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Sunday, 10 August, 2014 - 7:09 am

You are more than what you have become!

“Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of

G-d,” Rabbi Akiva states in the Ethics of the fathers.

These beautiful, inspiring words of Rabbi Akiva, capturing his approach to understanding the human psyche and the path to human empowerment and inspiration, have tragically become to relevant in recent days, as the collective “Jewish heart” was shattered by the horrific news of three young Jewish teens, Yeshiva students, kidnapped and murdered by the bloodthirsty monsters of Hamas.

This is why begging the kidnappers for mercy is futile. Terrorists laugh at us when they see us going to them on bended knee.

They are still laughing at Michelle Obama weeks after she implored Boko Haram to Bring Back Our Girls. The kidnapped Nigerian girls are still missing.

Jimmy Carter pleaded with Iran to release the hostages, but nothing worked until the moment Ronald Reagan took office. Of Reagan they were afraid. He was the cowboy. He was the tough guy.

The people who took our boys will never respond to our supplications. They will get it only if we go after them unwaveringly.

Let it not be said by the future generations that Israel saw raging fires of destruction, and did nothing. You cannot make peace with people who believe you were created in the image of the devil, rather in G-d’s image, and want to see you dead. We must defend ourselves, and with G-d’s help, we will succeed.

A marriage procession of lions was going along in a jungle when a mouse joined them and started dancing.

The lions were amazed and said to the mouse ,'You are not one of us. Why have you joined us?'

The mouse replied ,'I was also a lion before the marriage . This is what I am now….'

In this week’s portion Balak, the Torah relates the fascinating story of how the prophet and sorcerer Balaam, an archenemy of the people of Israel, was summoned by King Balak to curse the Israelites. But when Balaam opened his mouth to curse, blessings came out instead. He tried three times, each time with the same result. And then he finished off with a prophecy describing the triumph of Israel in the "end of days."

And what beautiful blessings they are! Balaam's blessings include the Mah Tovu "How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel..." a verse we love so much that, three hundred sixty-five days a year we start our morning prayers with it. They include the most explicit reference to Moshiach, the Jewish leader who will bring about the full and ultimate redemption.

They also include one enigmatic verse in which Balaam proclaims:

Those who bless you are blessed, and those who curse you are cursed."

What was Balaam referring to? What is the symbolism of Jews as crouching lions and lionesses?

What is fascinating According to Torah law, there's no such thing as a "domesticated" lion. Other animals can be "owned", and be legally classified as such. A lion remains, by nature, a free creature, and never accepts the yoke of ownership or "domestication”.

This is true collectively but also individually in every Jewish soul.

There are times in our lives when we feel strong, empowered and mighty. We stand erect, firm, on top of our game, as kings in the jungle of the world. In a word, we are vertical.

But at other times, we are horizontal… We crouch, ducking and laying low. We feel depleted, empty, and weak. We can then fall prey to all types of addictions, patterns and behaviors that undermine us.

Comes Balaam and make one of the most moving declarations about the power of the soul:

"He crouches and lies like a lion, like a lioness; who will dare rouse him?”

Crouching he is, but a lion he is. And the lion and lioness even when crouching, ducking, laying low, and seemingly docile, confined in a cage, has not lost its ferocious nature. It may seem like it has “lost its touch,” but that is not the case. It remains a free spirit; no one can ultimately impose their expectations on the lioness or lion.

It is the theme that moved many an audience in Lion King, when Mufasa tells his son Simba: “You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are.”

The man of the house returned home in a gloomy mood.

He was greeted by a fragrant smell of juicy, delicious spare ribs.

He said to his servant , “Listen! I have lost my job today. Until I get another job, no more of these costly things like meet. I will eat tofu and vegetables. Cut the expenses drastically.”

Next evening when he returned , there was once again a fragrant smell of spare ribs.

He said to the servant , “Did I not tell you that I have lost my job and until I get another one ,no more ribs and such costly things.”

The servant replied, “But Sir! I am making the dish only for myself for I have not lost my job.”

"He crouches and lies like a lion.” Even as I crouch, I am a lion. I must never forget who I am and what my calling and true potential is.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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