Parshas Balak 5779
Part I. He Counts
TOO MANY JEWS FOR ME!
When Balak, the king of Moav, climbed the mountains of his land and saw the Am Yisroel camping in the nearby valley, a great fear overtook him. Millions of men, women and children, camping on his border meant trouble for the nation of Moav, and the great number of Jews caused Balak and his people much dread and consternation. וַיָּגָר מוֹאָב מִפְּנֵי הָעָם מְאֹד כִּי רַב הוּא – “Moav became very frightened of the people, because they were numerous, וַיָּקָץ מוֹאָב מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – and the people of Moav became disgusted with the Bnei Yisroel” (Balak 22:2).
It’s a common thing you’ll find by some gentiles – some Jews too – that they’re afraid of too many Jews. Someone recently showed me an article, a clipping from a certain newspaper whose name I don’t want to mention at all; certainly not in a shul. And the writer was telling that in Miami, the young orthodox Jews are increasing and multiplying. He describes a visit to a pizza shop, a kosher pizza shop, and he writes there that when he ordered a slice of pizza he had to wait thirty minutes before he was served! “That’s how crowded it was with orthodox Jews,” he said. And he quotes the rabbi of the local shul: “Once upon a time this community was dying out, but now it’s vibrant; it’s growing in leaps and bounds.” Now, the one writing the article was gritting his teeth when he was writing these words. “Young orthodox people are filling up the place,” he said. “Too many Jews,” is what he meant.
Now, in Miami, maybe there are a lot of orthodox Jews, but it’s nothing like what the machaneh Yisroel looked like. The sight was tremendous – tents as far as the eye can see, without end. Jewish tents! Filled with ultra-Orthodox Jews! And Balak was not happy with what he saw.
THE PROPHET IS INSPIRED
So what did Balak do? He called Bila’am to take a look: “Behold a nation has gone forth from Mitzrayim, and their multitudes are covering the land – right opposite me” (ibid. 22:5). “Too many Jews moving into the neighborhood,” said Balak. And so he wanted Bil’am to see the sight himself and be inspired to curse the Am Yisroel. “Please come over and see, and curse this nation for me” (ibid. 22:6).
And yet, when Bil’am looked came and looked down at the thousands of Jewish tents, his reaction was different than Balak’s – he was inspired in a very different way: כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ – “For from the highest rocks I see the Am Yisroel, and from the hills I view them” (ibid. 23:9). Unlike Balak, Bila’am was speaking b’nevuah, with prophecy, and he saw the Am Yisroel the way Hashem sees them. And therefore, instead of dread and disgust, the multitude of the Am Yisroel aroused the admiration of Bila’am. Bila’am was thinking: “Great numbers of the Am Yisroel! That’s Hashem’s joy in this world!”
The sudden appearance on the stage of history of a nation of huge multitudes that had only recently been a family of seventy souls, was something tremendous; but to actually see the huge multitudes was awe inspiring. And it was a sight that brought Bil’am to great heights of prophecy: “From the highest rocks I see them” means, “I see them through the eyes of Hashem.” The sight of the Am Hashem caused an upsurge of feeling in Bila’am which Hashem utilized as a vehicle for nevu’ah, and at that moment there came forth from the mouth of Bil’am the thoughts of Hashem.
BUT WHO’S COUNTING?
And this is what he said: מִי מָנָה – “Who counts them?” When Bila’am saw the vast numbers of the Am Yisrael, he said, מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב – “Who is counting the dust of Ya’akov, the Am Yisroel that is as numerous as the dust?” “You know who counts them?” Bila’am asked. Hashem counts them.
Hashem is always counting the Bnei Yisroel. Way back at the end of sefer Bereishis Hashem was counting, and again in the beginning of Shemos he counted the seventy Bnei Yisroel again. And as the family grew into a tribe, and then into a nation, Hashem was always keeping track of their number. You remember when the Am Yisroel came into the midbar Hashem counted them again and again. שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – “Count the entire Bnei Yisroel,” Hashem says. So מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב – “Who is it that is counting Yaakov?” It’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Hashem is counting.
Now, Hakodosh Boruch Hu knew how many Bnei Yisroel there are. He could have told Moshe Rabeinu al pi nevuah, “You have so and so many Jews – don’t waste time counting.” And yet, Hashem told him, “Count.” Again and again, we see in the chumash that Hashem wants us to count the Bnei Yisroel. And there’s good reason for that.
When we count in the Torah again and again and again, the purpose is to show that we should appreciate מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב – “Who is the real One counting?” And so the counting that was repeated so many times in the midbar was only to emphasize that Hashem is counting us all the time.
