Balak: This Is the End, Beautiful Friend, the End ~ Tzvi Abrahams
This Is the End, Beautiful Friend, the End
מִקֵץ: the end
שִׁקְצְה: goya/non-Jewish woman
מוּקְצֶה: not to be moved on Shabbos
שְׁקָצִים: detestable things
קוֹץ: thorn, sharp end
קַיִץ : summertime
וַיָּקָץ מוֹאָב מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל And Moav became disgusted because of the Children of Israel.
Usually, a word that contains the letters קץ has a connotation of “end” or bringing closer to the end: קוֹצֶר רוּחַ/shortness of breath; קָצִיר/to harvest, i.e., to cut short the crop; בְּקִיצֻר/to be brief, to cut short one’s words; קָצַב/fixed time, has an end; עוֹקֶץ/stem, the end of the tree; קְצִין/chief, commander, one who stands at the edge of the battle; קוֹצֵץ/to chop.
Life by definition has a beginning and an end. To some people, the end is the end; there is nothing beyond the boundaries. This idea can be very scary. Death is a subject that one tends to stay away from, something מוּקְצֶה/off-limits, taboo, detestable, and ugly, where just thinking about it leaves one scared and קוֹצֶר רוּחַ/short of breath. Nobody wants to think of a time when he will no longer exist. Death for some people is their number one fear.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ-לֹהִים לְנֹחַ קֵץ כָּל בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס And Hashem said to Noach, the time has come for the end of all flesh, because the earth is full of thievery.
The Kli Yakar comments on the words קֵץ כָּל בָּשָׂר, where קֵץ is a pseudonym for the מַלְאַךְ הַמָוֶת/the Angel of Death and also the יֵצֶר הָרַע/evil inclination.
Amalek is also compared to the yetzer hara who sits at the extremities of the heart waiting for an opening. He only has the strength to attack the tail end, the ones lagging behind, the ones who are weak in their yiras Shamayim/fear of Heaven.
Since the yetzer hara is not really who we are, it is detestable to us, for things that we like we desire, but things that are not part of us we abhor. The yetzer hara, in fact, desires our end. When we are in touch with who we really are, i.e., a spark of the Divine, then we are connected to the אֵין סוֹף/the Infinite, literally, “without end.” The contrast is stark: Hashem is the אֵין סוֹף/without end, whereas the yetzer hara is known as the קֵץ/end because it desires our קֵץ and it is detestable to us — lashon קָצָה.
מִקֵץ: The End
וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁנָתַיִם יָמִים. Rashi: all lashon קֵץ is “the end.” Ohr HaChaim: קֵץ is a name for חוֹשֶׁך/darkness, whereמִקֵּץ refers to Yosef being locked up in darkness because of the קֵץ/the yetzer hara.
וְנַפְשֵׁנוּ קָצָה בַּלֶּחֶם. Rashi: lashon קוֹצֶר רוּחַ/shortness of spirit and detesting.
שִׁקְצֶה: Goya, Non-Jewish Woman
וַתֹּאמֶר רִבְקָה אֶל יִצְחָק קַצְתִּי בְחַיַּי מִפְּנֵי בְּנוֹת חֵת And Rivkah said to Yitzchak, “It would be detestable for Yaakov to marry the daughters of Chais” from the Canaanite nation, i.e., to marry out of the family, because marrying a שִׁקְצֶה/shiktzah is considered detestable. A shiktzah is not only off-limits like מוּקְצֶה, but she will also cut short a man’s eternal life — literally, she will be the end of him.
מוּקְצֶה: Off-Limits on Shabbos
Just like a shiktzah is off-limits, so too objects that are off-limits on Shabbos are called מוּקְצֶה.
שֶׁקֶץ, שְׁקָצִים: Detestable
שֶׁקֶץ הֵם לָכֶם — this section of the Torah discusses all things that are detestable to eat.
קוֹץ: Thorn, Sharp End
וַיָּקֻצוּ מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל/and the Egyptians were disgusted with the proliferation of the children of Israel. Rashi brings the Midrash that says the word וַיָּקֻצוּ is compared to קוֹצִים/thorns, in that we were like thorns in their eyes.
The Kli Yakar says that the קוֹצִים/thorns were referring to the Egyptians who themselves felt like thorns obstructing the way of the Bnei Yisrael. Despite the Egyptians’ plan to decrease the numbers of the Bnei Yisrael through hard work and slavery, the will of Hashem prevailed, and instead their numbers increased [פֶּן יִרְבֶּה, כֵּן יִרְבֶּה]. When they saw that their strategy had failed, they felt that Hashem was clearing out Egypt of Egyptians and replacing them instead with the Jewish Nation, like clearing a field of its thorns in preparation for the seeds to grow.
In a way, the Egyptians felt so disgusted because they were witnessing the possible end of their existence in that the land would soon be taken over by the Jews. In the same way as the Egyptians were disgusted, so too were the Moabites: וַיָּקָץ מוֹאָב מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. They were disgusted by the vast numbers of the Bnei Yisrael and were now faced with the prospect of their own annihilation — their end was in sight.
We find disgusting anything that will bring us close to the end. We don’t usually contemplate a time when we will no longer exist. We go about our lives as if we have all the time in the world. If suddenly we were told by the doctor that we had contracted a terminal illness, חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, we would feel immense trepidation and be in a state of קוֹצֶר רוּחַ/panic.
