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Parashat Balak

By Rav David Lhungdimg

The book “Doresh Tov” by Rabbi Ben-Zion Motzfi Shlita, quoted the commentators who wrote that "Vayera Balak" means that Balak looked at and questioned the secret of the Jewish people, and how they managed to reach such a lofty state.

Balak was surprised, after all, Egypt was a place for slavery, where a person can enter but couldn’t manage to get out of it, Egypt would swallow into it, and not eject from it, and the impurity of Egypt sucked into it that no living person can escape from it.

And here Balak observes and sees in front of his eyes a whole people who managed to get out of it, and not only that, but they managed to take the wealth of Egypt?

Balak goes on to observe, how it is possible that an entire nation has been forty years in the wilderness of the desert, receiving bread from heaven and the nations of the world enjoy the Manna indirectly, as our sages said (Exodus 16:22): "And when the sun is hot it melts," their words were quoted in Rashi: "Whatever remains in the field (Mann) is melted, and it forms a stream, rams and deer drinks from it, and when the nations hunt the deer and eat, they feel the taste of Mann, thus they know the glory of Israel.

Balak looked at all this, and instead of coming to the simple and obvious conclusion that the people of Israel are led by a special miraculous leadership by the Creator of the world, he refuse to see G-d and conclude that all those events happen because Moses is a sorcerer, who has magical power.

So Balak believes that he, too, has a sorcerer, the evil Balaam, who has the power to fight against the witches of Moshe and to cast his evil eye on the people of Israel. This is the way of the wicked, they are unable to see the Creator of the world, and they will be caught up in all the nonsense of the world, as long as they don’t recognize the Creator (Doresh Tzion Parashat Balak).

And our sages said there is no escape from Egypt because Egyptמצרים starts with an open Mem (מ) and ends with a close Mem (ם), so when our ancestors went down to Egypt it is written "These are the names of the Children of Israel who come to Egypt"(מצרימה) the letter “Hey” ה) ) at the end, which means G-d has already prepared the redemption from the beginning. And the Sages said that the people of Israel descended to 49 gates of the impurity of Egypt, the Shalal David wrote (Exodus 23) the filth of the serpent stop from the patriarch Jacob, but when Israel descended to Egypt to the 49 gates of the impurity the filth retracted, and they have purified again at Mount Sinai.

And some say that the people of Israel descended as far as the 50 gates of impurity, as the Panim Yafoth wrote (Exodus 19) they were immersed in 50 gates of impurity in Egypt as Khazal said (Shelah Hakadosh Tractate Pesachim Matzah Shimura), if they were one more hour late they won’t be able to get out of Egypt, thus, G-d Himself descends and redeem his people and not through His ministering angels, And it must be understood that all the impurities of the world were in Egypt that so far the holy people descended to the 50 gates of impurity, and as we know the land of Egypt was full of witchcraft and sorcery, to such degree that one can enter Egypt but there is no possibility to get out of Egypt, so Balak had to learn that the people of Israel came out of Egypt by a Creator who is above the forces of impurity and not by impurity and sorcery.

But Balak followed his heart and mind and finally got the advice of Balaam but why? because from the beginning he hated Israel and his intention was only to curse Israel and doesn’t want the good path, and therefore the Sages said, that Balak knew that the curse of Balaam was fulfilled but not his blessing (Sanhedrin 105b), as it is written: "For I knew those you bless are blessed but those you curse will be a curse" (Numbers 22). Had Balak contemplated deeply he will realize that he has no power against Israel, as it is written (Genesis 12:2-3) "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will raise your name and be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and all the family of the earth will be blessed in you." (Genesis 12:2-3).

And therefore Balak sees and accepts only what he wants, but is unable to see and accept what he doesn’t want beyond his eyes because had he contemplated carefully not according to his eyes’ he would realize that he had a way to receive blessing and curse through the people of Israel as written in (Genesis 12:2-3) and so it is understood what we have said above, that Balak went only after his evil thought and did not desire the good path, and of these wicked people it is written that Hashem regretted having made a man, as they followed the thoughts of their evil hearts (Midrash Aggadah Parashat Noah chapter 6, Siman 6).

May we all merit, to see and perceive things, not with our own eyes and understanding like the wicked Balak, but rather through our Holy Torah and the wisdom and guidance of our holy sages. Shabbat Shalom.


By Rakhem Haokip

Required Length of Tzitzit

The Gemara in Menachot 39a discusses the required length of the Tzitzit and says, "The finest way to fix the strings is One-third (of the whole string lengthwise should be) the knots and windings and two-thirds, the loose hanging strings."

And in Menachot 41b, "The Rabbis taught how much should the length of the strings be?

Beit Shammai says 4,

Beit Hillel says 3.

(One each of)Three that Beit Hillel says is one-fourth of the handbreadth of every person.

Rav Papa says The Halacha is 4 inside 3 along with the lengths of the strings 4.

