web analytics
January 28, 2015 / 8 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Love Defies The Rule

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Could it be that Bilam, the gentile prophet, saddled his own animal (Numbers 22:21) when he set forth to curse the Jews? For someone of his stature, a prophet, it certainly seems beneath his dignity.

Ibn Ezra, who is known for his literal readings of the Torah, goes against his usual trend and offers a non-literal interpretation. The pasuk does not mean that Bilam saddled his own donkey; rather, he instructed his servants to do so.

Rashi, however, sticks to the literal reading and insists that Bilam did this labor-intensive act on his own. Quoting the Midrash, Rashi writes: “From here we learn that hatred defies the rule, for he [Bilam, who was so full of hate at that time] saddled it by himself.” In other words, the emotion of hate can cause one to do things that would otherwise be out of the purview of one’s normal behavior.

Unfortunately, we need look no further than events during the Holocaust to understand this point. When Germany was attacked by the allies from the West and the Russians from the East, it would have made sense for the Third Reich use every means at its disposal, every military weapon, every soldier, to resist. But it was not so. Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was so great that he insisted the extermination of Jews continue. He continued spending precious human power and resources on genocide, rather than helping defend “the motherland.”

But the Midrash points out the other side of the coin as well. Note that when God commands Avraham to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, the Torah states that Avraham “saddled his donkey” (Genesis 22:3). Here, too, Rashi wonders, is it possible Avraham would perform this menial task rather than ask one of his servants to do so? It is possible, says Rashi, as “love defies the rule.” Avraham was so in love with God, so committed to following God’s command, that he does what he otherwise would not do.

The Midrash makes a final point: the hatred of the wicked is counterbalanced by the love of the righteous. In the words of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai: “Let the saddling done by Avraham counteract the saddling done by Bilam” (Bereishis Rabbah 55:8).

It is important to note that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai lived during the reign of the Roman Empire. He knew all too well the phenomenon of hatred toward Jews. Yet he understood through his own life of commitment to God that there could be a counterbalance to this hatred: his love and the love of others.

Thank God for the good people. Their energy and drive to do the right thing neutralizes the passion of the wicked. During these difficult days, may we all be blessed with love that defies the rule.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


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 “Love Defies The Rule”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF soldiers evacuating wounded near northern border town of Ghajar.
Northern Golan Heights Declared Closed Military Zone
Latest Judaism Stories
Tissot_The_Waters_Are_Divided

Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

Parshat Bo

Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Life Before The Printed Word
‘A Revi’is Of Blood’
(Yevamos 114a-b)

How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.

Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.

The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”

Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

I think that we have to follow the approach of the Tannaim and Amoraim. They followed the latest scientific developments of their time.

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Weiss-012315

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

The plagues don’t reveal a God of vengeance but of compassion; after each triplet Egypt can repent

“He looked this way and that way” means Moses looked within to see whether he was Egyptian or Jewish

When Yaakov asks “Who are these?” he’s means “Do my grandchildren identify as Egyptians or Jews?”

Though we Jews have deep obligations to all people our obligation to our fellow Jew is unique.

The dreams revealed their differences: The butler was active; the baker completely passive.

Benno Yaakov, the German Jewish commentator, posits Yaakov’s limping caused Eisav’s change of heart.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/love-defies-the-rule/2014/07/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: