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Parshas Balak - Facts May Not Care About Your Feelings But You Certainly Do! 

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So you've gotten into an argument with a good friend. A loved one. Maybe it's even your spouse. You're convinced you're in the right. You know you're right. It's not even a question. You know exactly what happened. How could they have done this to you? What is the definition of the word "truth"? Truth means having the accurate perception of reality. So who had a greater understanding of the truth of what occurred by Akeidas Yitzchak for example? Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu or Moshe Rabbeinu? Our first reaction would be to answer that Avraham and Yitzchak have a greater appreciation of the truth of the story. After all, they were there! How could anyone know the story better than the protagonists themselves? The truth is that we are all biased. None of us experience the same reality because we see events through the lens of our own ego. Ego distorts our reality perception. But there is a "truth" as to what actually occurred. The only one that knows that truth is God Himself. So let's return to our question. Who had a greater understanding of Akeidas Yitzchak? Both Avraham and Moshe were prophets but there was a fundamental difference between their prophecies. Not just in quantity but in quality. The Gemara in Brachos explains that for Avraham Avinu prophecy was like looking through a stained glass whereas for Moshe Rabbeinu it was like looking through a clear glass. Why was there a difference? Regarding the humility of Avraham the passuk testifies that he considered himself "Anochi afar veifer", I am like dust and ashes. Moshe Rabbeinu says, "Vinachnu Mah", what am I? In other words both Avraham and Moshe were exceedingly humble but Avraham Avinu still understood that he existed (albeit the thinnest slice of existence - dust and ashes). Moshe Rabbeinu had come to such a state of dvekius, connection, with Hashem that he could not even think about his own existence. His ego was completely nullified. And as a result he had the highest level of prophecy. Avraham Avinu was peering through stained glass. The tint on the glass was his own ego however slight. Moshe Rabbeinu looked through clear glass because he was totally devoid of ego and thus had the clearest perception of reality. So in the end, while Avraham and Yitzchak were at Akeidas Yitzchak and experienced the events as they unfolded, the story they told may not be the same as the one we read in the Torah. The story that Moshe Rabbeinu told is the capital T truth because it is what God said actually occurred. Bilaam's prophecy was an answer to the Nation's of the World. Without Bilaam they would have complained that they were not given an equal opportunity to come close to God. We had Moshe but who did they have? Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskind, the Seraph of Brisk, explains that in the story of this week's parsha, Bilaam experienced the same level of nevua as Moshe Rabbeinu. He was looking through a clear glass. Chazal even say that this parsha was authored by Bilaam. Why would God grant Bilaam such a level of nevua? He was clearly not a man of great humility? Bilaam was hired to curse the Jews. How would he have done so? Chazal say that the interpretation of the nevua becomes the reality. The way we interpret events impacts the world. Bilaam knew his own arrogance. He knew God would grant him a prophecy but he also knew how to distort that prophecy and interpret it the way he wished. In this manner he intended to harm Klal Yisrael but Hashem did not allow this to happen. Instead he was given the same level of prophecy as Moshe Rabbeinu. Just as for Moshe the truth was clear as day so too for Bilaam. He wanted to distort the prophecy by misinterpreting it but by giving him the highest levels of nevua that became impossible. It was like looking through a clear glass. The truth was unavoidable. Bilaams level of prophecy was as much a gift to the Jews as it was for the Gentiles. This is an important lesson in our lives. So often we know with certainty the "truth" of what occurred. No one is the villain in their own story. Someone else is the bad guy and we are the hero. Perhaps we are willing to concede that maybe we could have done better but even so they should not have… Challenging our interpretation of events is part of maturation. Knowing our own ego and understanding how that ego shapes the way we see the world is a fundamental part of self awareness. How many times have we listened to arguments between people who are each telling the same story but with a totally different emphasis. Sometimes the facts are in question (turns out facts may not care about our feelings but we certainly do and as a result we have a tendency to reinterpret the facts) but more often than not the story is the same and it is just a question of interpretation. We would do well to ask ourselves if we are indeed experiencing the truth of the events when we find ourselves in these circumstances. We all come to the table with a history. Perhaps we are afraid or jealous or hurt etc… That ego taints the way we see the world. If you look through pink sunglasses the world appears to be pink. It is not true but we could become convinced that it's the truth. Usually in an argument the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Each party has a version of the truth and each story informs the other. When we listen to the way other people experience us it gives us an insight into a part of our own story that we may be unaware of. Especially for those of us who suffer from arrogance it is important to listen to others so we can come to a more complete understanding of the truth. As mentioned above, how we interpret events shapes the world we live in. The more we live with a Godly perception of the world the truer our world will be. Ego distorts the truth. Humility gives us access to an accurate perception of reality. The greater the humility the greater the access. While we may not be on the level to know "The Truth" we can all strive for truth and in the end that's a beautiful way to live our lives.

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