It's a Good World, After All!

The association between Elijah and the brit began when Elijah served as a prophet in the land of Israel. The Midrash tells us that at that time, there was a "trend" among some of the Jewish people not to observe the age-old tradition of brit milah. 

Elijah, who was a zealous prophet, was angered by this behavior and complained to G‑d that the children of Israel had forsaken his covenant. G‑d did not appreciate Elijah pointing out the shortcomings of His beloved children and He therefore determined that Elijah's spirit would forever attend the brit of each and every Jewish child. 

As the Zohar relates, "The mouth that testified that Israel has forsaken the covenant will testify that Israel is observing the covenant." 

The message Elijah received was that instead of occupying himself with "tattling" on the Jews, he should make it his calling to find good within the nation and reveal it. 

In the parsha this week, we find a similar attempt to slander the Jewish people, but this time from our enemies. 

The parsha, Balak, is named after King Balak, who was afraid of the newly created Jewish people who had just left Egypt amidst plagues and miracles. King Balak hired a pagan prophet named Bilaam to lay a curse on the Jewish people. 

Bilaam knew, as did all the nations at the time, that the children of Israel were a blessed people, with G‑d on their side. Thus, the Almighty would never allow a curse to prevail. Bilaam's strategy was to find some shortcoming of the Jews and point it out in his curse, thus evoking G‑d's anger toward them. 

His attempts were not only unsuccessful, he ended up bestowing the most powerful blessing upon the Jews. This blessing, "Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov" ("How good are your tents, O Jacob") has become an integral part of our daily prayers. 

In our lives, too, it's much easier (and more entertaining) to find the negative within people. It doesn't take a scholar to point out the faults of our fellow Jews. But G‑d expects from each of us not just to close our eyes to the weaknesses, but to actively search and elaborate on the good that is happening around us. If you do so, you may be surprised to discover, that despite the six o' clock news, it's a good world, after all!