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Parshas Balak

Degree of “Siata d’Shemaya”

By Rabbi Label Lam

How goodly are your tents Yaakov, your dwelling places Israel… (Bamidbar 24:5)

Everyone knows Bilam was a very bad guy but his glowing words about the Jewish People words are canonized and etched for perpetuity in Torah. How did such a thing happen? How did bad become good!

King Solomon writes, “HASHEM made everything for His praise-even the wicked man for the day of evil. (Mishlei 16:4) We are being instructed that nothing in this world is vacant of meaning or value. The universe is densely packed with purpose. Even things that seem intensely counter-productive are also utterly and ultimately good. After all if he or it exists in HASHEM’s world, it is an extension and a manifestation of Divine Will and it must be for some reason even if we do not see the value right now.

Maybe this is what the Mishne in Pirke Avos means to tell us when it quotes Ben Azzai: “He would also say: Do not scorn any man, and do not discount any-thing; For there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.” Everybody and everything has its time and place and reason for being.

This past week I had the privilege to charge a class of graduates. I took the opportunity to offer my simple blessing based on the following story I heard from someone who is a giant Talmud scholar and a Rebbe of mine: It was a rather recent occurrence that had roots reaching back more than six decades. When he was a young boy he was strolling with his father in the country. With them was a European man, a German businessman who had just returned from the Midwest. He was raving about the abundance of business opportunities in Wisconsin. The Rabbi admitted to being a precocious child, and the old world standard was that children should be seen and not heard. Even still, he interjected his own opinion into the conversation.“Wisconsin only has a few hundreds of thousand people! What’s so great about Wisconsin?” At that instant the man became enraged and gave him a verbal thrashing that left him crying shaken for many weeks. He throttled him over and over again with the phrase, “What you don’t know about, don’t talk!”

Fast forward now sixty something years later. The nurse caring for his elderly mother called him on the Eve of Shabbos because of a high fever related to an infection. They decided to rendezvous in the hospital right away. After a brief examination the attending physician questioned the Rabbi about whether or not his mother was allergic to penicillin. In his initial thought process he assumed that because he had never heard that she was and neither he nor his siblings were that neither was she.

He was about to tell the doctor with confidence that his mother was not allergic to penicillin when a voice from sixty years earlier shouted into his inner ear, “What you don’t know about, don’t talk!” So he arrested himself and humbly admitted, “I don’t know!” Her medical records were accessed and it was discovered that she was in fact allergic to penicillin. Had he not been told off so harshly, years ago, he might have spoken with presumed assuredness and contributed to the early demise of his own beloved mother.

When I first heard this story the obvious lesson was that even difficult and harsh episodes also can be made to be meaningful but after much thought it occurred to me that another point is begging to be highlighted. When a person lives a life of such dedication to HASHEM then there is a special “siata d’shemaya” -a help from heaven that allows them to access the right idea and the appropriate experiences and at the right time. My blessing to the graduates is they too should merit that same degree of “siata d’shemaya”.


DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.


 


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