17 Tammuz 5776
According to the Midrashim, Balak the King of Moab was actually a Midianite (relative of Moses wife) and being a Moabite was a direct descendant of Lot. Bilaam the Gentile prophet was a direct descendant of Lavan, the father-in-law of Jacob. In the final analysis, we can say that everything happened within the family. We read last week how Israel had defeated the two kings, Og and Sihon and were now preparing themselves to take over the Promised Land given to the people of Israel by our Creator. It is important to understand this principle — just because the Creator gives something to us, it doesn’t mean that it is entirely free; there is a cost; we have to work for it. Religions teach us the opposite. Our Creator gave Israel very clear directives on who they needed to fight with and who not to fight with: the Midianites, the Moabites and the Ammonites were family. Their names are also interesting to examine. Most of the scholars translate Balak as destroyer and Bilaam or Balaam they say comes from “blee am” meaning without people or a mad or selfish person. They also say that Moshe had finished writing the Torah and had placed this story as an appendix to demonstrate that the Gentiles also had a prophet. Rashi agreed with this saying that this was in order that the Gentiles could never complain that they had no prophet, such as he was.
In Numbers chapters 23 & 24 there are oracles which became messianic prophecies however my interest is really to find the application of this for today. My title of this Drash would be “Prophet or Manipulator?” We learn that manipulation is like sorcery and our sages describe Bilaam as a sorcerer. The Torah shows us that the Creator spoke to him and that Bilaam limited himself to do what he was told. We see here that the government and the religion came together to destroy Israel. Israel however was also a culprit here and even though many idealize Israel, they were disobedient. Our Creator protects them no matter what but He wants them to know that they would have to suffer the consequences of their misbehaviour.
Balak realized that Israel could not be stopped from conquering the land through regular means. Today most of the Arab nations are learning that Israel cannot be destroyed using standard weapons, not because they are the most powerful of people but because there is a supernatural power protecting them. The only limitation placed upon this is the actual behaviour of the people of Israel. They recently held a second parade in Jerusalem by those with alternate lifestyles. In this portion and the next we will see the destruction that comes upon Israel due to sexual immorality. Our Creator has called us to a higher standard than the other nations yet Israel continually prefers to be like the other nations. In 1Sam 8ff when they wanted to have a king like the other nations, they were replacing the Creator with a human being. History repeats itself.
Balak sent a group to Bilaam to ask him to come and curse this nation which could not be defeated saying that they knew that whoever he would bless would be bless and whoever he would curse, would be cursed. Why didn’t Balak simply ask Bilaam to bless his nation so that the Israelites wouldn’t destroy them? They described Israel as being like bulls that go through the land licking it up and leaving nothing alive. Today I listened to a debate about Israel and the Palestinians during which they said that Israel wasn’t fair when fighting against the Palestinians, that when they fight the proportion of deaths are not equal! In the last battle, more than 2000 Palestinians were killed while only 170 Israelis died. In other words, on order to be a fair fight, there needed to be equal deaths. That is the mentality of this world. The problem is that today we are too politically, sociologically, theologically correct while the Torah teaches us to be morally and ethically correct. The world prefers man’s ideas of correctness. Man’s ideas bring the Balaks and devastation to Israel. The only way that Israel can be destroyed is from within, not without. Later we will see that due to the lewdness of Israel and how they went against the Creator, they were destroying their calling of being light to the world.
Beginning with Numbers 23: 9 we read one of Bilaam’s prophesy… “ from the top of the crags I see him, from the hills I descry him: a people that dwells on its own, not to be reckoned among other nations!” These words are important not because they come out of Bilaam’s mouth but because our Creator gave them to him to say. Balak is looking for Bilaam to curse Israel but all he can do is to bless Israel as every subsequent message will be. If we examine this, Israel is not to be counted with all the other nations. They were to be unique and different. I have my personal theory that Israel is not a race but a people who have been called by our Creator who formed this nation with a very special calling – being light to the world. When God calls you, you will be part of Israel. Here Bilaam is a prophet but is not part of Israel and instead of being a blessing, he was a curse. If God has called you to be part of His people, whether you like it or not, you are to be different than others in attitude and behavior. You do not need to bow your head to man, but to bow to Him. That is a very difficult requirement. When I lived in Israel, the great majority of secular Israelis prefer to lose their identity as Jews and instead to be conformed to the rest of the world. Being an Israeli, a Jew brings too many responsibilities and battles. We who are believers and followers of the God of Israel constantly have to battle with the ideals and standards of this world. Our standards are founded in the Torah. It has nothing to do with being better of more spiritual. I have often met people who want be become Jews. When I ask them why, they say that the Jews are great and special people. I tell them to be a true Israelite you need to be a Shomer Torah- a keeper of the Torah. People confuse being Shomer Torah with being religious. They are actually in opposition with one another. The Torah is the source of life; it is the revelation of our Creator to His people.
