Lecture of HaRav Eliezer Berland, shlit”a,
Delivered at a Shalom Zachar, Parshas Balak.
Rabbeinu says in Likutei Moharan
I: 36 on this week’s Torah portion: “And this is a general principle- that
every Jewish soul prior to experiencing a revelation of Torah and Divine
service is first tested and refined through exile among the seventy nations.
Such revelation is an aspect of birth, and prior to the revelation of Torah,
a person exists in a state that is like pregnancy.” There are three stages—pregnancy,
nursing, and consciousness. Everyone has to first go through many years
of pregnancy, many years of nursing. Every person in the world—every new
child who comes to the world—comes with his own unique path in the service
of G–d. Every person comes to reveal a new path that has never existed
before. This is similar to what Rabbeinu said about himself: “I am going
on a new path, one that no one ever walked before. Even so, this path is
However, everyone has to wait a great deal, and
must spend many years in gestation, many years in a state of pregnancy.
This is similar to what Rabbeinu says in Likutei Moharan II:20,
“Before a person begins to enter into a new path he is in the aspect of
pregnancy, and he must exist in a state of hiddenness there, like gestation.
For this path was never yet revealed, and he enters into that path to reveal
it.” This is a new path that has never yet been revealed. “And then he
is in the aspect of pregnancy, as in ‘I have taught you [literally, ‘made
you gestate’] in the way of wisdom’ (Mishlei 4:11). This is the
aspect of gestation, and one must wait there and tarry there to incubate
oneself—like a fetus in the innards of his mother—until the time comes
when he is ready to come out into the air of this world to reveal his path
in the world. When he emerges before his time, this is like a stillborn.”
Rabbeinu explains all of this with regards to the
verse, “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart
from her…” (Shemos 21:22). This is like a miscarriage. When a person
reveals his path before the proper time, he loses it. It is forbidden to
reveal any new Torah concept before the time is ripe. The nature of a person,
however, is such that he is inclined to immediately reveal any new Torah
concepts that occur to him, to speak about them openly. But through this
openness, he loses everything. The Kotzker would only reveal his new Torah
concepts after several years. He would only speak about each idea after
he had held it in for several years. A person who shares his new Torah
concepts right away is like one who gives birth before the time is ripe.
It’s like inducing labor.
In the work Divrei Torah (43:30), Rabbi Chayim
Elazar of Munkatch quotes from the Sefer HaKaneh that inducing labour
is fraught with danger. These are his words: “Anyone who uses an incantation
or a talisman to cause a distressed woman in labour to give birth before
the proper time should know and understand that sometimes he is responsible
for killing two people—the laboring woman and the one who made the talisman.
Sometimes, he causes the child to suffer in many different ways, and G–d
will avenge the blood of that child from the hand of the one who made the
talisman. For example, it might have been proper for this child to be born
when the moon was full, etc. Then this sorcerer came and made the mother
give birth before the moon was full. This child would then have been born
at a time when the force that gives him vitality is diminished, and he
might die within a few days. G–d will avenge the blood of that child from
the hands of the one who made the charm, because he worked to cancel the
decree of his Creator and killed the child’s soul by bringing him into
the world before his time. He may cause the child to receive money that
isn’t due to him, and to marry a woman that was not predestined for him.
Know that he has switched around the order of creation and that it will
affect that child.”
Every person has a specific moment when he is meant
to be born. At that moment, his mazal [fate], his livelihood, his
future mate, etc. is fixed. If someone causes him to be born before his
moment—before the fixed time when his mazal can affect him—then
he is born without mazal. He is born under the mazal of someone
else. Nothing belongs to him. His livelihood is not really his—he took
the livelihood of his friend to whom it really belongs. This will mean
that he will always have problems with his livelihood. His future mate
is one of the manifestations of “lest another come and beat him to
her” (Moed Katan 18b). He could beat his friend to his friend’s
future destined spouse because he was born before his proper time, before
the time of his own mazal. All the trouble that a person goes through
in life—whether it be illness, that he has no wife, that he can’t make
a living, or anything that he suffers during his 120 years—it can all happen
because they induced his labor, because he wasn’t born during the moment
of his mazal.
