Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Balak
To dedicate this lesson

From Curses to Blessing


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tamuz 6 5779
This week we are introduced to those partners-in-crime, the unholy alliance of Balak & Bilaam. They set out to curse the Jewish People, figuring that if you can’t beat them physically, you can destroy them verbally. Knowing full well that speech – as utilized in our prayer & Torah study – is Am Yisrael’s stock-in-trade, they figure they will try to beat us at our own game.

This is indeed a potent plan, by a dangerous pair of villains. Chazal note that if you take the last two letters of Bilaam & the last two letters of Balak, you form the word Amalek, our arch-enemy. What Amalek could not accomplish by strength, they will try to do by slander.

Sound familiar? It should – this is exactly the same evil strategy we face in our own day. The Arabs, prodded by the Palestinians, have B"H failed to dislodge us from our land in war after war. And so, they park their tanks & unleash their tongue, trying mightily to malign us in every possible forum, hoping to sway world opinion against us & thereby advance their cause.

If you ever wondered why Chazal place such a major emphasis on speaking the truth, on employing Lashon Tov rather than Lashon Hara, you just have to tune into any media any day of the week anywhere in the world, to see the influence & power that invisible words can have on the multitudes.

Many commentators ask the obvious question, "If Bilaam was such an effective master of the supernatural, why did he not use his powers to bless Midian, rather than to curse Israel?" The answer to that question is also part of our everyday life here in the Holy Land. Our enemies, it’s often been noted, are not so interested in attaining their own state as they are in preventing us from having ours.

What is the solution to all this? It’s exceedingly difficult to disprove lies that are spoken against us (can you prove you never robbed a bank?!) especially when the other side has already made up their minds as to our guilt. Of course, we have to do our utmost to speak the truth & defend our legitimate rights. But at the end of the day, we have to trust in Hashem to do for us exactly what He did in our Sedra – turn the curses flung at us into blessings.

And so He has. The "curse" that Israel was desolate for millennia enabled us to return to a place that was virtually abandoned. The refusal of most of the world to help arm Israel in our early years led us to become fiercely independent & creative. And the almost complete lack of neighboring countries to visit motivated us to develop amazing hotels & resorts within our very own borders.

Menachem Begin once told Anwar Sadat: "The greatest achievement is to turn an enemy into a friend." May we turn all our enemies into friends & all curses into brachot.
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