We continue in verse 10 with “Who can count the dust of Jacob? Who can number the cloud of Israel? May I die the death of the just, and may my future be like theirs!” In other words, Israel cannot be eliminated or destroyed. The same promise was given to Abraham by our Creator in Genesis. There is a passage in Genesis 18:18 – 19 when Abraham has an encounter with the three strangers: “as Abraham will become a great and powerful nation and all nations on earth will bless themselves by him. 19 For I have singled him out to command his sons and his family after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is upright and just…” Look at what Israel had to do from the start — commanded by the Creator to do what is just and right! Most of the Jews have a virus within us that causes us to fight for justice and fairness, yet we are constantly accused of being the opposite. Our calling is to bring peace to the other nations. Examine the nations that want to destroy and those who want to bring peace. Who are the people trying to convert you to their religion or destroy you? Throughout the Middle Ages, Catholicism murdered multitudes of people for their religion as the Spanish Jews remember from the Inquisition. Today we see a religion of “peace” called Islam but if you don’t follow their particular group they cut your neck.
Bilaam was trying to destroy the one unique nation which had the purpose of bringing light to the world. What is happening today? Is Israel bringing light to the world? We need to examine ourselves. I believe the Creator is bringing more people who were formerly not His people to be His people.
The prophets tell us that. In the Haphtarah reading Micah 6:5 it says: My people please remember: what was Balak king of Moab’s plan and how did Balaam son of Beor answer him? . . . from Shittim to Gilgal, for you to know the LORD’S saving justice. 6 ‘With what shall I enter the LORD’s presence and bow down before God All-high? Shall I enter with burnt offerings, with calves one year old? 7 Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand, with ten thousand streams of oil?” Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing, the child of my own body for my sin?
This is what I call Jewish sense of humor – sarcasm and exaggeration. There is little that you can do to please Him. You can’t do anything to have your sins forgiven or put the blame onto someone else. You can only change yourself and here is the result of what He is asking you to do. 8 ‘You have already been told what is right and what the LORD wants of you… Do the people who held that parade in Jerusalem know what is right? They retort, Oh you are a religious fanatic, holier than thou! I am not a judge; I have not been called to be a judge but I have the right to warn you. Because I don’t want you to accuse me one day that I never warned you, I am telling you now — if you disobey God you face the consequences.
7b…Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God.’ He is asking us to be loyal to the Creator. Love in Hebrew is ahava and that means to be truly loyalty, to love God. What does it mean to walk humbly? Not to put yourself on a pedestal or be holier than thou. Being humble does not mean to beat your breast in front of others…that is showing off. Don’t think that you are better than anyone else but allow Him to take over. I have been telling you that we need to renew ourselves and remove all the isms, to get back to basics. That means to have a personal relationship with our Creator. The most important thing that we have is the gift of life and free will; the capacity to decide for ourselves. We are not machines, robots. We do not need to follow man but to follow Him. This is the difference between someone who is so religious and someone who walks with Him, who walks humbly with God realizing the separation between Him and us.
In the beautiful Sermon on the Mount given by our Messiah Yeshua, he said blessed are those who are poor in spirit for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is a euphemistic way of speech. Poor of spirit was and is still used by churches to mean that you need to give them all your money so that you would be forgiven. Our Messiah Yeshua was actually saying…blessed are those who walk with the Creator and realize who they really are so that they are humbled before Him as they afflict their souls. Our Creator is up there and we are down here. We can never go to Him, He comes to us. It is impossible to reach Him on our own. We need Him, the Kingdom of heaven, His Presence.
Bilaam missed the point. He was given a very special gift and could have been a blessing to all the people. Instead he was self centered and only wanted to get as much as he could for himself. We know that because from the beginning the Creator told him that he would never be able to curse these people who He has blessed. Bilaam tried to curse them 3 times but every time the curses turned into blessings. If he knew ask yourself why did he keep trying? The female donkey spoke to him showing us that God can make anyone of us say what He wants us to say. If you are serving Him you have a greater responsibility.
Today we see the moral deterioration of not only the world but the people of Israel. In their desire to be counted as a regular nation at the United Nations, they are trying to eliminate the role that was given to them by the Creator. They are interchanging this important position for the acceptance of the world. That is a big mistake. My people, you do not need to be accepted by this world; you need to be accepted by Him. Don’t play politician, trying to be everything to everyone. Don’t be religious or pious when it is not required of you. Don’t be a show-off but be yourself. Be what our Creator has called you to be. We as humans all have the potential to fail. We constantly fail but we are able to start again. This is the message of teshuva. The name Israel means to be in constant struggle with our Creator. We would not have to deal with this if we were robots or were perfect but because He loves us, He allows us to make our own choices and to return His love. It is so important to understand how special you are. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Religions manipulate you by offering you goodies in order to follow them and threatening that unless you do you will be destroyed. Our Creator offers us the opportunity to walk along side Him but to know that nothing is free; there is a cost…it is loyalty, responsibility and unconditional love.