A doctor who induces a birth can be a murderer.
It is absolutely forbidden to induce labor unless there is a threat to
the life of the mother or the baby. If so, then it is a different matter.
Nowadays, they induce labor all the time, they give pitocin, and they perform
Cesarean sections. By doing so, they cause all kinds of trouble.
One must wait and beg Hashem until the natural time for the birth of the
child comes. One child, everyone was worried about him, but he waited and
waited until it was his proper time. He was the opposite of the previous
child who sprang right out. That, too, was his time. A doctor who induces
a birth must know that he is taking responsibility for all the future troubles
of the child: his troubles, and his children’s troubles, and his grandchildren’s
troubles, and all future generations that will emerge from this baby.
The very same thing exists in relation to the service
of Hashem. For every level that a person aspires to reach and for every
negative trait that he wants to break, a person needs to go through years
of gestation. There are seventy negative character traits, and every trait
requires years of pregnancy. Over every trait, a person must cry out the
“seventy cries” until he is worthy of breaking that trait and giving birth
to some new attainment in Torah and the service of G–d. So too is it with
a person’s livelihood. It takes years until he is worthy of reaching the
livelihood that truly is connected to his spiritual source. These are the
years of pregnancy until he is worthy and it is revealed. For all the money
that a person acquires that is not connected to his spiritual source—to
his mazal—is eventually lost. There are people who lose thousands
of dollars in a moment, and this is because their money was not from their
They acquired their money in a way that was not via their spiritual source.
“For prior to a revelation of Torah, he is in an
aspect of gestation. The Torah is hidden from him like ‘bones hidden within
a full belly’ (Koheles 11:5). As in, ‘And I will surely hide Myself,’
meaning, in the exile of the negative traits of the seventy nations. For
the impure husk precedes the fruit, and anyone who wants to eat the fruit
must first break through the impure husk” (Likutei Moharan I:36).
A larger husk is a sign that the fruit inside is larger too. A watermelon
has a large husk and the fruit inside is also very large. An orange has
a smaller husk, so the fruit inside is also smaller…and the walnut is even
“Therefore, before this revelation, the soul must
go into exile, meaning be subject to the influence of their negative traits,
in order to break them and afterwards experience this revelation.”
This is how it has been since the sin of Adam HaRishon, since the time
that he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. The impure husk gained control
over the entire world and surrounded everything. Since then, it is impossible
to attain anything without first having to break through the impure husk.
In the Torah’s account of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, it says, “the
tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and a tree to
be desired to make one wise” (Bereishis 3:6). The seventy negative
traits are all included within these three elements. “The tree was good
for food”—this is the desire for eating. “It was a delight to the eyes”—this
is the corruption of the eyes, seeing forbidden things. All the primordial
breakage occurred in the “eyes” of Adam Kadmon. This is the Divine
Name B”N. The rectification is achieved through the new Name M”H
that emerges from the “forehead.” Gazing is forbidden, it doesn’t matter
whether it is a man, woman, boy, or girl. “A tree to be desired to make
one wise”—this is the impure husk of the “enlightenment.” This is the desire
a person has to make himself wise and know foreign wisdom. Every element
of foreign wisdom that a person learns usurps an element of their holy
wisdom. All of the negative character traits hinge on these wisdoms. “Gavriel
descended and drove a reed into the sea. An island formed on top of it,
and the great city of Rome was built there” (Sifri, Parshas Eikev
Likutei Moharan I:35 at length, and pay particular
attention to the emphasis on how all the negative traits are contingent
on the tree’s being “desired to make one wise.”]
Everyone has his battle with some of the seventy
negative traits, but the main battle is with the terrible desire, the desire
for illicit relations. [This statement is based on what follows in Likutei
Moharan I:36, at the end of subsection 2.]