Now, that’s a question. Because why did Hashem need to count them so often? They weren’t going to war right now that they needed a count. So what’s the difference if it’s six hundred thousand or six hundred and three thousand, or six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty (Bamidbar 2:32)? It’s a big nation and finished. What’s the need to always be involved with numbers?
And the answer is that Hashem wants us to know that He desires numbers! To Hashem, each Yisroel is a very important addition! שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ – “Count the heads”, means lift them up, elevate them, because each one is very important to me. Don’t say, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews and therefore what’s the difference, one more or one less? No! שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ – “Lift up every head because each additional Chaim’l, every additional Chana’le, is important to Me,” says Hashem.
FAT JOLLY JEWS ARE A PLEASURE!
It’s a mitzvah for us to count because Hashem wants you to know that He’s counting. He wants you to count like He counts. We’re counting one-by-one; this one, and that one, and the next one; l’gilgelosom, each Jew is counted. Their heads pass by, Jewish heads, ah! Each one is a pleasure; Ah! Ah! That’s what we’re thinking, because that’s what Hashem is thinking.
Look at a Jewish face as it passes by – every single one is a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to have skinny serious Jews – it’s very important to have them. And fat jolly Jews – it’s a pleasure to have them too. Business-like Jews, they’re also pleasure. Each one is a pleasure – no question about it, and that’s why Hashem is counting us. Now, this is such an important subject that we’ll spend some time on it now.
ARE SEAPLANES A CHIDDUSH?
And we begin with the statement near the beginning of the Torah that needs explanation: וְרוּחַ אֱלֹקִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם – “And the spirit of Elokim was hovering over the waters” (Bereishis 1:2). This was way back in the beginning of time when there was no land visible yet; the earth was covered entirely with water. And the possuk appears to be suggesting that because there was no dry land, there was no place for the spirit of Elokim to rest and it was therefore hovering over the water.
However, that’s a queer thing to say because the question arises: Does it make any difference to the spirit of Elokim if underneath there’s water or land? Did it have no place to rest because it was wet underneath? Today they already have special planes, seaplanes, that can land on the water, but Hashem couldn’t rest on the ocean?! He couldn’t get his feet wet so He was waiting to move to the dry land?! That doesn’t make any sense at all; we know that. So what does He care if there’s land or water?
THE HOVERING SPIRIT
And even when Hakodosh Boruch Hu separated the land from the water, when He made the water recede into deep oceans and the land became high and dry, so you would think that now the spirit of Elokim would find a place to rest – and yet the Torah doesn’t tell us anything. Even on the dry land, the Spirit didn’t find a place. And so the question remains: For what purpose did the Torah tell us that at the beginning of time, as soon as Hakodosh Boruch Hu made this world, His ruach, His spirit, was hovering over the waters?
The answer is that already at the beginning of the Torah we are being taught a fundamental principle that is the purpose, the crux, of Creation: There is a spirit of Elokim – not Elokim, but a spirit of Elokim – today we call it Shechina, the Presence of Hashem. And that spirit was mirachefess, it wasmade to hover over the waters because it was looking for a place to rest. Hashem said, “Wait. Wait. The time will come when the Shechina will find a place to rest. But I’m telling you this possuk because I want you to know that the Shechina is waiting for a place to rest; it’s hovering, waiting to find its makom menucha.”
FINDING THE PERFECT MAN
And even when the days of creation came to an end, the ruach Elokim continued to wait. Because the purpose of Creation wasn’t shamayim va’aretz. Andit wasn’t the large continents or the animal and plant kingdoms. And it wasn’t even Man! Hakodosh Boruch Hu was waiting for a certain man, for the person who would build a family and a nation that would seek to know Him.
And until that group of people would appear, His spirit would continue to hover. Mirachefess al pnei hamayim, means that the Shechina would not settle until the perfect people would enter onto the world stage. That’s what the Torah is telling us in the beginning of the Torah; that Hakodosh Boruch Hu made this world for the purpose that His spirit should rest on something in this world.
And so Hashem waited and waited. עֲשָׂרָה דּוֹרוֹת מֵאָדָם עַד נֹחַ – There were ten generations of great people from Adam Harishon until Noach, and still nothing. There were already big cities then, large metropolises as well as tribes and nations – and yet the ruach was still mirachefess, it still hovered. And even when the family of Noach came and went, the Shechina continued to hover and wait as ten more generations passed.
And then, finally, the perfect man came onto the scene. Avraham Avinu came, וְנָטַל שְׂכַר כֻּלָּם – and he took the reward of all the previous generations. What reward did he take? He was rewarded by being told that it would be on his progenitors that the Shechina would come to rest – the hovering would finally come to an end. When Avraham came along and chose to recognize Hashem, that’s when Hashem said, “Here’s My man!” and at that point the die was cast – the hovering ruach Elokim had found its place anditwould soon come to rest on the seed of Avraham forever.
