Bnei Yisrael deserving of a curse, Hashem would not curse them. As they tolerantly accept Hashem’s seemingly harsh judgment with love and faith, so does Hashem tolerate their misconduct.

    Along these lines, Rav Yehudah Leib Ginsberg, in his Yalkut Yehudah (Nasso, Birkas Kohanim), offers a fresh way to explain a well-known Gemara (which is mentioned in this volume in Behar and Eikev). In Berachos (20b), the angels question why Hashem shows favor to the Jews when He describes Himself as One Who does not show favor. Hashem responds, “How can I not show them favor? Heim medakdekim al atzmam ad ke’zayis ad ke’beitzah — They are so particular on themselves up until the size of an olive or the size of an egg.” Although by Torah law one must bentch only if he eats an amount that satisfies him, nevertheless, the Jews took upon themselves to bentch even after eating bread that is the size of an olive or the size of an egg.

    What exactly is Hashem’s answer? What bearing does our treatment of the laws of bentching have on Hashem’s treatment of us? Is our being strict in regard to Birkas HaMazon a reason for Hashem to ignore the truth and show us favor?

    Rav Ginsberg explains that the issue is not that we are strict regarding the laws of bentching, but that we thank Him for whatever He gives us, even if it is only a ke’zayis or a ke’beitzah.

    Throughout its history, Klal Yisrael, unlike other nations, has had the ability and willingness to genuinely thank Hashem for whatever He has granted us, even when we don’t have much. Not only don’t we curse, but we thank Him!
    Since we look favorably at whatever He does for us, He is prepared to show us favor for whatever we do for Him. Hashem is prepared to reward us for what we have done and the merits we’ve accrued, even if they don’t amount to much.

    We merit Hashem’s favor when we learn how to bless Him, when we thank, give honor, and remain steadfast in our loyalty to Him — even when we experience pangs of hunger and do not feel satiated, even when we have unfulfilled desires. Much like His unwillingness to have us cursed given that we do not curse Him.

    Reb Eliezer

    The question is if we thank Hashem for what He gives us or who gives it to us. If a great individual gives a present, even the smallest anount is a appreciated. Similarly, Hashem judges the mitzvos we do on our level and not His what we are responsible towards Him.

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