web analytics
October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 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 » 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
Miniature Torah at the women's section of the Western Wall Friday morning.
Women of the Wall Smuggle Tiny Torah Scroll to Western Wall
Latest Judaism Stories
Rapps-Rabbi-Joshua-logo

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

Daf-Yomi-logo

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

Weck-110411-Noah

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.

Noach felt a tug, and then heard a rip. His jacket had been caught on the nail, and the beautiful suit had a tear.

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Our intentions are critical in raising children because they mimic everything we parents do & think

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

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

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

Rabbi Avi Weiss

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

The Sukka: Even if you find it difficult to come to the synagogue, the synagogue will come to you.

Ba’al Shem Tov: “Hashem, too, is crying; as much as He is looking for us, we rarely look for Him.”

On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls

The Torah notes that even when we are dispersed God will return us to Him.

Simcha is total; sahs is God’s joy in protecting us even when we are most vulnerable.

the test of moral integrity truly presents itself when one faces difficult situations.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: