"Balak", the name of this week's Torah portion, was the name of a non-Jewish king who attempted to destroy the Jewish people. How can the Torah name a portion after such an evil person? The Talmud points out that Balak, the king of Moab, was the ancestor of Ruth the Moabite, who was the ancestor of King David, and from whom eventually will come the Mashiach. (Sotah 47:1)

Balak represents the transformation of darkness to light....

Thus, this lineage reveals that from a destroyer of the Jewish people will come our final redeemer, Mashiach. Balak represents the transformation of darkness to light - the turning over of the idolatrous kingdom of Moab to the sacred kingdom of David and the King Mashiach. Just as Balak was transformed from evil to good, darkness to light, so too are we reminded by his name as the Torah portion's title that if we make the effort, every obstacle can be overcome and the light revealed.


The 12th of Tammuz falls during this week. This is the date the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, was released from prison in 1927, having been jailed for encouraging his disciples to teach Judaism. The following is an adapted excerpt from what our generation's Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said about his predecessor, father-in-law, and spiritual master. The emphasis is on how a Jew serves G‑d, a task that is assisted by the guidance of a rebbe, or spiritual mentor:

There is great pleasure in using some experience or knowledge you have, especially Jewish wisdom, to illuminate and even eradicate the darkness in someone else's life. Indeed, it is not just wonderful; sometimes, to retain our perspective we need to do it...

Similarly, we sometimes must make a spiritual journey beyond ourselves. It is so easy to become sedentary, guiding our lives by old premises that may no longer apply. More than just temporarily stopping the momentum of our lives to examine where we are and where we are going, sometimes we need to totally break out of the trance, to completely escape our confines. The habits and stigmas that fill our lives are put on hold, to be re-analyzed afterwards.

The route of this journey is not one that we choose ourselves. Rather it must be on the King's Highway, the path of G‑d, the King of the world. The directions are right there, revealed to us by the Torah we study, by the rabbis in our lives, and particularly by the spiritual guide that each person must choose for him or herself.

When you travel on the King's Highway, be careful not to become a tourist....

And even when you travel on the King's Highway, be careful not to become a tourist, only seeing the sights, becoming absorbed in the scenery, standing in the middle, passive. It is crucial to push ahead, to reach our goal, to complete the journey. The purpose of the King's Highway is to lead us the capitol of the King - and eventually to the King's palace. Once in the palace, we proceed to enter the chamber of the King, and then to meet the King Himself, the Holy One, blessed be He. This is the goal of every Jew, to become one with the King. And this is the meaning of the words "The Jewish People, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He are all one".

When we are willing and ready to totally devote our lives to G‑d even for a short while, we transcend our finitude and commit ourselves to reaching the ultimate goal. Pick a mitzvah. Make it yours. Slow down and concentrate on the words you pray. Lend a helping hand and act cheerful, even when you'd rather not. By making a concerted commitment, we unify ourselves with G‑d. Our day-to-day lives reach a new level of reality, and we ourselves are transformed for the better. So, who's waiting? Start the journey! Now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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