This is what we came to this world for, to
do battle with this desire. This is the greatest challenge of all, particularly
in our generation. With all the sights that one sees in the street today,
it is impossible to put one’s head outside. It is impossible even to go
to the window. There is nowhere to hide today: every place is exposed.
It isn’t like it was during the time of Adam HaRishon, Chanoch, and Mesushelach.
They sat by themselves in their corners and served Hashem. Lemech was also
a Tzaddik. Even Enosh didn’t begin his idolatry until after Chanoch
had died. That is what the work Asarah Ma’amaros says that Enosh
lived until after the death of Chanoch. It was only afterward that he began
his idolatry. There was always some place to hide. One could always go
and sit in a corner and serve Hashem. But for us, the closer we get
to the redemption the greater the reward of the fruit, so too do the challenges
of the husk increase. We are already in the last one hundred and forty
years before the coming of Moshiach. As the Gr”a says, the true time of
the redemption is at the end of the sixth millennium. So the closer we
get to the end, the stronger the impure husk grows. This is why the challenges
in these areas for our generation are so great.
The way to save oneself from this is by developing
humility and self-effacement: to become absolutely nothing at all. This
is how a person can nullify his muddied-up blood. As Rabbeinu says in Likutei
Moharan I:130: “Humility saves a person from illicit desire and makes
him worthy of guarding the covenant.” Moshe Rabbeinu, because he was the
most humble person in the world, was able to attain the most exalted level
of purity. “And you, stand here with Me” (Devarim 5:28). Aharon
and Miriam did not want to believe that Moshe was already worthy of such
a high level of purity; they did not think that this was his true level.
“True, there are people who are ascetics, who resolve to be ascetics, to
abstain technically for a year. It is possible. But what do they go through
in their minds during that year? What kinds of thoughts pass through their
heads, G-d have mercy!” They also thought that Moshe Rabbeinu’s abstinence
was “technical” and that he was not holding on this level of complete purity.
They did not want to believe that it is possible
to really be an ascetic. This is why the Torah answers and points out right
away, “And the man Moshe was more humble than any other person” (Bamidbar
12:3). Because he was more humble than anyone else, he was able to be a
complete ascetic. He did not engage in any earthly union at all. This is
what the Sages referred to when they said, “The strength of Yosef was the
humility of Boaz. The strength of Boaz was the humility of Palti ben Layish”
(Sanhedrin 19b). It is all contingent on humility. Humility saves
a person from a blemish of the covenant. This is the meaning of the Sage’s
statement: “Whoever is greater than his friend has a greater evil inclination”
(Sukkah 52a). His evil inclination for illicit relations overwhelms
If a person feels the slightest bit of supremacy
over another Jew, he is already not free from this. [Apparently, this is
why the Torah testified about Moshe that he was more humble than any other
person on earth.]
Everything depends on a person’s humility. Since
Moshe was the most humble person in the world, he was able to be completely
free of this desire. The Yid HaKadosh said that if two Jews sit together
drinking a glass of tea and each one thinks that he is less than his friend—that
his friend is greater than he is—this alone atones for all their sins.
Rabbeinu said to the Shpoler: “Come home with me and we will have a glass
of tea together. I will show you the Moshiach.” A glass of tea can bring
Moshiach. He is a “day old ram”—the redemption can come any day. [See Likutei
All the levels that can be attained in the area
of personal sanctity depend on a person’s arrogance or humility. The conduct
of the parents at the time of conception, however, also has an effect—how
they conducted themselves at the moment that they drew the soul down to
this world. As Rabbeinu says in Likutei Moharan I:10: “And they
saw the bundles of money, they and their father” (Bereishis 42:35).
Not only do they have their own desires, but they also have a remnant of
their father’s desires within them as well. [See Likutei Moharan
I:10 where Rabbeinu discusses both these issues—arrogance, and the father’s
not having sanctified himself sufficiently during marital relations. In
light of this lesson, one could say that their desires remained within
them because of their arrogance.]
This is the issue of honoring one’s parents, as
Reb Nosson says in Likutei Halachos on the laws of honoring one’s
parents. Through honoring them, one draws down light into the garments
that they drew down for him, and this expands the light of his own soul.
