Torah Weekly - Parshat Balak
on the week ending July 15, 2000 / 12 Tamuz 5760
In Israel for the week ending July 15, 2000 / 12 Tamuz 5760
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Balak, king of Moav, is in morbid fear of Bnei Yisrael. He summons a renowned sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them. First, Hashem appears to Bilaam and forbids him to go. But because Bilaam is so insistent, Hashem appears to him a second time and permits him to go. While en route, a malach (emissary from Hashem) blocks Bilaam's donkey's path. Unable to contain his frustration, Bilaam strikes the donkey each time it stops or tries to detour. Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bilaam why he is hitting her.
The malach instructs Bilaam regarding what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say regarding the Jewish People. When Bilaam arrives, King Balak makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will succeed in the curse. Three times Bilaam attempts to curse, and three times a blessing issues instead. Balak, seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace. Bnei Yisrael begin sinning with the Moabite women, and worshipping the Moabite idols, and are punished with a plague.
One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe and the people. Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon, grabs a spear and kills both evildoers. This halts the plague, but not before 24,000 have died.
THE MOST UNKINDEST KINDNESS
"For I know that whomever ... you curse is cursed" (22:6)
There is a mystical concept that Hashem "gets angry" every day for a "rega," a split second.
This "anger" is midat hadin, the Divine attribute of unyielding justice with which Hashem judges the world. Someone who has transgressed is most vulnerable at that time.
Bilaam's talent was in discerning the exact moment each day of Hashem's anger, and at that moment to utter a powerful curse. With a well-timed curse, Bilaam hoped to direct this Divine anger against the Jews.
Hashem foiled Bilaam's scheme by withholding midat hadin throughout those days; during that time, Hashem did not "sit in judgement."
This lack of "din" was not without repercussions, however; for the world balances delicately between chesed (kindness) and din (justice). When a few days passed without midat din, a disproportionate amount of Divine Kindness took its place.
Can there be too much kindness?
Bilaam realized that due to this influx of "excess kindness," the time was propitious to entice the Jewish People to sin through immorality, which is, in essence, unbridled "kindness." Accordingly, he advised Balak and Balak succeeded in luring Bnei Yisrael into degradation with the daughters of Moav.
- Avoda Zara 4a
- Rashi 24:14
- Rabbi Uziel Milevsky
"Let my soul die the death of the righteous,
and may my end be like his." (23:10)
Evil people want reward without effort. "Let my soul die the death of the righteous," said Bilaam. Bilaam longed to die like a righteous man…he just wasn't willing to live like one.
Haftara (for Parshat Chukat/Balak outside Israel
and for Parshat Balak in Israel)
Micha 5:6 - 6:8
The Prophet Micha foresees "Yaakov's Remnant" -- the Jews who survive the mass murders and decimation of exile -- sprout and flourish at the end of days. Once vassals, the Jews grow into an independent people, relying on no man or nation for sustenance; once a sheep among lions, the Jews become like a lion who attacks its enemies with impunity. This stage is temporary, however; eventually, there will be no need for military might, horses, chariots, or fortresses, as peace will reign.
After this promising forecast, Micha turns his eye to the past and present. Micha rebukes the Jews for their lax Torah-observance and reminds them of G-d's historical kindness: G-d freed them from Egypt and put three fabulous leaders, Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, at their head. And -- drawing on the events described in Parshat Balak -- Micha recalls G-d's special love and protection of the Jewish People against the nefarious plottings of Balak and Bilaam.
"And Yaakov's Remnant among the many nations
will be like dew from G-d ...
which looks to no one and waits for no man." (5:6)
Almost an entire Parsha, Parshat Balak, chronicles the spiteful attempts by Israel's bitter foes to obliterate the fledgling nation. During these attacks, the Jews are entirely passive -- perhaps even unaware. They are protected by G-d alone.
So, at the end of days, will the Jews be like the dew which condenses miraculously upon the grass, independent of any human agency. Like the dew, the Jews will bring the nourishing waters of Torah to a thirsty world.
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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