THE GIANTS LOSE OUT
Avraham Avinu after all was the founder of our nation and that means that he created the place for the Shechina to finally rest; it’s in his merit that the ruach Elokim finally ceased to hover in limbo. Even the Torah was given b’zchus Avraham Avinu. The medrash (Shemos Rabbah 28) says that: לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת בָּאָדָם – “You Moshe Rabeinu, you received the gift of Torah, ba’adam, because of a certain man. And who was that person? The אָדָם הַגָּדוֹל בָּעֲנָקִים – the great man, the giant among giants, Avraham Avinu.” Because of the zchus of Avraham, the Am Yisroel became the chosen people; it was because of this giant of a man that we received the Torah and the Shechina came to rest upon us.
And yet, it’s interesting to note that Avraham and his family were not zoicheh to kabolas hatorah – they didn’t have the opportunity to witness the Torah being given. That’s something to think about: Why didn’t Hashem appear openly to Avraham Avinu and give him the Torah? Why didn’t the Avos hear Hashem say, אָנֹכִי הַשֵּׁם אֱלֹקֶיךָ – “I am Hashem, your G-d.” Those great men who made themselves worthy of creating a nation upon whom the Shechina would finally rest, weren’t they worthy of hearing the Aseress Hadibros and receiving the Torah?
EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON THE NUMBERS
And the answer is that as great as the Avos were, Hashem is interested in numbers. מִי מָנָה – “Who is counting the numbers of the Am Yisroel?” asked Bila’am. Hashem! He’s counting; one, two, three, four; he’s counting the Am Yisroel because His Shechina depends on numbers! It’s the numbers of the Am Yisroel that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants. And so, although the Avos lived lives of absolute dedication to Hashem, the Shechina couldn’t come down yet. Of course, there was a certain Shechina on them, but the intensity of Shechina that Hashem wanted to rest in this world, couldn’t yet find its resting place.
Now, we understand that the Shechina doesn’t need throngs of people upon whom to rest. Of course the Shechina can rest on ten tzaddikim, on fifty tzaddikim. Absolutely! And it does. Even if one Jew is sitting in his house learning Torah, the Shechina is there, absolutely. Let’s say you happen to pass by and you look through the window – don’t do it by the way; when you pass by don’t look in any windows – but let’s say by accident you looked in, so you have to know that the Shechina is over that man’s head. The Shechina is actually over his head!
DON’T READ TORAS AVIGDOR FOR THE JOKES!
But the intensity of the Presence of Hashem requires numbers; and the more the better! Everybody knows that when ten Jews come together, the Shechina is present – כָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא – “On ten Jews gathered together the Presence of Hashem rests” (Sanhedrin 39a). Hashem loves when ten Jews come together and that’s why He comes to be present as well. You hear that? When ten frum Jews come together – like right here, even more than ten people came together here – the Shechina is actually here.
You have to believe b’emunah sheleima that the Shechina rests where ten kosher Jews come together. We’re all kosher Jews here, boruch Hashem. And we came together not for the purpose of hearing jokes, entertainment; we came here to learn Torah, so the Shechina is with us. You have to work on that; you have to work on getting that awareness. It’s a shleimus, a perfection, to think that way. Think about it until it becomes part of your mindset, to feel that the Shechina is where frum Jews come together.
When you see a mother pushing a baby carriage in the street, and children running alongside holding on to the carriage – there’s not enough room on the sides for all their little hands – you have to understand that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking at them with the utmost adoration. Because that’s the place where the purpose of the world is fulfilled – that’s the place where the Shechina is coming to rest; on that family and on the families that will come from those children. That’s how important it is. When you see a Jewish family you have to look at them with the greatest derech eretz because they’re the ones who are who are bringing down the Shechina.
THE UPCOMING SIYUM HASHAS
But suppose you would have more than that. Suppose you have twenty two thousand Jews all together in one place – there’s a much stronger Shechina; a special profusion of Shechina comes down. אֵין הַשְּׁכִינָה שׁוֹרֶה עַל פָּחוֹת מִשְּׁנֵי אֲלָפִים וּשְׁנֵי רְבָבוֹת מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל – Twenty two thousand Jews is an entirely different kind of a Shechina (Yevamos 64a). That’s what Moshe Rabbeinu said (Bamidbar 10:36), שׁוּבָה הַשֵּׁם רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – it means, come to rest, Hashem, on the ten thousands and thousands of Yisroel. That’s twenty two thousand. Why does he mention the number ten thousands and thousands? Say, “He rests on the Am Yisroel”? The answer is, that’s why He comes to rest on them. A special kind of Shechina rests on big numbers – as a result of their numerical superiority, the more there are, the closer He comes to them.
