Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:July 2, 2014
There are many unique things about the portion Balak and this Shabbat. One is that while we know Moses writes down all the stories in the Torah that he was either leading or witness to, there is no real way to understand how Moses came to actually know the story in this portion.
The story is that the Israelites are in the desert, and Balak, a king, is worried that the Israelites will come and conquer his land. He sends messengers to Bilaam, a great sorcerer, and asks him to come and help him do damage to, or at least diminish the spiritual strength of, these people. So, they come together and go to the mountains that surround the Israelites. But they never interact with Moses or the Israelites; so, how do we even know that this story happened? How did Moses come to write down this whole story of conversations and prophecies that did not go on in front of him?
A great kabbalist whose name was Chatam Sofer addresses this question, and he speaks in general about the Torah. He says that the Torah is something that was witnessed by people; even the beginning portions that Moses was not witness to came as a tradition from father to son. Therefore, he says the whole Torah really has to be viewed as truth, because it was written down and given over to people who all said they witnessed it. However, there’s one portion for which that is not true - this portion of Balak; because, as we said, this entire story is not something that any of the Israelites witnessed. And even if they had seen Bilaam and Balak looking down from the mountains at them, they would have had no way of knowing what the two of them were talking about, or what kind of visions they were having. So, how do we even have this in the Torah? How did Moses even come to write it?
The Chatam Sofer explains that it is true that neither Moses nor the Israelites witnessed this, but rather that it was a prophecy given down to Moses. Meaning, it is not related, as every other part of the Torah is, to the literal story of what Moses and the Israelites experienced. This was not an experience of the Israelites; it was simply a prophecy given down to Moses. The Creator told Moses there was a time in the desert when Balak and Bilaam, very strong sorcerers, were coming to try to do him harm. They tried to bring sacrifices and awaken negativity, but they did not succeed. The whole story that we find in this week’s portion was a pure prophecy given to Moses without any personal knowledge of what happened.
That’s the way the Chatam Sofer views this Shabbat. But there’s more to it.
When Rav Ashlag was living in Poland, he had a few teachers. He had a hidden teacher who taught him all the secrets of Kabbalah, but he also studied with a great kabbalist, the Rabbi of Poresov. The Rabbi of Poresov had two children, one of whose wisdom is collected in a book called Atara Le’rosh Tzadik, in which he gives a new way to view and explain what happens on this Shabbat. He says that what occurs on this Shabbat is not so much a battle with the Israelites as it is with their leader, Moses. It is a battle between the forces of Bilaam and Balak with Moses; but this battle was not a physical battle like most battles. It was a battle of the mind.
Bilaam and Balak were tremendous sorcerers who had great strength to do harm from the Negative Side, and their entire purpose was to awaken doubt and confusion in the mind of Moses. And that’s what this whole reading, this whole story of Balak and Bilaam was: a battle for the consciousness of Moses. They came together and said they are going to disconnect Moses from the Creator, not by physically killing or fighting him, but by awakening doubt and fear in his mind.
Moses, since from at least the moment of the Burning Bush, never had a doubt; but suddenly he wakes up in the morning and there is doubt, there is some sadness, some darkness, and he doesn’t know where it is coming from. But then he delves deeper, because Moses knows nothing is coincidental, and he comes to realize that there is a battle for his soul, for his mind, going on.
Rav Berg often told us that it says in Prophets that before the End of the Correction there will be a war that is called Gog u’Magog (sometimes it’s translated as Armageddon), and it is not going to be a physical battle; it is going to be like this battle that’s going on for the consciousness of Moses. As such, the seed of the war of Gog u’Magog, the war of consciousness, was planted on this Shabbat. Therefore, that is the entirety of what this Shabbat is about - how these two people came together to awaken doubt, sadness, and darkness in the mind of Moses, and how he battles back - not physically, but in his mind.
We now come to understand that it’s not simply that Moses received prophecy of something that he was not involved in… because he was involved in it. He is actually writing what he is experiencing. This was the Shabbat when the consciousness of Moses was attacked, and he battled back. On this Shabbat, as Moses defeats Balak and Bilaam in the battle for his consciousness and soul, he gives us the strength to fight the battle that has already begun – the battle called milchemet Gog u’Magog, the battle for our consciousness.
This understanding gives us a new way to look at our lives and spiritual work. When we wake up in the morning and have a negative thought, or when we have negative thoughts throughout the day, where do they come from? We think they come from us. But they don’t. Just as what happened with Moses, there are angels of negativity that are there when we awaken every single day whose job it is to implant us with doubts, darkness, and thoughts of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone. Every time we have a negative thought, we need to remember it is not coincidental; there is a battle going on for our soul, for our consciousness… and it is important to remember that we also have an entire legion of positive angels trying to fight these negative forces, trying to elevate us. If we begin to view the thoughts of darkness that come into our mind as being put there by forces of negativity, then we can become aware of not falling to them.
This battle for our consciousness and soul goes on every day. When we begin to see our life this way, realizing we are taking part in this tremendous battle, and are aware of the fact that these negative thoughts are not ours - that they are being put in us by forces of the Negative Side - it can change everything. With this knowledge and truth of what is going on, we have greater strength to fight the negative forces and thoughts of darkness.