| Parshah |

Age Appropriate

Hashem always gives reward to everyone according to what he deserves


“And Balak ben Tzipor saw all that Yisrael had done to the Amori.” (Bamidbar 22:2)


here are six parshiyos that have a person’s name as their titles: Noach, Chayei Sarah, Yisro, Korach, Balak, and Pinchas. Four of these parshiyos are named after tzaddikim, two after resha’im.
Why are two parshiyos named after evil people? The pasuk in Mishlei (10:7) states that the memory of a tzaddik should be mentioned for blessing, and the name of the wicked should rot. Certainly resha’im shouldn’t be prominently referenced or honored. What was unique about Korach and Balak that they merited this? (Rav Pinchas Gershon Waxman)

The scene may have looked strange to an outsider, but for us kids, it was part of the picture. Standing in a circle underneath a shady redwood tree, we clapped our hands in glee as we watched the dancer in the middle. His name was Elmer — I don’t even know his last name. Everyone knew Elmer. He was a wizened old man. A jack-of-all-trades, Elmer mowed the lawns, tinkered with cars, and was the block Shabbos goy. He had as many addresses as jobs, but for the most part, he wandered, homeless. Sometimes he’d disappear for months on end, but he’d always show up eventually, back to his favorite spot under our neighbor’s tree, watching the world go by. He was a sweet, friendly soul, always keeping track of everyone’s activity, tipping his hat as you went by. And if you stopped for conversation, he’d dance a jig, regaling us with his seemingly endless engergy.

Possibly this hashgachah reflects Hashem’s goodness that He doesn’t deny merited reward to anyone, even a rasha. Although Korach and his entire family were swallowed by the ground, the pasuk (Bamidbar 26:11) says that the children of Korach didn’t die.
Chazal explain that three children of Korach did teshuvah as they were sinking and were given a special place in Gehinnom where they sat and sang shirah. Furthermore, the great navi Shmuel, equivalent in stature to Moshe and Aharon, was a descendant of Korach and sang shirah in Mishkan Shilo.
Korach’s sons were three of Sefer Tehillim’s ten authors. The shir shel yom for Monday (Tehillim 48), is written by them. Likewise, perek Tehillim 47 (which we read on Rosh Hashanah before tekias shofar) was composedby the sons of Korach.
Moreover, the three sons of Korach aren’t named individually, but are referenced jointly as “the sons of Korach” — reflecting the continuity of Korach.
Perhaps Korach merited this beause he learned Torah with others, or because he was embarrassed yet remained silent when his three sons would stand up for Moshe Rabbeinu in front of him.

Everyone liked Elmer; you couldn’t help it. And apparently he liked us, because years went by and Elmer stuck around. He set up home in our neighbor’s shed, spurning offers of sheets or pillows, insisting he was more comfortable with his spartan surroundings. And so he stayed, a part of the neighborhood.

Balak also left an everlasting legacy. The Gemara (Nazir 23b) explains that as a reward for the 42 korbanos that Balak the rasha brought, he merited that Rus descend from him.
Even though Balak is labled a rasha and is forever infamous for attempting to destroy Klal Yisrael, he maintains a tremendous legacy through Rus, and consequently Malchus Dovid and Melech Hamashiach.
These two wicked leaders were unique. They were zocheh to have great descendants and leave monumental legacies. And they show us that Hashem always gives reward to everyone according to what he deserves.

I got married and moved away. Yet whenever I came to visit, Elmer was still there. Year after year. The same friendly Elmer, dancing his jigs, and tipping his hat to my children.

I don’t remember exactly when he died. All I know is we discovered he was close to 100 years old. Perhaps it was a reward for his many acts of kindness.

There was something missing the next time when I went to to visit. An empty space underneath that tree. It’s been years, but we all still remember Elmer, and when we reminisce it always brings a smile. He may not have had much in worldly possessions but he left behind memories of laughter that still dance in the backgrounds of our lives.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 801)

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