Today my car thermometer read 118F.  But at least it’s a dry heat, right? That’s what everyone in Las Vegas says as a mantra from June through September. G-d willing this will be our last summer in Vegas heat… in just over a month my family will be joining the Neve Chabad pioneers in the Negev Desert. I’m sure this time of year is still hot over there, but I’m hoping for a different type of desert sun.

The heat of the summer can be oppressive. The severity of this time of year always seems to stifle me a bit. We just experienced Gimmel Tamuz, and now we are quickly headed into the Three Weeks, when we’ll remember and commemorate the destruction of our Temple and the continued hardships of our people. It’s hard not to react to all this Gevura (severity) and not feel down.

This week’s parsha, Balak, is always read during this heavy time of year. In it, we have one of the greatest prophecies alluding to Moshiach and the final Redemption. (For those who need a quick refresher, click here for a summary.)   The haftorah also focuses on this theme and says, (Michah 5:6) “The remnant of Yaakov will be in the midst of many nations… they will not hope from man, nor expect from a mortal.”  In a sichah (talk) from 5723, the Rebbe explains this is referring to the time at the very beginning of final Redemption–Moshiach is here, but the world has yet to totally transform. At that time, Jews must already “not hope from man.”

On the literal level, that means we must place our trust in G-d, not on Mr. or Ms. Boss at work. We still must make a vessel for blessing, like it says, (Devarim 15:18) “G-d will bless you in everything that you do.” But how much emphasis should we put on the medium for Hashem’s blessing? If we really and truly trust in G-d and know that He is our only sustenance, we would never let ‘work’ get in the way of our Torah and Mitzvot. If we place importance on that medium, then the yetzer harsh (evil inclination) can easily confuse us and pull us away.

On a deeper level, the “man” is referring to the “supernal man” – or G-d’s imminent light – “ohr memale.” When connecting to this aspect of G-d’s emmination, one has to create a medium within the natural order to receive a measured sustenance. But, when one does “not hope from man,” one connects to G-d’s surrounding light, ohr sovev, and can tap into an unmeasured source of light – on this level, one does not need to create a vessel for blessings – G-d makes His own vessels for you.  

The ultimate goal is not to destroy the natural order, rather to allow this higher transcendent light to permeate it and elevate it. The physical world will remain physical, but we will see the divine light shining through. How do we get to that level now? How do we operate above the “natural order?” By relying on G-d irrationally. Complete acceptance of the yolk of Heaven, and dealing with the medium of the physical world solely because we are commanded to, in turn blocks the yetzer harah out of the picture from the start.

This also explains the story at the end of the parsha where Pinchas stops the idol worship of Baal Peor. That particular idol was served by defecating in front of the it. Chassidus explains this symbolizes enjoying physical pleasures which are in truth only the waste and byproduct of spiritual pleasures. Pinchas acted irrationally, as a zealot, and went beyond the law by slaying the sinners publically. Our sages teach that his action serves to atone for Israel up until the time of the Moshiach. He reminds us and empowers us to act supra-rationally – above reason – every day.

I am a pediatrician and often work in the emergency department of our local children’s hospital. We do our best to see every patient in a timely manner, but patients are triaged and usually have to wait to be seen. Every time I walk past a patient room without actually going inside to meet the family, I try to make eye contact and check-in so the family knows someone is on the way.  There are two typical reactions:

  1. Some people just ignore me or look back in complacency. “Nu… waiting rooms are made for waiting. This is a busy ER. I expect to be here for hours…”
  2. I notice disappointed faces and sometimes outright astonishment. “How can the doctor not see us already? Doesn’t he know my child is ill? This is not normal?!”

Waiting for Moshiach can be hard.  We can’t let ourselves get used to the ‘normal’ paradigm of this waiting room.  Torah itself teaches that we must have an imminent expectation for Moshiach. No matter how irrational it may feel, we can and must shift our focus and utilize the power Pinchas has shown us. The three weeks is not only about mourning, it’s about rebuilding. Even though we may feel the heat of summer, it doesn’t have to be oppressive –we just need to focus on the light.