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Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Communal Israeli Embassies (Balak)

Embassies, as strongholds of home, carry its spirit across borders, offering a haven where nationals find support, guidance, and belonging. -ChatGPT

The nation of Israel is on the border of Canaan, getting ready to conquer the Promised Land. They had sought free passage through the kingdom of Sichon. Sichon in response attacked Israel, only to be soundly defeated, even though Israel had no designs on his land. The kingdom of Og is likewise conquered by Israel. King Balak of Moab is petrified by the prospect of Israel conquering his land also, though not only did Israel have no such interest, but God had also commanded Moses that they shouldn’t fight with Moab, their distant cousins, descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Being on the border between what would become the Land of Israel and the Diaspora, the Bat Ayin on Numbers 22:2 explores some of the differences between being inside the land and outside of it. He states that the characteristic of falsehood will take hold and be stronger outside of Israel. He also discusses the distinction and great merit of speaking words of truth, in Hebrew, the holy language, in Israel, the holy land. Prayer in particular is most effective in that combination of being in Hebrew and being in Israel.

However, he adds an important caveat to this principle, based on the Talmud (Tractate Berachot 6a) that a person’s prayers are primarily heard when they are made in the synagogue. There is a power and an urgency that is harder for God to ignore when heartfelt prayers are prayed in the synagogue. The Bat Ayin connects this power of the synagogue to another Talmudic statement (Tractate Megillah 29a) which predicts that all synagogues of the diaspora will somehow be transported at some future date to the land of Israel. That somehow, a synagogue is an extension of the land of Israel, a divine embassy available in every community in the world.

That is why synagogues are exceptions to the rule. That is why prayers outside of Israel are heard with great power and efficacy in the synagogue, because the synagogue is an extension of Israel. That is why, in the future, the synagogues will return to their origins, to their physical roots – the land of Israel, together with our diaspora.

May we take advantage of our local Jewish embassies to make sure our prayers are more forcefully transmitted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the first cohort of incredibly talented Sacks Scholars. Good luck with the program!

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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