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History Repeats Itself – Parshat Balak

The holy soul of Elijah the Prophet will return at the End of Days to balance out the situation once again. What will be His mission this time around?

History Repeats Itself – Parshat Balak
There is nothing that is not hinted to in the Torah”, say Chazal[1].  Even those events that are destined to take place at the end of days are encapsulated in some way somewhere in the Torah.

At the end of the Parsha we are told, that when Bilam had exhausted all his arsenal of curses that were aimed at the Jewish nation, he was resigned to leaving and accepting defeat[2].  Unfortunately, though, he tried one last “arrow” that he had not yet used. “I am leaving to go back” said Bilam to Balak, “but let me give you an additional word of advice on how to achieve a downfall for the Children of Israel”[3]. Rashi explains, “The G-d of their nation hates promiscuity”[4]  said Bilam, “and if you throw ‘that one’ at the Jewish people, you may well succeed in your insidious goal.” And unfortunately Balak succeeded.

Once again at the end of days, history repeats itself. Despite all the attempts of the nations over the course of history to obliterate the Jewish people, we have survived; not only physically, but spiritually, as well. However, it’s that one last shot, that one last poisonous arrow, which now threatens our ability, the ability of the Jewish nation to impart our age-old ideals to the upcoming generation.

The combination of factors which allow for the present erosion of classic Torah values (i.e. the desire for academic excellence, role –modeling ethical character to the world, mesirus nefesh and self-sacrifice for a Torah lifestyle, etc.) are almost identical to those in the time of Balak. Back then, the surrounding nations exhibited an extra willingness to do business with the Jewish people, which in turn lead the Jewish people to enter into their private domain and to feel comfortable in those surroundings.

The shocking levels of immodesty were back stage set-ups. Today, as well, the same scenario is perpetrated through the seemingly innocent generic channels of the internet and mass media. The entire operation was run by older salespeople who portrayed themselves as concerned members of society, while their hidden agenda was really to just be agents of the Yetzer Harah[5].  

A plague broke out[6]. It was a physical epidemic, yet at the same time was clearly a manifestation of the spiritual plague that was raging as well. A certain portion of the nation had already lost their purity, their holiness, and together with that came a loss in the trust of their leaders. 

Moshe Rabbenu was crying – the Leader of the Generation was denied the ability to overcome this challenge; the Heads of the Sanhedrin were crying – the educators of the generation felt a loss in their power to influence the students. It seemed almost as if everything that was deep and integral within a Torah lifestyle, was faced with the threat of being lost.

It took the act of one individual, one Jewish soul, who didn’t care about anything except for Hashem’s Honor, to shock the nation back to its senses. According to what Chazal reveal to us[7], it was the unique soul of Eliyahu Hanavi who expressed itself through Pinchas; that unique Jewish soul who throughout the generations would not agree to tolerate the fact that the Jewish nation could slip away from their intimate relationship with their Creator[8]. It was that soul who saved the day and brought the scales back to their balance.

The Prophet Malachi[9] informs us that it will be this same unique soul of Eliyahu Hanavi who will return once again at the end of days to balance out the situation. However, this time the balance will not be achieved through one all-encompassing act. The Navi describes clearly how Eliyahu Hanavi will accomplish his mission at the end of days through: “V’haishiv lev avos al banim, v’lev banim al avosam” – his medium to reach the goal will be specifically to bridge the communication gap between parents and their children.

The soul of Eliyahu Hanavi will once again appear in a way that will bring toward bridging the gap between two generations, and this is what will put us back on the road toward Redemption.

Unfortunately today, as all things seem to just be speeding up in this “instant generation”, it has become increasingly difficult for us as parents to have effective communication with our children. To give the gift of quality time to a child - when all phones, texting and emails are off for the entire length of the conversation - may nowadays be an act that at times requires magnanimous effort. Just to find the time to speak can be challenging; how much more so is the challenge to bridge over a real gap in understanding that may surface once the conversation begins.

We know from the holy sforim, that Eliyahu Hanavi is a frequent visitor in our lives, even if we don’t see him. He visits us at every bris[10] and at every Pesach seder – and his presence has an effect on us. When nowadays any individual parent merits to break through that invisible communication barrier with their child, it may well be the result of Eliyahu Hanavi’s presence having had its effect through us.

Our teenagers are just waiting to speak to us – they wish they could be heard and understood. They come from the fifth generation of ipads and Google apps and so it seems to them that we, the parents, are speaking a totally different language.  If only we could create a truly validating atmosphere for them, one that includes undivided attention and empathy, coupled with a totally non-judgmental attitude, we may then merit experiencing a unity of the hearts that rises above and beyond any language barrier.  

It’s the type of unity that reunites us to our Unified Source and leads us on the path to real Redemption.
Notes & Sources

[1] See Taanis 9a.
[2] Bamidbar 24-14.
[3] Rashi, Ibid.
[4] Sanhedrin 106a.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Bamidbar 25-9.
[7] “Amar Rabi Shimon ben Lakish: Pinchas hu Eliyahu” – Midrash.
[8] Melachim Alef  19.
[9] Malachi 3.
[10] See Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer 28-1.
[i] As the Dean of Lev Yisrael, Rabbi Nachum Chaimowitz has spent the last decade applying his unique Torah knowledge to formulating an approach that can be appreciated by the youth of today. A recognized Belzer Dayan, he is also a speaker, and an author of several seforim with approbations from Torah giants as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef OBM, the Beis Din of Rav Wosner in Bnei Brak, and Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Schapira,OBM.