You remember when twenty thousand Jews came together for the Siyum Hashas, it was a very big experience. The New York Times didn’t report about it – they couldn’t report about it because it hurt them to no end. It killed them to see such a thing; it murdered them. Kein yirbu! Boruch Hashem! Twenty thousand Jews getting together is wonderful. Or when twenty thousand Jews get together let’s say at a certain rebbeh’s chasuna. Twenty thousand Jews coming together for a chassidishe chasuna! Dancing and singing with music – the simcha, the chedva is indescribable. And the biggest happiness of all is that the Shechina is there with an intensity that’s hard to imagine.
Now, the Mesillas Yesharim says in one of his seforim – not in the Mesillas Yesharim; in his Derech Hashem (2, 4:5) – that when the six hundred thousand Jews gathered around Har Sinai with their families, – so it was more than two million Jews – that’s when the Shechina came down in a profusion and the Torah was given. וַיֵּרֶד הַשֵּׁם עַל הַר סִינַי – “Hashem came down on Har Sinai.” That was the time when Hakodosh Boruch Hu showed Himself most openly. He came down with His Shechina in the greatest possible manner, more than any time previously. Because there was such a big number of them, that’s why the Shechina showed itself more strongly than in all of previous history.
Part II. We Count
THE SHECHINA WON’T REST ON STONES
Now, this subject we’re going to study a little more because it’s of utmost importance. And the truth is that as much thought as we’ll invest into this idea, it won’t be enough – it’s an idea so tremendous that it should be on our minds always.
You remember when Hakodosh Boruch Hu told Avraham Avinu that he was the chosen one – the one who would create the chosen people – so He said like this: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹקִים וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ – “I am making a covenant with you to be an Elokim for you and for your children after you” (Bereishis 17:7). The gemara (Yevamos 64a) says that Hashem was telling Avraham Avinu, “I’m looking for your children because as many descendants as you have, in proportion to that number, I will keep My covenant to be your Elokim. Because, עַל מִי שׁוֹרֶה – “On whom is the Shechina going to rest?” עַל הָעֵצִים וְעַל הָאֲבָנִים – “Can it rest on stones, on the sidewalk, and on the lampposts? It has to rest on people!”
And that’s why the ruach Elokim finally ceased to hover over the waters only when the Am Yisroel came into existence. When we became a Nation, the spirit of Hashem came down and rested upon us – and it’s still there to this day. It’s of utmost importance to understand that the ruach Elokim is now upon us. Yes, upon us. Each one of us – men, women, children – our heads are supporting the ruach Elokim, because the grand finale of that possuk, וְרוּחַ אֱלֹקִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם, came with the creation of the Am Yisroel. And it will never move away from us. Once the Am Yisroel was chosen, the Shechina won’t rest on any other people. Not the Americans, or the Dutch, not the Hottentots or the Zulus – nobody except for the Am Yisroel.
HASHEM LOVES NUMBERS
Now, you have to get this into your mind, that the Shechina is here. Forget about philosophy; forget about what Hakodosh Boruch Hu really is – all that is l’maalah, it’s above our ability to explain. What we care about is what He has revealed to us. And He tells us that even though He is מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ, even though He is everywhere, still, He makes His Presence more intense in some places than in others – and it is most intense among the numbers of the Am Yisroel.
And that’s why Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants more Bnei Yisroel – because His kavanah is that the Shechina should spread in the world as much as possible! Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants the afar Ya’akov to increase without end because the Shechina rests on the Am Yisroel in proportion to the mispar Bnei Yisroel.When you have more Jews present, Hakodosh Boruch Hu is concentrating his Shechina on a greater level – the more of us there are, the more the Shechina comes down. There’s a presence that’s more palpable – you can feel it more. And therefore, Hashem is not satisfied with two million – He wants more and more!
THE TROOPS COME TO WILLIAMSBURG
And so if we see a big number of Jews someplace, let’s say you go through Boro Park or Williamsburg or other places, Me’ah Shearim, Bnei Brak, and you see big numbers of frum Jews – it’s a pleasure to see them because the Shechina is there. When you have a few Jews who are devoted to Torah and yiras shamayim, that’s very good; it’s excellent! But when you have troops and troops of Jews – men and women, boys and girls, all frum, that’s already something different altogether.
