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Ma’or VaShemesh: Balak

The 1st of Tammuz is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Kalonymus [Klonymos] Kalman (ben Aharon HaLevi) Epstein of Cracow, the Maor Vashemesh (1823). One of the most celebrated of the followers of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, he started heading the Jewish community of Cracow in 1785. At the end of his life he moved to Eretz Yisrael and is buried in the old cemetery of Tzefas.


Balak felt safe as long as his nation, Moab, would have the roots of the Messiah in Ruth and Na’amah. However, once he saw and understood that Israel had achieved the status of ‘Kahal,’ being unified in purpose and love, with that unity protecting them from the consequences of their sins, empowering them to win battles against the greatest military powers of the times, and setting them on a course on which the Kahal could perfect and refine itself, he suspected that God would no longer look for the seeds of holiness hidden in Moab, but would bring them out of Israel itself. He felt vulnerable. He needed Bilaam to shatter the unity, which, the prophet succeeded in doing by leading some of Israel to sin, others to fight back, shattering the unity, and weakening their spiritual power.

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