Torah Fax

Friday, July 15, 2005 - 8 Tammuz, 5765
Torah Reading:  Balak (Numbers 22:2 - 25:9)
Candle Lighting time: 8:07 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:14 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chap. 5
Instant Gratification
When Bilam, the heathen prophet, was hired to curse the Jewish people, he knew what he had to do. The Talmud relates that there is one split-second every day when G‑d "gets angry," as it were. Bilam, who knew when that moment was, hoped to take advantage of that "window of opportunity," and curse the Jews at that propitious time. G‑d, however, thwarted Bilam's plan by not "getting angry" for even one instant during the entire period that Bilam tried to curse the Jews.
The classic Talmud commentator, Tosfot, raises a simple question. If Bilam relied on the split second when G‑d vents His anger to curse the Jews, what curse could he have uttered in a split-second? Tosfot provides two answers: First, Bilam could have just said the word "kalem," which means "destroy them." Second, all Bilam had to do was to start his diatribe against the Jews at the "right" time. Even if the curse would continue for a few minutes after the second of G‑d's moment of anger," Bilam's curse would still be effective since he began the curse at the "right" time.
There is a general principle established by our Sages: G‑d's attribute of kindness is more powerful than G‑d's attribute of justice. As powerful as evil can be, the power of goodness is much greater.  If one instant of G‑d's displeasure could suffice for the purpose of destruction, certainly one instant of Divine good will can go a long way to bring about favorable results.
For example: When we pray in the specified times (Shacharit in the morning, Mincha in the afternoon, Ma'ariv in the evening) we can also take advantage of the "windows of opportunity" to elicit G‑d's manifold blessings for ourselves and for the entire world.
There is also a deeper lesson we can derive from the "instant" of G‑d's wrath on which Bilam sought to capitalize. Whenever we consider doing a Mitzvah we confront obstacles. There is an inner voice-our Sages referred to as the "yetzer hara-the evil impulse"-that tries to dissuade us from doing the right thing. And this inner voice is quite creative.
First it gives us all sorts of arguments why doing a particular mitzvah is not possible. From, "I'm too busy," to "I don't know how to do the mitzvah properly," the yetzer hara is a pro at finding ways to avoid mitzvahs.
Occasionally the yetzer hara will convince the person that if they do the mitzvah they will be a hypocrite, because it will be incompatible with their lifestyle. "How can I put on tefillin, if I don't eat kosher?" is a popular refrain uttered by those who feel that one must observe everything if he or she is to observe anything.
Obviously, this argument is seriously flawed, for it would suggest that one should never do any good unless it is consistent with all their other actions. And since nobody is perfect, we could never do any good.
Furthermore, if there is hypocrisy in doing something good that is incompatible with the negative, the question to be considered is: "perhaps it is the other things that I am doing that is incompatible with the good that makes me a hypocrite?"
In truth, all of life is a struggle between good and evil, right and wrong. We win some battles and we lose some. Just because we lost one battle doesn't mean that we must lose the other battles. The charge of hypocrisy should be reserved for those who do good only to hide their true intentions and interests. 
If one can see through the fallacy of the "hypocrisy excuse," the yetzer hara has at least one more tactic in his arsenal: "What good is there in me doing a mitzvah if I will only spend a few minutes or even seconds?" After all, what can a person accomplish in one instant?
The answer to this challenge has been provided for by the wicked Bilam. Bilam realized the power of even one well positioned word. Even one word-kalem-could bring the desired negative results. The same-and even more-can applied to each and every one of us in the positive sense. We can accomplish something phenomenally great even in one instant. Indeed, we are living in an age where this lesson is much easier to appreciate than ever before.
Many people cite the modern world as a conflict with our Jewish lifestyle. On the contrary, everything that modern technology has given us makes it much easier to be a practicing Jew. And the issue of "instant power" we have been discussing is a case in point. We live in the age of instant everything. From instant coffee and instant gratification to instant communications and jet travel, our modern world is a powerful testimony to what we can accomplish for the good in one instant.
This lesson would have been valid in any period of our history. It is even more poignant in the current bridge to the Messianic Age. As has been stressed in many of these Torah messages, we have the accumulated good of the past at our disposal. All it takes to finally cross the bridge and enter into the Age of Redemption is one seemingly insignificant Mitzvah that takes perhaps one moment to do. That lone mitzvah can be the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back," in the positive sense and will bring redemption and salvation to the entire world.

Moshiach Matters
Rav said, "The world was created only for [King] David." Shmuel said, "The world was created only for Moshe." Rabbi Yochanan said, "The world was created only for Moshiach." (Talmud Sanhedrin 88b)
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