Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Chukas-Balak - 5780
LOOKING INTO THE PROPER TENT
The Torah tells us that after Bilaam realized that Hashem was determined to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as before. Instead, he turned and looked out toward the wilderness, where he saw the people of Israel camped, tribe by tribe. We are told that the Spirit of Hashem came upon him, and he said, "How beautiful are your tents, O Yaakov; how lovely are your homes, O Israel!"
These words have become part of our daily service. Many people, as they enter into the sanctuary of a synagogue, utter these exact words.
Rashi notes that Bilaam was inspired by the fact that the tents of the Children of Israel in the wilderness were arranged so that their entrances did not face one another. Thus, privacy and personal dignity were preserved, even as they lived in great proximity.
The idea of not looking into the tent of others is important for another reason as well. Although Judaism believes that it is important to be inspired by the good actions of others, one should not live a life trying to become another person. Every person was born with his or her unique mission, and attempting to imitate the life of someone else is not the intent of our Creator.
Not looking into the other tent is a reminder that a successful life is when a person maximizes their own potential, and thus fulfills their personal assignment in this world.