Thursday, July 6, 2017

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM

Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM

At the end of last week’s Parsha, we find Moshe (Moses) having an anxious day. He was about to wage war against Og, king of the Bashanites, and he was afraid. After all, Og had long ago done a favor for Abraham, informing him of his nephew Lot's kidnapping, and Moshe was afraid that this good deed would stand Og in good stead and turn the tide of victory against the Jewish people.

Although afraid "in his heart," Moshe put on a brave face. "Righteous people are in control of their hearts", the Midrash tells us. There was nothing to gain by sharing his worries with the people, so he kept them to himself.

The result: the Jewish people were calm and relaxed, and indeed, were victorious in battle.

On the flip side:

This week’s Torah portion Balak (Bamidbor [Numbers] 22:2-25:9) tells us about Balak, king of Moab, who was having a bad day. The Moab State Department had just sent him a memo that the two mighty kings in the region, Og, king of Bashan and Sichon, king of Emori, had been totally defeated by the invading Hebrews. "And Balak saw all that the Jews have done to the Emorites etc."

Consumed with panic, he called a press conference. With a pale face and broken voice, he broke the news of the invasion to all the citizens of Moab, hyping them up about the "Jewish problem." The heart was in control of the mind.

The result: "And [the nation of] Moab was afraid."

What was there to gain by terrifying the people? Nada. The people of Moab didn't take up arms or send messengers of peace. They just sat at home biting their nails.

Although Balak and his advisors did summon the prophet Bilam to curse the Jews, that had nothing to do with the rest of the citizens of Moab! So why did Balak frighten his nation? 

"Wicked people are in the control of their hearts."

Our emotions are who we are. They can either turn molehills into mountains, causing us to lose control and creating unhealthy emotions such as hate and jealousy - Balak.

Or, when controlled by the mind, they can fill us with healthy emotions such as love and devotion to G‑d, family, community - Moshe.

Let's be a Moshe. As the expression goes - Think Good (and) It Will Be Good טראכט גוט, וועט זיין גוט!  

(Excerpts from - Rabbi Levi Avtzon)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at

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