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Beit Midrash פרשת שבוע ותנ"ך בלק

ADVERSARIES & ADMIRATION

Rabbi Stewart WeissTamuz 15 5778
13
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Our Sedra of Balak is peculiar in the extreme. It’s central character is Bilam, known popularly as Bilam Ha-Rasha, the "evil one." And yet, Bilam seems to have an open line of communication with Hashem; indeed, an inordinate amount of text is devoted to Bilam’s pronouncements. At the same time, Moshe – the central figure in the Torah – is all but excluded from the Sedra!

What is going on here?

Until now, throughout the book of Bamidbar, Bnei Yisrael has gone from crisis to crisis, all the while incurring the wrath of G-d. We complained incessantly about water, about the lack of meat, about the Mahn. We rallied around the Meraglim & their rejection of Hashem’s promise to bring us into Israel. We even had the audacity to react angrily to Korach’s demise. On more than one occasion, Hashem threatened to wipe us out, & was deterred only by Moshe’s spirited intervention on our behalf.

Imagine how low our self-esteem must have dropped! Our psyches battered & bruised, we must have thought that we were not a Royal, Loyal nation, but rather an insolent, inferior bunch. What could possibly be done to restore our morale & our majesty?

Enter Bilam. Though he is no lover of Am Yisrael (indeed, the last two letters of the names "Bilam" & "Balak" combine to spell "Amalek!"), & though he is paid to curse us, Bilam ends up bestowing the most glorious, complimentary blessings upon us, blessings that live on throughout our history. One of them, "Mah Tovu" even begins our daily Tefilot!

While we Jews are very adept at giving ourselves a well-earned pat on the back, there is something quite dramatic & powerful when those of another faith sing our praises. Not only is it a Kiddush Hashem that has a heightened effect on the world at large, it also reinforces our own faith in who we are & what we do. When Bilam – a complete outsider, with no bias whatsoever in our favor - speaks about our modesty, our courage, our destiny to live eternally & outlast all other civilizations, he is affirming truths that verify & validate our mission in this world.

And so Bilam takes center-stage in this Sedra while Moshe retreats to the sidelines. It is Hashem’s way of massaging our damaged ego, trying to re-inject that missing sense of self & status that we need to fulfill our mission in this world. We will be tested time & time again – as we are at the end of this very same Sedra – but there will always be heroes, from among us & from the world at large, who will remind us of our path to glory.
More on this Topic Balak

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