by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
This week's commentary is dedicated to my beloved late mother, Esther Melman, z"l, (Esther bat Baruch) whose second yahrzeit fell out this week, on 11 Tammuz. May her memory be for a blessing!
Bilaam the Sorcerer, sent by the Moabite king Balak to curse Israel, ascends three hilltops in all, building seven altars on each, seven spiritual vantage points from which to better observe the Camp of Israel. After all, a curse must be attached to a kernel of reality so as to be effective, much as a lie always has an element of truth in it so as to be believable.
The seven altars by which Bilaam judged Israel as a nation represent the seven ascending heavens before which each of us as individuals must be judged before earning entrance. Each level of heaven corresponds to a color vibration band of the rainbow.
The three hilltops represent prophetically the three worlds, which, in Yiddish, have permeated new world Jewish consciousness: Dis velt (this world), yennem velt (the other/next world) and Roose velt (the world of roses, the universal symbol of love and marriage/FDR).
Red, the symbolic color of sin, corresponds to the slowest vibration of the spectrum, while violet/purple, the color of the High Priest's garments, corresponds to the highest vibration of the color spectrum. (Roses are reddish, violets are blueish...)
This material world in which we live, in contrast to our destiny to inhabit the spiritual world, has the unique quality of allowing all people of whatever vibrational level to interact with one another. One can lower or raise one's level by raising or lowering one's thought patterns, which in turn determine one's behaviors and character.
People who live by love, faith, forgiveness and trust vibrate at a much higher frequency than those ruled by fear, hatred, grudges and distrust. Like at a cocktail party, in this world we have the ability to mix and mingle in the same room with others who inhabit a completely different vibrational level of the soul.
By contrast, in the other/next, spiritual world (yennem velt) one's assigned world is inhabited by those at one's own vibration level exclusively. To merit elevation to the higher ascendant realms, one requires the good deeds, Kaddish prayers and meritorious intentions of those remaining behind in the material world over whom one had prior influence, such as children and/or students.
Failing that, reincarnation, scientifically referred to as metempsychosis, and kabbalistically known as gilgul neshamot, a reimmersion back to the materialistic (gashmiut) war zone, is required to have another opportunity to achieve a precious soul ascent. Good and evil fight over each and every soul, alluring it with endearing blandishments. One chooses each and every day whether to follow the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara) or the Good Inclination (yetzer hatov). Each day and within each day we are creating and recreating our vibration level.
Bilaam saw the holy purity and sanctity of the Camp of Israel. Indeed, guarding this purity was the key to Israel's holiness, sanctity and survival. The Midianite women seduced the princes of Israel with their sexually drenched pagan rituals. This was Israel's Achille's Heel, so to speak. It was to undermine Israel's sanctity and raison d'etre, which is to elevate the nations of the world to ever higher spiritual vibration levels.
Bilaam from on high witnesses the modesty and purity within the camp of Israel. The privacy of each tent was guarded carefully, as no entrances faced into the entrances of another.
Bilaam blesses Israel, "Ma tovu ohalecha yaakov, mishkenotecha yisrael,
How goodly are thy tents O Jacob, thy dwelling places O Israel."
Indeed, the roshei teyvot, the first letters of each word add up to 110, the years of Joseph's life. This is an allusion to the holiness and purity of Yosef HaTzaddik, who merited special appellation as the Righteous One by dint of his resistance to the salacious adulterous propositions of Zuleika, wife of Potiphera.
We begin each day of prayer with these famous words of Bilaam to remind ourselves that like Bilaam, Israel's first observer, we too must observe and judge ourselves. LeHitPalel, the word for prayer, literally means to judge oneself, hence assuming the hitpael grammatical form.
Bilaam was our first judge in the material realm. We ourselves, as members of the Jewish people who inhabit both the material and spiritual realms simultaneously must judge ourselves by both worldly standards as well as by heavenly standards, much as Israel among the unholy nations of the world finds herself unfairly judged by a perpetual seemingly unfair double standard. Finally we are all to be judged by the Supreme Judge of all the worlds.
Black is the color which absorbs all colors, all vibrations along the color spectrum. This world is the world which challenges us to rise above the blandishments of negative thinking, of selfish thinking, of ego driven thinking. When we project to the universe our ego driven thoughts we invite a world of ego and selfishness in return. It is a Black/Balak world indeed!
To the degree we are self-centered we expect self-centeredness in others. We are wary of others at every turn. But when we project and affirm to the universe a devotion to G*d and a commitment to helping others, we invite in return an ocean of love and a sea abundant in riches.
The rainbow in the sky is a reminder of the seven levels of heaven. The choices we make how we live here on earth determine which color we will inherit in the end. We may not have a choice in the color of our hair, skin, or eyes, but we indeed choose the color of our fate.