Shabbat Parashat Balak – Visions of Victory

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat is the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz.  On this date, in 70 C.E., the Roman army breached the walls of Jerusalem.  Three weeks later, on the 9th of the Jewish month of Av, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.

In our modern Jewish calendar, the 17th of Tammuz is a “minor” fast day.  This means that the fast (refraining from both eating and drinking) begins at dawn and ends 25 minutes after sunset.  However, when the 17th day of Tammuz falls on Shabbat, the fast is put off to the 18th day of Tammuz.

During this heat wave, it is important that we observe the fast only to a degree that does not in any way endanger our health.  Whether we fast or not, our calendar reminds us that we were not always victorious.  Our people suffered losses.  And we remember the pain of those losses even as we look forward to celebrating better days.

In our Torah portion, the foreign prophet Bilam blesses Israel that we will “rise up like a lioness” and be victorious.  This blessing is not to be dismissed.  We appreciate the blessings of all people.  However, Bilaam’s vision of victory was clearly a vision of military victory.  Our Jewish prophets envisioned that for our people, along with an even more far-reaching vision of victory – a victory with a spiritual message of redemption for the entire world.

May our calendar and our Torah strengthen our resolve to bring to fruition the fulfillment of the vision of victory of our prophets and the ultimate blessing of true and lasting peace to the world in which we live!

Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Gilah Dror