In the main, however, this sanctity depends on humility.
In this lies the difference between Moshe and Bilam, as the Mishna in Avos
says that the disciples of Moshe possess a deflated spirit and a humble
soul. Conversely, the disciples of the wicked Bilam possess an inflated
spirit and an expansive soul. An inflated spirit is a description of the
epitome of arrogance; this is why Bilam was the most sexually corrupt person
ever. Until Bilam’s time, such levels of impurity simply did not exist.
Bilam taught these terrible things to the world. He had an “expansive soul.”
As he said, “If Balak will give me all the possessions in his house, gold
and silver.” If he had needed to hire an army, how much would it have cost
to raise an army to wage war? (See Rashi’s comments on Bamidbar
Balak brought Bilam to curse the Jewish people,
and he himself was an even greater sorcerer than Bilam. With his magic,
he raised Bilam up each time even higher than the seven heavens so that
Bilam would be able to curse the people from there. The Megaleh Amukos
speaks about this in Ofan #99. He says that this is the meaning
of the seven altars that Balak built each time Bilam came to curse the
Jewish people. The second time Bilam blessed them, Balak raised him up
to the “top of the peak” (Bamidbar 23:14). [On this verse, Rashi
comments that Balak was a greater sorcerer than Bilam since Balak was the
one who led Bilam around to a different site each time. Balak was the one
who was more knowledgeable in this area. This point is even stronger when
we consider the Rav’s statement that this “leading around” was taking place
in the upper heavens.]
The Megaleh Amukos says that this “peak”
is the heaven that is called “Aravos.” Even when Moshe Rabbeinu
ascended to receive the Torah, he only ascended to the heaven called “Shechakim”
which is the third of the seven heavens listed in the Gemara (Chagigah
12b). [During the lecture given on Shabbos Parshas Devarim, the Rav explained
this idea at length through examining a question that someone asked on
#99 of the Megaleh Amukos. It appears as though he skips one of
the heavens in his listing, since he goes right to “Maon” and seems
to skip over the heaven called “Zevul”. The Rav answered that there
are variations in the Midrashim on the order of the heavens, and it appears
as though the Megaleh Amukos did not follow the order given in our
Gemara. It can be inferred from his words that Zevul is below Shechakim,
that Shechakim is the fourth heaven and not the third.]
This is similar to what the Sifri says, that
Bilam was greater than Moshe Rabbeinu, for it was only at Moshe’s death
that Hashem told him to “ascend to the top of the peak” (Devarim
3:27). It was only then that he merited ascending to the seventh
heaven, to “Yechidah” (the highest manifestation of the soul) as
the Megaleh Amukos says in Ofan #175. “The top of the peak”
is the uppermost tip of the letter “yud,” the level of “Yechidah.”
This level of “Yechidah” is one at which
there is nothing but Hashem: everything is only Hashem. When one reaches
there is nothing at all—not Pharaoh, not Bilam—there is only Hashem. There
is nothing but Him. As Miriam said to her father Amram (Sotah 12a):
Who is this Pharaoh? You are the Tzaddik of the generation! With
a single prayer, you can nullify him! It is uncertain whether or not this
Pharaoh will continue to exist, it is uncertain whether or not his decree
will be enacted. You are a Tzaddik, and it is certain that your
decree will come to be. As the verse says: ‘You will decree a thing, and
it will be established unto you’ (Iyov 22:28).” Amram lost
his faith and divorced his wife. This was during the time we are in now,
during Tammuz and Av. The Asarah Ma’amaros says that this is why
the months of Tammuz and Av were times of destruction, because that is
the period when the Jewish men divorced their wives. Hashem then said:
You divorced your wives? I too will divorce you. That is why Hashem divorces
us anew every year during these months.
