What does Hashem want from us – Part 2 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

In Parshas Balak, Bilam is asked by Balak to curse the Yidden. Instead, Bilam blesses them, as it states in Bamidbar 24:5 “ מה טובו אהליך יעקב – How goodly are your tents Jacob”. However, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105b says something very fascinating with regards to Bilam’s bracha to Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Yocḥanan says: From the blessing of that wicked person, Bilam, you can ascertain what was in his heart. Hashem transformed the curses that he planned into blessings. He sought to say that they should not have shuls and study halls, and he said instead: “How goodly are your tents, Jacob” (Numbers 24:5), a blessing on their shuls.”

The Gemara continues:

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana says: All of the blessings ultimately reverted to be fulfilled as the curse that he originally intended, as all of those circumstances befell the Jewish people, except for the destruction of shuls and study halls, as it is stated: “And the Lord your God transformed the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you” (Devarim 23:6)

Nevertheless, we see today that Bilam’s curse appears to have been fulfilled.


Our shuls and mosdos have been shut down for the last few months. In Israel,

they are having a second wave again and the shuls and Mosdos are closed. In America, select Yeshivas are re-opening up albeit with restrictions.

Therefore, we have a question on Rabbi Abba bar Kahana, who stated clearly that Bilam’s curse on shuls and study halls has never befallen Klal Yisroel.

Is Rabbi Abba bar Kahana’s statement true?

The answer is yes, Rabbi Abba bar Kahana’s statement is accurate. Bilam’s curse never happened to shuls and study halls. Let’s look at the Gemara and translate the words accurately.

אר יוחנן מברכתו של אותו רשע אתה למד מה היה בלבו ביקש לומר שלא יהו להם בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות

Rabbi Yoḥanan says: From the blessing of that wicked person, Bilam, you can ascertain what was in his heart. Hashem transformed the curses that he planned into blessings. He sought to say that שלא יהו להם they should not have shuls and study halls.” Period. Bilam’s intentions with his curse were that the Jews should not have shuls and study halls at all, not a four-month interval of a shutdown, and have no connection with Hashem, as the Gemara says in Sanhedrin 106A.

Bilam’s curse that they should not have shuls and study halls at all has never occurred before. This is the first time in history where, due to the coronavirus, global havoc has caused all our Mosdos and shuls to be shut down.

As I mentioned in my previous article Part 1 ” What does Hashem want from us?”, I quoted the Rambam (Hilchos Ta’aniyos 1:3) who states “that we must do self-reflection when calamities fall on us.” He says that it is on account of our evil deeds that evil befell us”.

The Gemara in Brochos 5a states אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן לָקִישׁ: כׇּל הָעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה יִסּוּרִין בְּדֵילִין .הֵימֶנּוּ Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish sais: “If one engages in Torah study, suffering stays away from him.”

Unfortunately, we see from the current situation that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish’s statement appears to be untrue. Before the Coronavirus, Mosdos around the world were vibrant with Torah study and it has been said that such vibrancy of learning especially in Eretz Yisroel has not been seen since the time of the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore, how should we understand the statements of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish?

Perhaps the answer can be seen from the Gemara just a bit further on.

Rava and some say Rav Ḥisda, said; If a person sees that suffering has befallen him, he should examine his actions יְפַשְׁפֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו. Generally, suffering comes about as punishment for one’s transgressions, as it is stated: “We will search and examine our ways, and return to God” (Eichah 3:40). If he examined his ways and found no transgression for which that suffering is appropriate, he may attribute his suffering to dereliction in the study of Torah.יִתְלֶה בְּבִטּוּל תּוֹרָה”

As we can understand from the above, suffering comes from bittul Torah. In working with many talmidim over 30 years, and helping them build basic foundation skills in learning which have been sorely lacking, thus causing apathy in their Limmud HaTorah, I see much bittul Torah in our Mosdos. Many bochurim spend many hours in yeshiva, not translating properly, guessing the text and that is called bittul Torah. If a Maggid Shiur teaches in a language which the bochur does not understand and tells him he will pick up the Yiddish or Ivrit in a few months, but meanwhile the bochur is wasting his time letting it all fly over his head- this is called bittul Torah.

The Jewish educational system needs to be rectified. It has to change. It is just not working for the majority there is a lot of bittul Torah going around in our Mosdos. A lot of bochurim are just wasting their time and faking that they are learning but in reality they are not. We must stop being in denial and saying our Mosdos are the best. Otherwise, Hashem would not have shut down Mosdos throughout the Jewish world.

As I have explained in previous articles, the Jewish educational system requires restructuring. Following Chazal correctly as to when to commence teaching Alef Bais, Chumash and Gemara, eradicating the non-Jewish methodology which has unfortunately seeped into the approach in how to teach Torah, and making sure our bochurim get the right foundation before going to the next step in learning will alleviate the bittul Torah.

With this tikkun, may we all see the holy words of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish be fulfilled in our time, and that we will once again be able to learn Torah without distractions or illness within the walls of our Mosdos.


Rabbi Dovid Abenson can be contacted at:

Tel. 15147393629

Cell/Whatsapp 15149935300


Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah all the way up to learning Gemara, Rishonim and Shulchan Aruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation and training, and consults with school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.



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There are 1 Comments to "What does Hashem want from us – Part 2 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson"

  • concerned parent says:

    you stopped short. what about those not in yeshiva? or Whose parents cant afford the steep tuition? maybe fix that problem first. all it needs is 2 things. people to care and money, otherwise what right do mosdos have to be open