Blog Balaq Tammuz 17 5779 בלוג בָּלָק, י”ז תמוז תשע”ט
The portion Balaq is named after the Gentile King of the Moabites. Our traditions teach us that Bilaam was the grandson of Lavan, the father of Rebekah. Beor, the son of Lavan, was Bilaam’s father. Having come from the same area as Avinu Avraham, they had in their tradition the understanding that “those who you bless will be blessed and those who you curse will be cursed.” That leads us to the message of this portion and what we can glean for our lives. Bilaam, an Aramean was a Gentile Prophet of the Creator. When we consider that the Moabites, the Midianites, the Edomites were all distant relatives of Israel, we can see the universality of the message. All humanity is related since we all descend from the three sons of Noah. This should be taken into consideration in how we treat each other.
The King of Moab refused to allow the Israelites to pass through his territory as he was worried that they would “lick up everything” as they passed through. The idea at that time was that each territory had its regional god that never cross borders. Israel however, had their God that didn’t respect anyone’s borders; He was everywhere. This created fear produced by the stories of the other nations where Israel had tried to pass through, never however with the intent to conquer.
The story of Balaq and Bilaam is about how sorcery removes the protective covering of the Creator, the one and only God for all humanity. Bilaam misused his gift of prophecy to fulfill his greedy desires. That is later repeated by Gehazi the servant of the prophet Elisha and the consequences were dire! When the Creator gives us something to do, it must not be for profit. When Bilaam saw that he could not curse the Israelites, he gave the Moabites and Midianites the key for the downfall of Israel. He told them to get the men of Israel to perform acts of immorality. If we transfer this message to today, we see Israel surrounded by enemies on all fronts. Everyone hates Israel but their worst enemies those from within who hate Israel. The only things that could come out of the mouth of Bilaam were blessings because the Creator is Israel’s protector. The only thing that Israel needs to do is to follow what the Bore Olam gave her – The Ten Commandments. We were never called to be the best, we were called to serve; we were never called to conquer the land, the Creator had already given it to us. The people who were living in the land were asked to leave because that land was reserved for Israel. They didn’t want to leave then, and they don’t want to leave now.
Balaq carries a great warning for Israel to which I wish they would listen. When Bilaam could not curse Israel, he gave the enemies of Israel the idea of bringing the Israelites into immorality at which time their God would abandon them. This would make them weak and vulnerable. Pinchas the son of Eleazar the Cohen HaGadol was the one to make things right by destroying the immorality among them (Num. 25:7-9). However, if we say that today, we are called fundamentalist radicals. History teaches that we need to learn from the past in order not to repeat it. In spite of that, Israel today is like a peacock boasting about how open-minded and free she is. Sadly, being open-minded or progressive today is having to accept all types of immorality. Society has taken away the rights of parents to teach and discipline their children. This now belongs to the state. Those who believe in a higher power are becoming a persecuted minority and are called retrograde because we speak the truth. This is how Bilaam tried to curse Israel.
I am not a religious person. I don’t believe that Biblical Judaism is a religion; it is a relationship with the Creator. If you have parents who have given you good instructions, can you blame them if you get into trouble for being disobedient? Today we blame everyone for our problems because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our actions. When Pinchas saw the immoral behavior of Zimri and Kozbi in front of the Ochel Moed – the Tent of Meeting – he couldn’t stand it and took action but not before 24,000 Israelites perished in the plague that the Creator has sent. They were worshipping the god of Baal Peor, the same god of immorality that people are worshipping today. We are being forced by society to accept their ways when we know that they are wrong. This is why groups like ours are shrinking. We are called to be a blessing to other nations not to compromise our values because we want to be accepted.
This parashah ends sadly with the character of Pinchas. According to our sages, Pinchas, a son of a Cohen, was not a Jew (If we follow the definition of who is a Jew according to our sages, he is one whose mother is a Jewess. His father Eleazar, son of Aaron, married a Midianite. (Ex. 6:25 “And Eleazar Aaron’s son took him one of the daughters of Putiel as his wife and she bore him Pinchas”.). I mention these details to show you that we accept many stories from our sages that are simply not Torah. That has brought us to the point where we can believe and accept, pick and choose whatever is convenient but this only leads us to disaster. We take everything out of context putting down those who speak out the truth of the Torah. We have replaced morality with immorality, accepting these things because of “so-called love”. The end of the portion shows us that immorality can destroy an entire nation. Israel can never be destroyed from the outside, but the Bore Olam will allow Israel to suffer the consequences of her immoral behavior. This has happened many times in the past.
This is a warning to Israel. There is disunity within, sinat chinam (free hatred) instead of ahavat chinam (love amongst the brethren). Let us not become discouraged. We may think that it is safer to remain quiet and say or do nothing about what we see but the Creator has given us a message of truth and love which we are called to share. We are called to care for the widows, the orphans, the stranger among us and we must not get lost in immorality and deceit. Let us pray for the peace of Israel for that is the only way that the world will ever know peace.