Miriam presented three arguments before Amram: “Pharaoh
only made a decree against the males, but you made a decree against the
males and the females. Pharaoh only made a decree that affects this world,
but you made a decree that affects this world and the world to come.” You
are delaying the spiritual repair that these babies are to make in the
world. This is what the Hafla’ah says, that a person who caused the deaths
of a thousand people has to undergo a thousand deaths. He therefore has
to return to the world every month and, each time, be thrown into the sea
until those thousand deaths are accounted for. These babies have to come
into the world—that is their rectification. Once they come to the world,
the judgment on them can be mitigated and long life can be drawn down for
them. A death sentence can be commuted to the pain of suffering. A small
amount of suffering experienced when one is connected to the true
can mitigate a death sentence.
This is similar to the experience of Rav Kahana.
The Gemara in Bava Kama 117a relates that Rav Kahana had a death
decree hanging over him. Rav told him to flee to the Land of Israel and
be sure not to ask Rav Yochanan a single question for seven years—that
would be his atonement. When he arrived in the Land of Israel, Reish Lakish
said to Rabbi Yochanan: The lion from Bavel has arrived in Israel. Prepare
your lesson for tomorrow carefully so that he will not catch you with his
questions. In Rabbi Yochanan’s yeshiva, the students sat in seven rows,
one behind the other, according to their status. The following day, they
seated Rav Kahana in the front row and Rabbi Yochanan began his lesson.
Rav Kahana did not ask a single question, so they moved him back a row.
Rabbi Yochanan continued his lesson and Rav Kahana remained silent, so
they moved him back another row. This went on—Rabbi Yochanan would teach,
Rav Kahana remained silent, and they kept on moving him back a row until
he sat in the back row. Rabbi Yochanan then said to Reish Lakish: This
lion of yours has become a fox! Rav Kahana then said: May it be Your Will
Hashem, that the seven rows that I was demoted, the pain and embarrassment
that I suffered over being demoted seven rows, should be considered the
equivalent of seven years of suffering. He then said to Rabbi Yochanan:
Repeat the lesson from the beginning. Rabbi Yochanan began to repeat his
lesson. Rav Kahana asked a question, and they moved him forward one row.
He kept on asking questions on the first part of the lesson until he was
seated in the front row once again. Rabbi Yochanan sat on seven cushions.
He began to review the second part of the lesson and, once again, Rav Kahana
asked questions on the lesson. Rabbi Yochanan then removed one of the cushions
from beneath his own seat. During the review of the third section of the
lesson, Rav Kahana continued to ask questions, and Rabbi Yochanan removed
another cushion from his seat. This went on until he reached the last cushion.
If Rav Kahana were to ask one more question, they would have to switch
positions and Rav Kahana would be the one to give the lecture. This was
the way they did things. Rabbi Yochanan then wanted to see the face of
Rav Kahana. Rabbi Yochanan had very long eyebrows that covered over his
eyes. He asked that someone should raise his eyebrows so that he would
be able to see Rav Kahana’s face. Rav Kahana had a scarred lip that made
it appear as though he was smiling. When Rabbi Yochanan saw him, he thought
that Rav Kahana was mocking him, and he felt insulted. This upset Rav Kahana
so much that he died. Afterward, they explained to Rabbi Yochanan that
Rav Kahana hadn’t been smiling—he only looks that way because his lip is
scarred. Rabbi Yochanan then went to Rav Kahana’s grave and brought him
back to life. So it is possible to exchange major suffering for minor suffering.
He exchanged seven years for seven rows. [The Rav’s words imply that an
actual heavenly death decree had been hanging over Rav Kahana, since we
see that he fled to the Land of Israel because of this death decree. And,
in fact, he did die in Israel; it was only that Rabbi Yochanan revived
him. We find, then, that the Rav learned two things from what happened—that
he had exchanged death for suffering, and that he had exchanged a decree
of major suffering for seven years for the minor suffering of being demoted
Similarly, we are now coming to the days when it
is forbidden to strike children, the days of Bein HaMeitzarim. All
year long it is forbidden to strike children, but during these days one
must be even more careful, because a small hit can cause great damage.
This shows that a small hit can be the equivalent of a big hit. So, too,
the converse. The small hit mitigates judgments in the place of a big hit.
