SALT - Tuesday, 10 Tammuz 5777 - July 4, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            As we discussed earlier this week, the Gemara in Masekhet Berakhot (7a) explains that the secret to Bilam’s success in placing curses upon his foes lay in his ability to determine the precise moment each day when God becomes angry.  Bilam used this knowledge to seize the opportunity to place his curse.  He was unsuccessful in his attempts to curse Benei Yisrael, the Gemara explains, because God did not become angry during this period.

            Later, the Gemara cites a seemingly peculiar remark by Abayei identifying the precise moment when God becomes angry.  Abayei says that this occurs each morning at the moment when the rooster’s crest turns white.  When all the redness in the crest is gone, and it turns completely white, this is the moment when God’s anger is aroused.

            To explain this enigmatic passage, Rav Yitzchak Stollman suggests in his Minchat Yitzchak that the rooster symbolizes the opportunities presented to us, and to all mankind, each and every morning.  The rooster’s crow at the dawn of the new day represents the call to correct the mistakes of the previous day, that we have the opportunity for a new beginning, to change ourselves and the world.  As the sun rises and begins a new day, the rooster crows to “awaken” mankind both literally and figuratively, summoning us to seize the opportunities afforded by the new day to make substantive changes.  Several hours into the morning, when it becomes clear that the day is unfolding just like any other, that mankind is again squandering the opportunities of the new day, the rooster turns “white” from shame, having failed in its role to spur a process of positive change.  And at this moment, God becomes angry.  When He sees that we are going about our affairs no differently than on the previous days, without heeding the call for change, the call sounded by the rising sun, by the dawn of a new day, He is disappointed, as it were, in His creations.

            In what at first appears as a strange, enigmatic remark, the Gemara in in fact teaching us the importance of seeing and seizing the opportunities presented to us each day for a new beginning.  We must firmly believe that yesterday’s mistakes can be corrected, that the failures of the past can be transformed into successes in the present and future.  The Gemara here urges us not to get caught in a rut, in a routine of failure, disappointment and mediocrity, but to instead seize each day’s opportunities and trust in our ability to change and improve.