by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – July 3, 2012

As one of his forced forms of recognition of the positive nature of the children of Israel, Bilam remarks in the Torah section of Balak (Bamidbar 24:5), “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.”

In commenting on this verse (Daniel Yaakov Travis, A Voice in the Darkness, pp. 251-252), R. Moshe Sternbuch suggests a profound meaning in these words.

These words, R. Sternbuch opines, describe the exalted stature of the Jewish people.  Whereas the name “Jacob” represents the physical aspect of the Jewish people, the name “Israel” connotes the spiritual aspect of the Jewish people.

The Jewish people’s physical needs, R. Sternbuch suggests, are similar to a tent – a temporary abode in this transient world.  The Jewish people’s spiritual endeavors, however, are like the Mishkan (the Hebrew word being used for dwelling place in the verse), which, although being only a temporary resting place for the Divine Presence, served as the nation’s spiritual focal point for hundreds of years and is still the model for Jewish homes until this day.

R. Sternbuch concludes that if we properly adopt this world outlook, considering our many physical needs as fleeting temporary matters whereas we view our brief spiritual opportunities as an “investment in perpetuity”, we will merit seeing the words of this verse fulfilled as a blessing in our lives and homes today.  May we, indeed, merit fulfillment of this blessing in our lives today and for ever after.