As the Gemara says (Erchin 16b): “What is the minimal definition
of suffering? If a person reaches into his pocket to take out three coins,
and he succeeds to take out only two.” This is already called suffering.
Such minor suffering can replace major suffering.
All of this was part of the argument that Miriam
brought before Amram. She said to him: It is uncertain whether or not Pharaoh’s
decree will come to be or not, but your decree will certainly come to be!
With a single prayer, you could nullify his entire decree. Who is Pharaoh,
anyway? There is nothing but Hashem. Everything is Yechidah. Only
This is what Balak brought about by raising Bilam
up higher and higher every time to the higher heavens. Balak had wanted
to raise Bilam to a higher level than the one that Moshe Rabbeinu had reached
so that Moshe would not be able to stand against him and prevent the curses.
He didn’t know that, on the contrary, the higher the place is, the more
simple and clear the heavenly light is. At the higher levels, there is
no evil. There, the curses are transformed into the greatest blessings.
As Rabbeinu brings in the lesson, Likutei Moharan I:36, “Behold
I am bidden to bless; He has blessed and I cannot reverse it” (Bamidbar
23:20). There, in the upper worlds closest to Hashem, a simple light emanates.
It is only here in this world that it can take the form of a curse, G-d
That is why such blessings were drawn down for Bilam,
as he himself said the first time: “For from the tops of the rocks I see
him, and from the hills I behold him” (Bamidbar 23:9). Avraham is
the “rock” and Sara is the “hills.” They were like two stones, without
any physical desires. During Bilam’s second attempt, he already was in
the heaven called “Aravos,” the seventh heaven. During his third
attempt, he was already above the seventh heaven. There is something beyond
the seventh heaven, as the Zohar says (Chayei Sarah 125a)
that Eden is higher than Aravos. Bilam rose to the seven
heavens and beyond them. The Arizal says that Bilam was later reincarnated
as Naval the Karmeli (Sha’ar HaPesukim, Parshas Balak). This is
why it says, “There was a man in Maon” (Shmuel I:25:2). He
had been in the heaven called Maon. In the end, Balak told Bilam
to “flee to your place” (Bamidbar 24:11). The Heichal HaBerachah
says that this place is “Reisha di’lo Is’yadah.” Balak had seen
how Bilam had reached to a place that was higher than that of Moshe Rabbeinu.
So he said to Bilam: Repent already! Don’t you see where you are? When
Bilam was in the highest place, that was when he gave the greatest blessings:
“A star will come out of Yaakov and a scepter will rise out of Yisrael.
It will smite the corners of Moav and destroy all the children of Shes”
(Bamidbar 24:17). This is speaking about the ultimate future, the time
of the redemption.
The student of the Gr”a, the Mayim Adirim
(p. 224-227), explains that this is speaking about the secret of peyos.
At the moment when they make peyos for the child at the age of three—when
the peyos are revealed—that moment is literally a moment of redemption.
“The corners of Moav” refer to the two peyos. “Pe’ah” is the gematria
of the Divine Name Elokim. Two peyos are two times the gematria
of the Divine Name M"Z P"TZ”. That Name is the Tetragrammaton
in the gematric system called A”T B”SH. The two peyos are
higher than the “thirteen rectifications of the beard.” They are the two
Names of Hashem that come before the thirteen attributes of mercy. The
gematria of M”Z P”TZ is three hundred, and the two peyos
which are two times the Name M”Z P”TZ are the two “shins”
of the tefillin. At the moment that the two peyos are revealed,
the verse, “It will smite the corners of Moav and destroy all the children
of Shes,” is fulfilled. May all the enemies and oppressors be destroyed,
and may we merit the complete redemption speedily and in our days, immediately.
We began the lesson with Rabbeinu and we ended with
the Gr”a. May the baby merit to learn all the holy books in the world and
know the whole Torah.
Return to top of page.
© 2000 Breslov Institutions, Yeshivat "Shuvu Bonim",
All Rights Reserved.