The Shechina could rest in a sparse way, or in abundance, and it’s the ribuy, the multiplication of the number of Jews, that makes it most abundant. And that’s why we’re so happy that the number of frum Jews, baruch Hashem, is increasing and multiplying. No question about that! Here’s a big truck, a block long, rolling down the street, with big letters on the side: Chalav Yisroel. Who’s it for? For the Italians? For the Chinese? No, it’s for the ribuy of the Am Yisroel.
And the driver is a frum Jew with payos. A Jew with payos is the driver! It’s a pleasure to see such sights! And frum Jewish products, mehadrin l’mehadrin, are increasing. Everywhere today, we find kosher products spreading. We’re happy, but we should be even more happy because that’s a nachas that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is having. He’s happy when He sees frum Jews come together because that means that He has where to rest His Presence in this world.
BE HAPPY IN THE CROWD
And so when you see a number of Jews, a bigger number, we should be happy because Hakodosh Boruch Hu is happy. Did you ever think about that when you see crowded Jewish streets? Hashem is thinking that all the time; at least once in your life you should think about it!
The more Jews Hashem sees, the happier He is. When He sees ten Jews come together, He’s happy. כָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא – Hashem is happy with them. When he sees 22,000 Jews, he’s even happier. שׁוּבָה הַשֵּׁם רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Two times ten thousand and two thousand, that’s 22,000 and it’s a great happiness for Hashem. And when He sees 600,000 Jews, then He’s ecstatic and וַיֵּרֶד הַשֵּׁם עַל הַר סִינַי – even more Shechina.
And if Hashem loves to count us; if He’s happy when He sees the numbers of the Am Yisroel, so we have to think along with Him and be happy too. We have to know that this is a very big simcha for us; it’s a big happiness. And therefore, when you see a Jewish neighborhood, full of Jews, when you walk in the streets and you see Jews – of course frum Jews is what we’re looking for – houses and houses, blocks and blocks of shomrei Torah, it’s a happiness for us. We have to feel it’s our possession, our wealth, because it means that the Shechina is shoreh b’Yisroel. Wherever you go, if you see signs that the Orthodox population, the frum population, is increasing, baruch Hashem. It’s a happiness for us.
DO GOYIM EAT CHALLAH?
You walk out on the street Friday, tomorrow, and you’ll see buses coming from all directions bringing boys from the yeshivos, bringing girls from the Beis Yankev – buses and buses on all sides, baruch Hashem! Everybody is hurrying home for Shabbos; mobs of frum girls with long dresses, frum girls coming home for Shabbos.
The place is bursting with people shopping, preparing for Shabbos. Baruch Hashem! Beautiful challos in the store windows. Who’s eating all those challos? It’s not for the goyim! It’s for the afar Yaakov, for the mispar bnei Yisroel.
So when you walk down the streets of Williamsburg or the streets of Boro Park where frum Jews live, or if you walk on certain blocks in Crown Heights or in Flatbush where frum Jews live, you should feel a great happiness. We’re happy because we know that the Shechina is resting on these kehillos more and more in proportion to the numbers that they increase. Train yourself to think that way and you’re emulating the thoughts of Hashem.
THE HOLY LAND IN BROOKLYN
Now, I don’t know what out of towners think, but the truth is that I’m not interested. I’ll tell you what I think! The heart of Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in Boro Park. It’s in Williamsburg and in Crown Heights and in Lakewood. It’s in all the places where the frum Jews live. I’m מֵעִיד עַל עַצְמִי, I can testify about myself that whenever I walk in Boro Park, I walk with the greatest derech eretz. I say to myself, “I’m walking on admas kodesh, on holy ground.
You Boro Parkers have to think about that! As you walk in the streets of Boro Park, houses and houses, there are blocks and blocks of shomrei Torah u’mitzvos. It’s a place of kedusha; it’s holy ground. One mezuzah, another mezuzah, another one; there’s no end to the mezuzos! And when you look up to the roofs – no antennas, no television! Even the roofs are holy in Boro Park! And that’s why the Shechina is not hovering anymore – it settled over the homes in Boro Park. Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh. Big mezuzos on every door; frum men, frum women, frum children, boys and girls. When I’m in Boro Park, I always say, “The Shechina is in Boro Park.” I’m not doing it to make a remark, to show off. It’s an expression of emunah, it’s how a person creates a Torah mind.
GOOD OLD WILLIAMSBURG
Of course, I personally say – and I’m not partial – I say that the very best place is Williamsburg. Because Williamsburg Jews are closest to the old European, original type of frum Jew. Now, it doesn’t mean that Europe was full of frum Jews. Europe before the war was full of assimilationists, reformists and meshumadim. But the real old type, they settled in Williamsburg now, and they are the ones who still have the flavor of the tradition from the old generations.