To a non-believer, or to one who is so connected to the pleasures of this world, the end is the end: “…this is the end…” When we are really enjoying life, like the summer vacation, we don’t want it to end.
If someone had a magic potion, an elixir of life that would grant eternal life, he would be a billionaire. Yet many of us fall short of realizing and appreciating that we already have the opportunity for eternal life. Hashem has given us the Torah, עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ/it is a tree of life to those who grasp it; it is the key that opens up the world to אֵין סוֹף.
To what end is the fly? Hashem created it for a purpose. The fly is compared to the יֵצֶר הָרַע, so too the קֵץ is compared to the יֵצֶר הָרַע and so too the מַלְאַךְ הַמָוֶת/the Angel of Death, because the purpose of the יֵצֶר הָרַע is to shorten our lives, to bring us down — it desires our end. The מַלְאַךְ הַמָוֶת comes at the end.
The reason there are so many flies in the summertime is because the יֵצֶר הָרַע is working overtime; it has to work so much harder. In the חוֹרֶף/winter of our lives when we are young, we are all יֵצֶר, untamed and wild, and the יֵצֶר הָרַע is not so concerned with us. Come the summer of our lives, (קַיִץ being lashon קֵץ), when we are in the process of developing fruits, then there is a proliferation of flies, fruit flies, trying to destroy and spoil our beautiful fruits represented by our good deeds.
Summertime is also when it is hot and when desire is at its peak. The end of the summer is the hottest, שִׁילְהֵי דְקַייטִא קַשִׁיָא מֵקַייטִא, meaning that just at the very end is when the יֵצֶר הָרַע gives its last-ditched attack to try to bring us down — similar to an arm wrestle or a tug-of-war, where before we give up, we give it our all. This is why our Sages say that we should never trust in ourselves until the day we die, for we always have to be on guard against the temptations of the יֵצֶר הָרַע.
The reason the יֵצֶר הָרַע comes on so strongly at the end is because a man is judged where he will be at the end, הַכָּל הוֹלֵך אַחַר הַסוֹף. The tzaddikim, after they have passed on, are likened to the stars that only shine when it is dark, because until they die we never know for sure if they will stay on the true path or be deceived at the end, as was the case with Yochanan Kohen Gadol.
Just like there is a purpose to בְּרֵאשִׁית/the beginning, so too there is a purpose to the end. Knowing there is an end should motivate us to take life seriously, to value it, and not to waste time. At the end, we will stand before Hashem and be judged. It is our day of reckoning. We have done the test of life; now is the time to be marked. Will our account be in a plus or in a minus?
The purpose of the קֵץ, representing the יֵצֶר הָרַע, is to challenge us. He is, in effect, our friend. Although he is programmed to seek our end, or to bring short our end, in essence he only desires for us to overcome him. There is a mashal for the yetzer hara: Hashem has a beautiful princess whom He sends out of the palace in order to tempt man. The princess does not want to overcome man but to give man the opportunity to overcome her and be victorious over her.
So really she is our friend; wherever we go she goes. She will be there at the end, and then we will realize that she was our friend all along. חָבֵר/Friend is lashon חִיבּוּר/connection, and there is no greater חִיבּוּר than the yetzer hara who is so closely intertwined within us. At the end of our lives perhaps she will say: “This is the end, beautiful friend, the end…my only friend, the end!”
On the other hand, the one who has wasted his life will cause the מַלְאַךְ הַמָוֶת/the Angel of Death to stand up on his day of reckoning and point out all of his weaknesses and deficiencies. He will feel disgusted with himself when he realizes the truth: that he wasted his whole life and that now it is too late to do anything about it. He will be disgusted with himself because for him it is truly the end.
Our sages inform us that we are rapidly approaching the End of Days at six thousand years, where not only man recalls his end, but the time comes for the world to end and regenerate. As we said before, the sign that the tug-of-war and the arm wrestle is coming to an end is when the weaker one, in a last-ditched attempt, throws in everything he’s got. If we open up our eyes and take a look around us, it is quite obvious that our opponent is throwing at us everything he’s got. No other generation has had to contend with the blatant full-on attack methods that we find so readily available at our fingertips today.
In יִגְדַל we say, יִשְׁלַח לְקֵץ הַיָּמִין מְשִׁיחֵנוּ, לִפְדּוֹת מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתוֹ. Rather than be disgusted with our lives, hopefully we will be counted among the ones who will be redeemed because we have patiently awaited the redemption, the end of days, when Hashem will send His right-hand man, the Mashiach, בִּמְהֵרָה בְּיָמֵינוּ אָמֵן.
1 Bamidbar 22:3.
2 Bereishis 6:13.
3 Ibid., 41:1.
4 Bereishis Rabbah 89:1; see Iyov 28:3.
5 Bamidbar 21:5.
6 Bereishis 27:46.
7 Vayikra 11:10.
8 Shemos 1:12.
9 Shemos Rabbah 1:11 and Sotah 11a.
10 Mishlei 3:18.
11 Yoma 29a.
12 Avos 2:4.
13 Kli Yakar to Shemos 1:1.
14 Brachos 29a.