Isnin, Ogos 01, 2005

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The story of one of the greats of history and his attempt to curse the Jewish people appears in the Sedra. Rabbi Dessler points out, that if a person is named in the Torah, then they were a great person. They may have been a great Rosho (villain) but they were certainly great. Such a person was Bilam. He was as great in wisdom as Achitofel. He was as great in Prophesy as Moshe Rabbeinu. Paradoxically he suffered from three character defects, which directed his greatness to abuse and distortion. He loved money, he demanded honour and he was attached to immorality.

The question of course arises as to why HaShem would bestow prophecy on such a person.

The answer is because of the purpose of creation, Freedom of Choice. If it were the case that only those loyal to G-d could access "supernatural" intervention then everyone would of course be loyal to G-d but for the wrong reason. They would be loyal because it "pays".

Imagine I am presenting a talk to a group of one hundred young Jews. They come from non-religious backgrounds and are sceptical about the validity of the Torah. I finish my hour-long talk with a final appeal. If what I have said makes sense then they should take their interest further. They should book themselves into a good beginners Yeshiva like, Ohr Somayach or a Sem like, Neve Yerushalayim and start to learn.

Now imagine that the audience is arranged so that fifty Jews sit on one side and fifty on the other. The right hand group thinks to themselves "That makes sense" and promptly enrol in Ohr Somayach or Neve. Their initial interest leads to commitment and years of study. They emerge from their Jewish education and return to these shores ready to commence their secular studies. They all go to University and get first class degrees. They get married and find superb jobs. Their marriages and family life is fantastic and they have perfect children who never give them any trouble, not even a word of Chutzpah. They never have a day’s illness. They grow old to see their successful children marry and equally successful grandchildren, marry. Eventually in very old age they all pass away peacefully in their sleep.

The remaining fifty consider my talk and conclude that it was entertaining but frankly the ideas were "medieval". They do not pursue their religion and instead spend their summer at "Camp America" as camp counsellors. They have return early for teaching the children how to smoke drugs. They return and go straight to University where they spend three "rocky" and troubled years and emerge with very poor degrees. They get married to each other but almost all the marriages end in divorce. The offspring of the unions are troubled and obnoxious. Many get into trouble with drugs and spend time in jail. The Parents suffer from many terrible and various illnesses and many die young.

Now imagine ten years have gone by. I am giving the exact same presentation to another group of one hundred young Jews. By a statistical freak each one is a younger brother or sister of the original group. They all know what happened to their older siblings. I conclude the same way I did ten years previously with an appeal for them to take this investigation of their religion further. How many will sign up for Camp America this time? None!

It can never be that we are uniquely and exclusively rewarded for our loyalty to G-d. That would produce perfect loyalty…but for ourselves not for G-d. So everyone must have equal access to life’s opportunities whether they are "good" or "bad"

The Talmud expresses this in the words "Zu l’umos Zu Boro Elokim" "For every positive thing He created He created an equal and opposing negative thing."

Now we know why HaShem went to such efforts to change the curse, which Bilam tried to use to destroy the Jews. Instead of a curse, HaShem changes the words so that they emerge as blessings. Why go to all that trouble after all is HaShem obliged to react to the words of this Rosho? The answer we now see is yes! Such people would also have to have "supernatural" powers to maintain a balance between positive forces and negative ones and maintain the purpose of creation, freedom of choice.

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