Ride through Williamsburg and you see frum Jews on all sides. Boruch Hashem the Shechina is shoreh b’Yisroel! It’s actually the case and if you want to be a ma’amin, you have to train yourself to have a hargasha chushis, a sensory feeling of perception that the Shechina is among the frum Jews.
DIVERSITY IN FLATBUSH
Flatbush too! Someone told me that a newspaper had an article saying that Flatbush is full of Orthodox Jews now and it’s bursting at the seams. That’s what the newspapers say, it’s bursting. The Syrian community brought thousands of Syrian Jews here to settle. We’re jammed with Russian Jews, and a lot of Israelis too.
If you go up, high up, to certain districts on Bedford Avenue, you see palatial homes, each home like a palace with big mezuzos. And you think, “Who lives there?” And then you see a boy coming out with a black hat and long tzitzis. That’s a happiness! Streets and streets inhabited by frum Jews – baruch Hashem, they’re spreading everywhere. It’s a pleasure. And we must know that this is not merely a pleasure for us, kavyachol, it’s a pleasure for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Hakodosh Boruch Hu has a tremendous nachas ruach when he sees the Orthodox Jews increasing.
THE SHECHINA DOESN’T LIKE EARRINGS
Of course, Am Yisroel means shomrei mitzvos. Reformers are not a resting place for the Shechina. Only people who keep the Torah, that’s where the Shechina is. Those Jews who like to drift after the goyim, they’re not helping us with their numbers. Go to some places in Tel Aviv, and they’re wearing earrings. Men are wearing earrings! You know, the Arab who blew himself up in the last explosion wanted to disguise himself like an Israeli, so they shouldn’t know it’s a terrorist. So what did he do? He put an earring in his ear to show that he’s an Israeli. That’s a chilul Hashem! A mishkav zachar man – that’s an Israeli?! It’s a terrible thing! Terrible! I saw a picture of the rescue workers who came to rescue the wounded people; they came, men with long hair down their shoulders. That’s a Jew, with long hair? Big long hair down their shoulders! Even in New York, it’s something that’s hard to see. Such long hair! That’s not the people the Shechina will come to rest upon. It’s the Jews who are proud of showing that they’re Jews, those are the Jews who are upholding the Shechina in the world.
Of course, it’s not enough yet. Toronto is full of frum Jews. Baltimore, Philadelphia, even Passaic. Wherever you go today, kehilos are growing. But we want the whole America to be jammed with frum Jews, because the more they increase, the happier Hakodosh Boruch Hu is.
Of course, our enemies are unhappy – you have to know that. Because they don’t see what Bila’am saw; they don’t see the Shechina; they see with the eyes of Balak and he was very unhappy when he saw us. He was disgusted! And today too, very many are unhappy. Boruch Hashem, they’re very unhappy. They see the ribuy of the Am Yisroel and their eyes are popping out of their heads. Let their eyes fall out! Let them grit their teeth till their teeth fall out! The Shechina is shoreh b’Yisroel!
Part III. Mothers Count
HASHEM’S MATERNITY WARD
Now, let us not underestimate the prophetic words of Bila’am when he looked out at the millions of Jews camped at the edge of Moav, because it was said for a purpose. מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב – “Who is counting the dust of Yaakov, the numbers of the Am Yisroel?” Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the one who counts. וּמִסְפָּר אֶת רֹבַע יִשְׂרָאֵל – He’s the One who numbers the rova of Yisroel” (Bamidbar 23:10).
Now, rova is a queer word. Rova in lashon kodesh refers to the union of the parents and the birth of a child. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu is counting that – He is intensely interested when a man and a woman come together in marriage. He’s watching and waiting. He’s expecting to have the greatest nachas – and that is the birth of a child. And here Bila’am declared, al pi Hashem, the immensity of the stature of the Jewish nation. His prophecy teaches that every additional child is of the greatest importance to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is intensely interested in the birth of a Jewish child.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A CHUPPAH
And so we learn how very important is this event, when the chosson puts a ring on the finger of his kallah. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking on. He’s watching, He’s hovering, waiting. We must get that into our heads how important that moment is – it’s kodesh, it’s so holy. The Shechina is present and Hashem is counting. He’s waiting, he’s counting. מִסְפָּר אֶת רֹבַע יִשְׂרָאֵל – Hashem is waiting for that. Because that’s the most important function of marriage – to bring Jews into this world.
