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Length: 1 hour 2 minutes
Bilaam’s prophecy is compared to Moshe Rabbeinu’s. In this shiur we analyze the difference between Moshe Rabbeinu, the prophet of the Jewish people, and Bilaam, the prophet of the nations. A prophet is a representation of the people. A Jewish prophet is compassionate, and tries to prevent people from sin, as opposed to the prophet of the nations, who brings people to sin and is destructive. Moshe is a representation of the Jewish people, whose mission statement is the desire to go back to the days of Gan Eden. On the contrary, Bilaam is self-focused, and lives in a world of taking; he represents a people who live a life expelled from Gan Eden.
Length: 47 minutes
In the second aliyah of Parshas Balak, Balak comes to Bilaam to ask him to curse the Jewish people. Hashem tells Bilaam not to go, as the Jewish people are blessed. However, Hashem eventually gives in to Bilaam’s strong desire to go. Hashem allows people to go in the way that they choose, although He does not guarantee that they will be successful, as seen clearly with Bilaam. In contrast, Avraham Avinu made his will whatever Hashem wanted, and was therefore led in the right direction according to Hashem’s wishes. We all strive to emulate Avraham Avinu, making our desires in line with Hashem’s desires for us.
Length: 54 minutes
We explore the difference between the students of Avraham Avinu and of Bilaam. The root of the three contrasting characteristics of Avraham and Bilaam is the difference between living as a giver or living in a self-centered, taking manner. We learn about this contrast through the students, not the children, because it is not simply a matter of continuing the biological genes; Avraham teaches his students to learn to continue to live in the way of Hashem. Teaching the students enables them to perpetuate the lessons to live in the way of Hashem.
Length: 51 minutes
In the third aliyah of Parshas Balak, Bilaam’s donkey speaks to him when he sees the angel blocking their path. There are many elements of the story relating to sight and speech, especially when viewed in contrast to Moshe Rabbeinu. Bilaam tries to use his power of speech to curse, and is not able to see the spirituality in front of him. On the other hand, Moshe’s ability to speak comes from his spiritual encounters with Hashem, elevating these faculties to function in relation to divine matters. We strive to use our ability of sight and speech to further spiritual goals, as opposed to Bilaam, who attempted to do the opposite.
Length: 54 minutes
In the fifth aliyah of Parshas Balak, Bilaam tries to curse Bnei Yisroel for the second time. We explore the differences in Bilaam’s attempts and discover a fundamental lesson about Hashem’s specific care and concern for the Jewish people. Bilaam tries to find a moment of Hashem’s anger, but he does not understand that a moment cannot undermine the eternity of the covenant between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. Bnei Yisroel are directly under Hashem, and as such, are above any form of sorcery.
Length: 56 minutes
In the sixth aliyah of Parshas Balak, Bilaam tries to curse Bnei Yisroel for the third time, this time saying that sorcery will not work for the Jewish people. This underscores the difference between Bilaam and Avraham Avinu. Avraham completely trusted in Hashem, and lived his life in according to what Hashem wanted from him. On the other hand, Bilaam acted in a devious and non-trusting manner, searching for the moment when he could go against Hashem’s will and curse Bnei Yisroel.
Length: 58 minutes
Moshe is the ultimate prophet of Bnei Yisroel, while Bilaam is the quintessential prophet of the nations of the world. A navi hears the words of Hashem and repeats them to his people, while a person praying says his own words to Hashem. Moshe Rabbeinu was able to speak to Hashem at any time and had a specific meeting point with Hashem, because of the love and connection that they had. A Jew does not just daven to get results, but because of the connection and pleasure of the opportunity to meet with the King of all Kings. However, when a non-Jew prays, his only wish is for his request to be fulfilled, as he does not gain anything out of the encounter.
In this series of shiurim, we learn the fundamental sefer of Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal), Derech Hashem, which contains many basic, deep hashkafos in a clear manner, building a strong foundation in order to understand the ways of Hashem in whatever capacity we are able to comprehend.
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