Maran HaBeit Yosef writes regarding the saying of Rav Papa that there is an argument in the Rishonim about the explanation of his words which is brought down by the Rosh and they are,

Rashi: The Halacha is 4 (strings each that will be folded into two halves) inside 3(fingerbreadth from the beginning of the corner of the cloth) with the lengths of (The strings excluding the knots and windings) 4.

The Rosh says the literal explanation is thus: the Halacha is 4 … with the lengths of (The stings including the knots and windings) 4

*The Rambam follows his ruling and says that the 8 strings should not be less than 4 handbreadths.

Rabbeinu Tam: the Halacha is 4 … with the lengths of (The strings only the knots and windings excluding the loose strings) 4. i.e. The Knots and the windings will be of no less than 4 tefachim, the rest of the string will be two-third of the whole string which is 8 fingerbreadth, and hence the total length of the whole tzitzit would be no less than 12 fingerbreadth.

The Tur and the Smag wrote accordingly.

Thus concludes the Rosh.

The Beit Yosef states the Mordechi who writes the full length of the strings should be 12 fingerbreadths which is parallel with the 12 tribes of Israel.

The Mishna Berura explains what fingerbreadth(Gudal) is

1. It is the fingerbreadth of an average person

  1. It is measured breadthwise from the middle of the uppermost joint of the finger.

Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef ZT”L in his Halichot Olam 1:7 writes according to the opinion of Rav Chaim Naeh brought in his book “Shiurei Torah” that the Length of a fingerbreadth is 2 cm each.

The Shulchan aruch in Siman 11 Seif 4 rules: "The Length of the 8 strings should not be shorter than 4 fingerbreadths, Some says 12 which is the prevalent custom. And can be lengthened without end."

The Mishna Berura brings the Levush who rules accordingly. The Kaf HaChaim agrees.


HaRav David Yosef Shlit’a in his Halacha Berura pg 244 writes that this measurement is after tying the tzitzit along with all the knots and windings, from the corner of the cloth to the end of the tzitzit excluding the part which is tied to the cloth itself, and lastly, two-thirds of the whole length should be the loose hanging strings.

Can a tzitzit shorter than 12 fingerbreadths lead to Bracha Levatala?

The Mishna Berura adds that if the tzitzit is lesser than 12 Gudal there is a fear that the bracha recited on such tzitzit would be Bracha levatala, a blessing in vain because even though the biblical prohibition is to permit any length, the rabbinic law obligates at least 12 fingerbreadths to be measured from the first knot.

The Biur Halacha brings the Pri Megadim who is of the opinion that the 12 fingerbreadths have a significant halachic weight regarding its blessing but on the other hand from the words of Chinuch in parashat shelach has to mean that one can be lenient.

The Kaf hachaim brings the Lev Chaim who disproves the opinion of the Pri Megadim and rules that even if it is shorter than 12 fingerbreadths, it is fine.

The Biur Halacha ends by saying the topic needs more research(Tzarikh Iyun) meaning is unresolved. In a few more lines he rules that just as the levush ruled that since there is no biblical length requirement, a person who wears a tzitzit shorter than 12 fingerbreadth does fulfil the biblical commandment however does not make a blessing on it.


HaRav Ovadia Yosef in his book halichot Olam 1:7, Yalkut Yosef Siman 11 Seif 11, and Halacha Berura pg 244-245 writes: One has to take care not to buy Tzitzit that will be shorter than 12 Fingerbreadth, however if he doesn’t have any other tzitzit other than the one shorter than 12 fingerbreadth, he may be lenient until and unless, it is shorter than 4 fingerbreadths. He is even permitted to make a bracha on it. Even if the length is shortened because of laundry one can be lenient as long as there is enough to wrap around the thumb once.

One may not apply the rule of “Safek Brachot Lehakel” - “In case of doubt in blessing, leniency is applied” as in this case, the argument is not in reciting the blessing but if the commandment is fulfilled or not. Hence, the rule of Safek Brachot lehakel is not applied.

Not to cut with a metal

The Rema adds that if the strings end up to be too long, one can cut it and doesn't need to worry about the rule of "doing after its completion" which is generally prohibited. The Halacha Berurah pg 246 rules likewise.

The Yalkut Yosef in the footnote to siman 11 seif 14 is as follows, The Mishna in Masechet Middot Chapter 3 says, "Iron disqualified by touch" as the Altar is made to lengthen the life of a person, it is unworthy to lift the status of (Iron, which is) a shortener of life with the lengthener.

As the gemara tells us that because of the sin of Tzitzit, a person's sons die when they are still young. If so, Tzitzit is supposed to lengthen the life of a person and thus it is not worthy to lift a shortener of life, iron over the lengthener, tzitzit.

This is the source for the custom of not cutting tzitziyot with Iron, but with his teeth instead. The Kitzur HaShelah writes that the 32 strings of the tzitziot is in accordance with the 32 teeth inside a person's mouth. And thus, it may be a problem to cut the strands using glass or plastic.

Nevertheless, as brought in the Yalkut Yosef, the custom is not to cut the tzitziyot using metal.

Shabbat Shalom Lekulam!

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