web analytics
October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Judaism

Balak And The Battle Of Gettysburg


Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

July 3, 2011, marked 148 years since the final day of the Civil War’s epic Battle of Gettysburg. That Sunday afternoon my wife was in New York spending time with her family, and I had several hours left before Minchah. Realizing the significance of the day, I decided to visit the well-maintained battlefields of Gettysburg, only 45 minutes from our home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I drove around the memorial-filled battlefields taking in the scenery and the crowds who, like me, felt a sense of reverence. Seeing a place to park, I pulled over beside a monument on top of which stood a large statue of a soldier holding his saber in one hand and a pair of binoculars in the other.

I found a place to sit across the road and gazed out at what is today a beautiful field. But 148 years ago it was the scene of one of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles in our nation’s history. Enjoying the summer breeze, I prepared a Mishnah to study together with my shul between Minchah and Maariv that night.

When I returned to my car, I took note of the name of the soldier whose statue I had parked beside: Brigadier General John Gibbon (1827-1898). Later that evening, I Googled Gen. Gibbon and was amazed to learn about his history. John Gibbon was the Union general whose division bore the brunt of the fighting in repelling Pickett’s Charge – the Confederates’ final desperate assault during the Battle of Gettysburg. That fight (named for Confederate General George Pickett) occurred on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg. I sat stunned at my computer screen as I realized I had prepared that night’s Mishnah in the very location where that bloody battle had occurred exactly 148 years before my visit.

Pickett’s Charge was a disaster for the Confederate Army. Pickett’s 12,500 men advanced over open fields for three quarters of a mile under intense Union artillery and rifle fire. The Southerners suffered a casualty rate of more than 50 percent and a decisive defeat that ended the Battle of Gettysburg. Over the past 148 years, historians have second-guessed the Confederate leadership’s decisions involving Pickett’s Charge. Most consider it an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered.

In a similar vein, one of Jewry’s most beloved leaders of the early 20th century second-guessed an important tactical decision made by Balak, king of Moav.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Hakohen – better known as the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) – makes the following observation (found in the footnotes to his commentary on the Torah portion Balak): After repeatedly urging Bilam (the mercenary “prophet” of Midian) to curse the Jewish people, Balak was told again and again that God would allow no such curse to take place. Frustrated by Bilam’s inability to curse the Jewish people – who had just conquered the mightiest armies that sought to prevent them from reaching their promised land – Balak sent Bilam home. With Bilam’s departure, Balak and his people were left just as vulnerable and fearful as they had been before.

Rather than telling Bilam to pack his bags, why did Balak not realize he still had one more option? Instead of asking Bilam to weaken the Jewish people by cursing them, Balak could have asked that same “prophet” to bless his own forces with the ability to stand up to and defeat the Jewish armies. Why did it never dawn on Moav’s leader to ask for a blessing that he and his armies should be strong and successful? (Balak obviously believed in the power of Bilam’s blessings; after all, we read in the Torah portion that Balak became terribly upset at Bilam after he had blessed the Jewish people.)

About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at rabbimales@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Balak And The Battle Of Gettysburg”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Abbas and the Temple Mount: "It's mine, all mine. No Jews allowed.
Abbas Declares Closure of Al Aqsa Mosque a ‘Declaration of War’
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Why does Hebrew refer to mothers-in-law as “sunshine” when society often calls them the opposite?

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

Having herself been victimized by Pharoah, Sarah should have been more sensitive to Hagar.

The-Shmuz

Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him.

Lech Lecha Thumbnail

How do the stories in Lech Lecha help us understand the central tension of Abraham’s life, legacy?

Abraham did not govern society but instead was the representative of God’s kingdom on earth.

Hagar grossly miscalculated her own merits and demonstrated a serious lack of gratitude for Sarai.

Noach was the lonely man of faith living in a depraved world, full of wickedness.

Avraham became a great man during the 175 years of his life, while his predecessors became increasingly wicked, despite staggering knowledge, during their lifetimes of hundreds of years.

Shem realized that he owed his existence to his father who brought him into the world.

Law-Abiding Citizen
‘That Which Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight…’
(Yevamos 22a-b)

The flood was not sent to destroy, but to restore the positive potential of the world.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Why is there is no mention of dinosaurs, and other prehistoric animals, in the Torah?

Strict din demands perfection. There is no room for shortcomings and no place for excuses; you are responsible.

Surprisingly, my husband and one son arrived home over half-an-hour earlier than usual. I excitedly shared my perfect-timing story, but my better half one upped me easily.

More Articles from Rabbi Akiva Males
Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

The power of “positive campaigning;” Nothing quenches your soul’s thirst like Torah.

Males-031414

At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.

In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.

In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.

Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.

“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”

“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”

We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.

No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/balak-and-the-battle-of-gettysburg/2014/07/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: