Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Balak
To dedicate this lesson

Parashat Balak


Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Tammuz 5768
When Bilaam blesses Bnei Yisrael, he opens with the following words of praise:

"For from the peak of rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. ... Let me die the death of the righteous and let my end be like his."
Bilaam serves as the paradigm of the non-Jew who sees the Jewish people in their ideal state and yearns to be like them. Later he utters his famous praise "How goodly are your tents, Yaacov; your dwellings Yisrael." From Bilaam's perspective, the Jewish people have erected a perfect society which - at least in that moment - he yearns to join.
The Baal HaTurim points out on the words "am levadad yishkon" - a people that shall dwell alone - that there are seven "crowns" on the letter shin in the word yishkon symbolizing the seven nations in whose land Yisrael will dwell; and that the word "levadad" is the numerical equivalent of forty to teach that Yisrael will dwell in the Land of Israel which is a forty day journey by foot.
What is the Baal HaTurim's point? After all, Bilaam saw the Jewish people in the desert, not in their land. What is meant by these two symbols.
I believe that the seven crowns and symbolizing the seven nations symbolize paganism which must be destroyed. The "forty days journey" refers to the Torah given to Moshe after forty days on Har Sinai.
Only in our own land can we rid ourselves of dangerous foreign influences and fully commit ourselves to Torah.
The Baal HaTurim is teaching us about our ability to broadcast the message of Torah to the world. Many people think that we can best be a light unto the nations by living among them. This is a mistake. The goal of the Torah is the creation not merely of perfect people but of a perfect society. This is only possible when we have our own land.
Every religion and society has its holy men and places of worship. Our special task is to create an entire society; a government, an army, an economy, etc. that is
devoted to Torah values. Only then will the nations look to us as an example and yearn to emulate our society.
"On that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one."
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