Balak 5777

RABBI ZEV MEISELS

כל מי שיש בידו שלשה דברים הללו, מתלמידיו של אברהם אבינו. ושלשה דברים אחרים,
מתלמידיו של בלעם הרשע. עין טובה, ורוח נמוכה, ונפש שפלה, מתלמידיו של אברהם אבינו.
עין רעה, ורוח גבוהה, ונפש רחבה, מתלמידיו של בלעם הרשע (אבות ה:יט)

There are three character traits in the students of Avraham, and there are three opposite character traits
in the students of Bilaam. A good eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul are the traits of the students of Avraham. An evil eye, an arrogant spirit, and a greedy soul are the traits of the students
of Bilaam (Avos 5:19)

When learning Parshas Balak, one cannot help but notice the detail to which the Torah recounts the story. The Vilna Gaon points out that in the course of the story, Bilaam was tested by Hashem ten times, and in contrast to Avraham Avinu, who passed all of the tests Hashem gave him, he failed each time.
The first test is when Hashem told him not to go curse Bnei Yisrael. לא תלך עמהם, לא תאר את העם כי ברוך הוא (במדבר כב:יב). Bilaam was told in no uncertain terms not to go with (the messengers of Balak) and not to curse (the Jews) because they are blessed. Instead of faithfully relating Hashem’s message to Balak, Bilaam implies that he cannot go with the current group of messengers and more important ones should be sent. Bilaam’s bad Middos prevented him from accepting Hashem’s will, and he constantly tried to circumvent it.
The second test came when Hashem told Bilaam that if he wanted to go with the messengers he could, but he would not be able to curse. Again Bilaam ignored the directive of Hashem and went with great enthusiasm with the intent to curse.
The third, fourth, and fifth tests were when Bilaam’s donkey acted strangely and veered off the path. When a sensitive thinking person sees unusual things happening to him, he must ask himself if these are not messages from Hashem that he is doing the wrong thing. Bilaam again pressed on without a second thought.
The sixth test came when his donkey began to speak! An astounding episode like that ought to make anyone stop in his tracks! But Bilaam, with his single-minded devotion to furthering his agenda, continued to ignore Hashem.
The seventh time was when Hashem opened his eyes and Bilaam saw the angel in front of him. The angel rebuked him for hitting his donkey and for not taking the signs that he was doing wrong. Once again, Bilaam excused himself, claiming that he didn’t realize that the angel was there; he looked for a way to continue on his way to curse the Jews.
The eighth, ninth, and tenth tests are the three times Bilaam brought Korbanos. Each time he hoped he would find some way that Hashem would allow him to do his own will and not Hashem’s.
This is the message the Mishna brings out. There are two schools, the school of Avraham and that of Bilaam. In Avraham’s, where good Middos are practiced, a person bows and bends to the will of Hashem, taking him higher and higher. In the school of Bilaam, where gaivah and taivah reign, even a person with immense spiritual powers will fight Hashem’s will and sink to the lowest of the low.


Hilchos Tefillas HaDerech
by Rabbi Moshe Pinchasi

Whether it is a family trip, camping trip, heading upstate or even touring Eretz Yisrael, many of us plan to hit the road this summer. A recent AAA survey found that nearly 56 percent of U.S. drivers are planning a road trip this summer, taking advantage of the lowest gas prices since 2005. However, the same survey found that nearly 70 percent of drivers are concerned about the condition of U.S. roads for their trip.
“With a record 38 million Americans traveling this past Memorial Day weekend and more expected over the course of the summer, it is important that roads are safe,” said Jill Ingrassia, AAA Managing Director of Government Relations & Traffic Safety Advocacy. “An estimated $170 billion per year in additional funding is still needed to significantly improve America’s crumbling roads and bridges.”
While safe roads and safe driving are essential in ensuring our safety this summer season, Chazal give us another tool to help protect us from potential harm: Tefillas HaDerech. This article will examine the various Halachos pertaining to Tefillas HaDerech.
The Proper Nusach
The Gemara in Brachos states that when one embarks on a journey that is more than 72 minutes long, one must recite the special prayer known as “Tefillas HaDerech.” This Tefilla must be recited in a “Lashon Rabbim” – a plural form – in order that it should be more accepted, as the traveler is counting himself with the Tzibbur.
The Nusach, quoted in the Gemara, ends with the words: “Boruch Ata Hashem, Shomea Tefilla.” Although this Tefilla does not begin with the usual “Boruch Ata Hashem” – which is found in the beginning of most Berachos – it nevertheless ends with “Boruch Ata Hashem”.
A Blessing or a Prayer?
There is a debate in the Rishonim why this Tefilla is different than other Berachos which begin with “Boruch Ata Hashem”. According to Tosafos this is because it is only a praise and a prayer – just like Elokai Neshama – and therefore it is not like other Berachos which begin with “Boruch”. According to Rabbeinu Yona this is because Tefillas HaDerech ends with “Shomea Tefilla”, which is also the signature of one of the Berachos in Shemonei Esrei. Since in Shemonei Esrei this Beracha follows another Beracha – in which case we do not begin the Beracha with “Boruch” – therefore whenever we recite this expression of Beracha we do not start with Boruch.
The center of this debate seems to be whether Tefillas HaDerech is considered to be a Beracha or a Tefilla. According to Tosafos it is a Tefilla, and is therefore not subject to the general rules of Berachos, whereas according to Rabbeinu Yona, it is just like any other Beracha.
This discussion would have some practical Halachic implications. There is a general discussion in the Rishonim whether it is preferable to recite any Beracha that does not begin with Boruch immediately following another Beracha – so that the “Boruch” of the first Beracha will also attach to the second. Whereas the Tur holds that one can recite the Tefillas HaDerech on its own, following the logic of Tosafos that it is a Tefilla, the Shulchan Aruch cites the Maharam M’Rottenburg, who would recite Tefillas HaDerech immediately following Birkos HaShachar (after “HaGomel Chassodim Tovim”) to fulfill the aforementioned opinions regarding Berachos.