Blog Balaq 17 Tammuz 5778 בלוג בָּלָק, י”ז תמוז תשע”ח
Our sages discuss about why this parashah Balaq, was named after a gentile who was an enemy of Israel. I love political science and international politics and as I watch today’s “fake” news, it is very dismaying to see how very biased the news agencies are against Israel. Israel has been helping the Syrian people who are being massacred by their own leaders, bringing hospitals to them and sheltering these so-called enemies of Israel. The Syrians who were fleeing realized who their true enemies were, and it was not Israel, yet no news stations are reporting the truth.
Our sages also say that the Midianite King Tzur (renamed Balaq, meaning destroyer) was installed as the new king of Moab. The Midianites and Moabites decided to joined forces to present a united front against Israel because they knew that anyone who went up against Israel would be defeated. Israel, now a nation of about 3 to 6 million people, asked them permission to pass through their territories on their way to the Promised Land. Israel was willing to pay them but was refused. The people of Israel had to constrain themselves from going to war with them since the Creator had instructed them to not lift a finger against their own relatives – the Ammonites, the Moabites and Midianites, through Esav and Lot and Moshe Rabeinu’s in-laws.
Israel has always been a persecuted minority except at the time of Kings David and Solomon. The hatred against Israel is not new and is universal. Balaq had heard that Israel had a very powerful, invincible God. At that time, each tribe had its own regional god. Whenever anyone moved to another territory, the new god was in charge, yet Israel’s God travelled everywhere with them and still remained powerful. King Balaq would do anything to destroy Israel. He knew it could only be done through someone who was as powerful as this God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so he chose a great and gifted prophet of God – a gentile named Bilaam who also happened to be extremely self-centered. It was said that those whom he cursed were cursed and those who, he blessed were blessed indeed.
King Balaq first sent an entourage to ask Bilaam for help enticing him with money and power. Bilaam replied that he first had to consult the Creator, which he did and came back to them saying that he could not do as King Balaq asked since they were a “blessed” people. This is reason that most people are jealous of Israel – a very human reaction since most are not happy with what they have. It is written in Mishlei that a rich man is he who is content with what he has. Balaq is a picture of how the rest of the world reacts to Israel today while Bilaam is a picture of how the world uses lies and curses (“fake news”) in order to undermine the nation of Israel.
Balaq then sent a second and more prestigious delegation with even more money to tempt Bilaam and this time although Bilaam struggled, he decided to go. The Creator told him that he could go but that he could not say anything that the Creator did not allow him to say. Bilaam didn’t tell them that in that moment but instead he went, thinking only about the money and how to keep his prestige intact. The Torah warns us of the trappings of power, wealth, and fame. In general, ordinary people tend to glorify and idolize famous people.
Bilaam went on his way riding on his female donkey when she suddenly came to a halt. No amount of beating could move her until she finally asked Bilaam why he was beating her. Not to be taken literally, the picture here that the Creator was showing Bilaam was that if he could make a donkey talk, then Bilaam himself was not necessary. This donkey could “see” more than the powerful sorcerer Bilaam. It was like the blind leading the blind. The angel told him that that his donkey had saved his life.
How do we apply this for us today? The great majority of us follow the news and in our naivete, we believe it. Instead, we need to search for the truth. Bilaam and Balaq were no-good, powerful men who dominated their people causing them much distress. They are similar to those leaders in the Middle East today who care little about their own people. Bilaam was looking out only for himself. Israel represents those who are being led by the Almighty. What is the problem with Israel today? Sometimes I am ashamed to see how the people of Israel are behaving. The Creator didn’t ask us to be politically, theologically or socially correct. He asked us to be MORALLY correct. This is the problem we are having today; most of us have shut our mouth and have allowed corruption to dominate all over the world to the point that we elevate what is wrong and put down what is right. Thus, the Silent Minority has been muzzled. When we finally speak the truth, they call us a terrorists or bigots.
At the end, Bilaam was not able to curse Israel but he found another strategy which would make the Bore Olam punish them. When and how does the Bore Olam punish Israel? When Israel is not following His Commandments; generally, by means of a plague, or attacks from other nations. That is our history from our very foundation. When other nations attack us for no good reason, the Creator intervenes and protects us but when Israel does not keep His Commandments, He withdraws His protection. We are once again experiencing this. However, I say to all the nations of the world ¬– don’t rejoice over the punishment of Israel since she is the apple of His eye. There are terrible consequences for touching Israel.
Israel doesn’t only refer to her direct descendants through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who all had descendants who were not Jews. Others joined Kehal Israel and love the Creator. These all make up the true Israel. The Bilaams and the Balaqs of this world have no power over the true Israel. The state of Israel as we see her today is not representing the true Israel whose deeds speak for themselves. The Creator cares about how we love,…Micah 6:8 It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you: only to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God…meaning that we be morally correct in our walk with Him as we keep the Ten Commandments.