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July 2, 2017 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Balak

One issue I sometimes worry about is kavanah  (intention)- to what intent should I feel guilty if I’m not focused on ultimate values while doing one ritual or another?

Rabbi Miller thinks that part of this week’s portion is relevant.  The Moabite king Balak wants Balaam (a local sorcerer) to curse the Jews, because he is afraid that the Jews will conquer Moab.  In addition, he makes a bunch of sacrifices to God, because Balaam says he should.

R. Miller writes that although “he did not bring these sacrifices for the sake of Heaven [but to encourage Balaam to curse Israel] he merited that Ruth should be his descendant”.  In turn, Ruth’s descendant was Solomon, who built the First Temple and offered sacrifices for much better motives.  Thus, Balak’s ill-motivated sacrifices led to Solomon’s good deeds.

Similarly, you and I should (in Miller’s words) “busy yourself with Torah and its commandments, even if you have ulterior motives, because eventually you will do so for the sake of heaven.”

By an odd coincidence, a neighborhood rabbi in my hometown made a similar point in Seudah Shlishit last night, interpreting an entirely different text.  Somewhere in the Talmud or Mishna it is written that you should study Torah on the day of your death.  (Don’t have time to google this right now…) The rabbi interpreted this to mean that even on days you feel “dead” to Torah and mitzvos, you should still practice them, because such consistency will encourage you do so on days you feel more “alive.”

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