How Beautiful Are Your Tents Yakov! :
The military general was under pressure he needed to attack soon. When would be the best time to attack? It must be when their defences are down. A time when their Big Brother is not watching.
This Kavyachol was the intention of Bilam Harasha. He knew the exact time in the day that G-d focuses His anger on the world, and he wished to funnel that anger towards Am Yisrael.
He waited for the opportune time, but he also needed to make sure that Hashem was not around. Of course, this is impossible, but if only he could find a way that the Shechina – Hashem’s presence, was not felt amongst Am Yisrael, then Bilam’s curses would hit the target.
To his detriment and our merit, he failed.
He gazed towards the beautiful tents of Israel, seeing the tribes settled in an orderly format, each with their own flag surrounding the Holy Mishkan, and let out one of the most famous statements -“Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov Mishk’notecha Yisrael – How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwellings, Israel. (24:5)”
What is the deeper meaning of his statement and how does it affect our outlook in life?
Rashi gives two explanations. Bilam saw that in their encampments that the Tents were not facing each other. This inspired him to say Mah Tovu – It is appropriate that the Shechinah should rest upon them. They were living “B’Tzniut” – following a code of modesty. ‘Tzanuah’ means hidden. Their tents were positioned in a manner that would afford each family, privacy. They did not, nor did they desire to, look into each other’s tents without permission.
The second explanation is that Bilam was focusing only on the Mishkan – the Holy Temple in the wilderness. We have two beautiful explanations from Rashi, the first is that Ohalecha refers to the tents and dwelling places of Am Yisrael, and the second is that it refers to our Holy Temple.
What makes a Jewish home? How do we bring Kedusha to our houses?
In fact we can suggest that these two explanations are intertwined, for we know that the Jewish home is a Mikdash MeAt – a small Temple.
Lets ponder that a second, – The Temple is parallel to the home!
Chazal teach us that there were three miracles that graced Sarah’s home: her Shabbat candles burned all week; her challah was blessed with a Divine satiating quality; and the presence of G-d hung over her tent in the form of a cloud. When she passed away, these disappeared yet once Yitschak married Rachel and brought her into his tent, all these miracles returned.
The Shem Mishmuel explains that the Mishkan also had these three miracles. The candles of the menorah, the Lechem Hapanim – bread baked and left on the Shulchan from one Erev Shabbat to the next, and the cloud of Glory hovered above.
A person who acts in the right manner at home, is able to bring G-ds presence into that home!
The Gemara Shabbat (31a) states that any person who has Torah but does not have Yirat Shamayim is compared to a man that builds a gate, as a pathway up to a house, but there is no house at the end. What would it look like if you have a gate but no house to go into? Similarly, someone who has Torah but no Yirat Shamayim has a gate but he has nowhere to go into.
The Divrei Yoel explains this analogy refers to people who in synagogue and yeshiva learn well, perform Mitsvot and are treated by the public as Tsadikim. Yet when they arrive home, another story comes into play. Their attitude changes, their learning stops and is not implemented, impurity is allowed to enter the house and their treatment of their spouses and children is not up to the high standard they show when outside. These people have built a gate outside, they are learning in public, but when it comes to their home, there is no home – the Kedusha is lacking and therefore the Shechina does not rest there. A home without the Shechina is not a home.
The Kedushat Halevi brings the Gemara in Megila (29a) that states in the future all the synagogues and learning centres will be uprooted and transferred to Israel.
Wow! But what about our homes? Will they go too, or will we have to build new ones in Israel?
He explains that the Gemara already took it for granted that our homes will also be transported to Israel. The Gemara was stating that even the synagogues will be transported.
He explains that the home can be an even more holy environment then the shul. For in the shul one is in the public eye and generally only learns there during the day, whereas the torah and Mitsvot that are performed in the house are hidden and both in day and night.
Hence in the future all our homes that have been filled with Kedusha will also be transported to Eretz Yisrael.
Bilam set out to destroy the Jewish Nation. Something stood in his path. Our unity on the outside, together with our unity on the inside. When we are united as a nation, no curse can befall upon us. Nevertheless, there is a higher level up. When we are united on the inside then we also merit Hashem’s presence in our homes.
Let us live up to the words Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yakov and enhance our homes with Torah, Mitsvot, Kindness and patience towards all, and may we merit Hashem’s presence with us always Amen.
Lirfuat Moshe Ben Raya.
Rabbi Shaul Yonatan Tawil