I met a chosson on the street today. He was walking with a shomer and he told me that he was getting married tonight, so we’ll take him as an example. That chosson and his kallah are being married tonight, b’sha’ah tovah u’mutzlachas. We wish them kol tuv and bracha v’hatzlacha. They should live long, they should have beautiful children and parnassah b’revach. He should learn Torah b’hatzlacha, she should be matzliach in cooking wonderful meals and being an excellent wife. There should be shalom bayis always – every good thing they should have!
So now it’s the chuppah; here’s the chosson and the kallah – and they’re all confused. She’s thinking if her new sheitel is sitting right or not. He’s worried about other things. Where is the ring? Is his tie straight? He’s thinking that he might make a mistake and not say the words right. Whatever it is, they’re not thinking about making a place for the Shechina in this world.
But at least we should be thinking how great is their function now! They’re coming together to bring Hakodosh Boruch Hu into this world. And that’s why He’s right there under the chuppah with them! How immense is that holiness of that moment – it’s the beginning of bringing more of the Shechina down to this world!
SEMINARIES AND KOLLELIM
And so we begin to understand now the greatness of all the frum women of the Am Yisroel who were trained in the tradition of having many children. It’s not a new tradition but when I was in Europe, unfortunately the tradition had died out. In America, it was kindled anew this idea that Jewish women are the builders of our nation.
Rebbetzin Kaplan, who founded the first girls’ seminary, no question, she had a very important role in bringing the Shechina to America. She had fourteen children of her own, and she taught thousands of girls to have big families. She raised up doros, not only of teachers, but of balabustehs, who brought up frum families of bnei Torah. Rav Aaron Kotler zichrono l’vracha said that without Rebbetzin Kaplan the kollelim couldn’t exist in America. She prepared girls who wanted to marry kollel boys.
Women are having children today, sometimes very large families, and they’re increasing and multiplying. And it’s because of the zchus of these nashim tzidkaniyos, that the Shechina is dwelling on our people today. Things are happening today, things we never dreamed would happen in America, because the nashim are walking in the footsteps of our great Imahos.
TEDDY BEAR JEALOUSY
At the end of the Megillas Rus, when Boaz married Rus and a child was born, so the women gave a blessing that Rus should be like Rochel and Leah: כְּרָחֵל וּכְלֵאָה אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ שְׁתֵּיהֶם אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל – “who built the house of Yisroel” (4:11). So now you know what Rochel and Leah were thinking about when they were building a family – they were building the house of Yisrael.
Not like today, you have some people, when they see someone who has, let’s say, two children, and they have only one child, so they might get jealous. But what type of jealousy is it, after all? It’s like a child who has two teddy bears and the other child has only one teddy bear. So what’s there to be jealous about? The difference between one teddy bear and two teddy bears is so much more garbage. What’s a teddy bear? It’s nothing but rags stuffed with sawdust inside. And yet, children are jealous of teddy bears. So she sees this woman has two children and she only has one, she’s jealous in a teddy bear fashion. But that wasn’t Rochel and Leah – they understood what it meant to have a child.
A child means that you’re building the Beis Yisroel. And building the house of Yisroel, we have to know, means the creation of the resting place that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is choosing in his world. And so, anyone who has a bigger share in building the house of Yisroel has a bigger chelek in the great achievement of bringing the Shechina to rest in the world.
CHAVA’S FIRST THOUGHT
Actually, this idea of bringing children into the world for Hashem, is a tradition that has been handed down from our first mother. When Chava gave birth the first time, so she made a declaration that’s in the chumash. It’s very important to listen to Chava’s words – after all, as far as Hashem tells us, these are the first words ever said after the birth of a child.
What did Chava say about that child? קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת הַשֵּׁם (Bereishis 4:1). Now, there are many peirushim in the Rishonim and Chava meant all of them. Chava was big enough to understand all of them.
But right now we’ll only mention one of them, the peirush that we need to hear for our subject. You may have heard this before but I’ll say it anyhow; קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת הַשֵּׁם – “I have acquired a man for Hashem.” Chava was saying, it’s not just a teddy bear, not just a child – “I brought someone into the world who will be a place for the Shechina to rest. I brought someone else, a new servant, for Hashem” And therefore a mother that has a child, as much as she can she should be thinking: “I’m serving Hashem. I’m doing it for Him, so that there should be more place for the Shechina to rest.”
It’s not so easy. בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים – it’s a painful process, but on the contrary, anything that’s more difficult, the reward is bigger. And since having children is not so easy, the schar is very great. It’s a tremendous zchus. Of course, it’s difficult having children and raising children. But with some idealism, with some thinking, it becomes the most important thing in the world. You’re raising children and you’re filling the world.
Now, there’s no doubt that a mother who is raising frum children is doing much more than bringing the Shechina down to this world. She’s also building herself! Her whole personality is improving – no question. She becomes an unselfish person. Raising a child is like learning a mussar sefer – only better. All day long, she’s working on the middah of chesed. Chesed and chesed all day long; and then more chesed all night as well. She nurses her baby. She had to carry around this baby around for a long time and then she’s nursing the baby, and for years and years she takes care of the baby. And even when it’s a big child and a bigger child; it never ends. Even a grandmother still worries about her children and grandchildren – it’s kulo chesed, kulo chesed, kulo chesed!
That woman will step out of this world into Olam Haba a perfect creature, because she’s been ironed out. All the wrinkles of selfishness has been ironed out. Plenty times she loses sleep because the child was crying. Many times the child wanted something and she had to spend time playing with the child when she had work to do. So she ironed out all the wrinkles in her character and built herself up in this world. So a mother, in her little home, her little humble house, is building something tremendous from herself.
AND BUILDING THE WORLD
But there is a second building that she is doing – she is building up the world. The world should be grateful to her. You walk into a shul, a Beis Haknesses and you see a minyan full of talmidei chachamim, frum Jews – where did they come from? The mothers brought them up! The mother took them to the bathroom when they were little boys! The mothers fed them with a spoon when they were little children! The mothers stayed up with them at night and gave their lives for their children up. אֲשֶׁר טִפַּחְתִּי וְרִבִּיתִי – “I brought him up inch by inch,” the mother says (Eichah 2:22). And that means that it’s the mothers who are bringing the Shechina into this world.
The mothers are not in the beis haknesses. They’re not in the yeshiva, not in the kollel; but the mothers are the ones who have the credit of building up these yeshivos, and the batei knessios. Walk on the street, you see frum Jews, black hats and shtreimlach and beards. Don’t forget that it was the mothers who brought them up and those mothers get full credit for all the achievement of bringing the Shechina down to this world.
NINE POUNDS OF IMPORTANCE
Recently, I met a young woman who had a child, a little boy. “Mazel Tov,” I said. I looked at the boy, “How much did he weigh?”
“Ooh, that’s wonderful,” I said, “Quantity plus quality.” Nine pounds of a Jew is more important than seven or eight pounds. You think it’s a joke. No, it’s not a joke. Quality, you already know. This boy comes from parents. His father comes from a line of rabbanim. His mother, a line of rabbanim. And even if not, he’ll go to the cheder, to the yeshiva I’m sure he’ll get a very good Torah upbringing, so quality will be there. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu is especially happy because he weighs nine pounds – He counts that too!
THE TINY LITTLE WOMAN CHANGES THE WORLD
I once went to be menachem avel. A rebbe passed away, a rebbe of a little Beis Hamedrash passed away and I went to the home. His widow was sitting there, a little woman, a tiny little woman. But I saw her sons. Big sons, big chassidishe men, a whole row of them; a whole row of sons from that little woman. Impressive looking men! And I was thinking, “What a big achievement this woman accomplished.” Each one could be a rebbe on his own. Probably they were! That’s an achievement! She and her husband lived for a purpose! No question about it; they lived for the purpose of the Shechina.
Now, when they got married, I’m sure they didn’t understand that fully. I’m sure that her husband was a fine man, a talmid chacham, and I’m sure they married b’kdusha u’vtehara, l’sheim Shamayim; but even so, they could never understand the greatness of the achievement of the hashra’as ha’Shechina. Such a family! Arzei levanon! Adirei Hatorah, beautiful men, all ovdei Hashem. That’s what it means to get married – you’re making a place for the Shechina to come to rest in this world.
And so, those prophetic words of Bil’am, מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב וּמִסְפָּר אֶת רֹבַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, are actually one of the most fundamental principles of this world – we’re learning that the Shechina rests among the multitudes of Yaakov and the mispar of the rova Yisroel.
The Shechina is actually here and you have to believe that b’emunah sh’leima. Think about it until it becomes part of your mindset – you should actually feel that the Shechina is where frum Jews come together. Of course you won’t see it – you’ll never see it unless you work very hard and you train yourself to understand that it’s the truth, that the Shechina has settled on the numbers of the Am Yisroel. You have to spend time on it. It’s not poetry; it’s not a form of speech. It’s a matter of emunah and like all aspects of emunah it takes work.
It’s something you have to practice; you have to take it seriously and work on it. And הַבָּא לְטַהֵר מְסַיְּעִין לוֹ – you’ll succeed eventually. You should never forget this tremendous truth that the שְׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל – that the Presence of Hashem is by us. It’s one of the most important things to be aware of – that the Shechina is resting on our nation. Right here, right now, the Shechina is resting over us. Boruch Hashem, He’s here!