Parsha Balak 5772: Historical Parallels and Motivations for Toleration of Evil in the Camp

by Moshe Burt

We learn in our Parsha, that after having utterly failed to bring Hashem to curse B’nai Yisrael, Bila’am left Balak with a scheme to seduce Jewish men to avodah zora by way of immorality (co-habitation), thus evoking Hashem’s wrath. The resultant plague killed 24,000 Jewish men and was only ended by Pinchas’ zealous act in slaying Zimri and Kosbi in one stroke of his spear.

The Midrash Says (by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, Parsha Balak, pages 350-351) indicates that Bila’am’s Ba’al Peor scheme began by attracting airev rav — those who accompanied the Jews out of Mitzrayim. But, then the attraction lured members of Shevet Shimon. The account states that Hashem revealed those who sinned by removing The Clouds of Glory from above the guilty ones.

The Midrash Says (page 351) describes how:

….It was for these people Pinchas later prayed and whose deaths he averted.

The members of the Tribe of Shimon were very distressed because many of their kinsmen had been sentenced to death. They came before their nassi, Zimri, and reproached him, “How can you keep silent in the face of so many deaths?”

Zimri reacted by brazenly challenging Moshe in public.

Zimri, the prince of Shavet Shimon and the most prominent individual to take part in this act of physical lust, displayed a distorted and false perception and rationale in bringing Kosbi into the Camp and co-habitating with her before The Assembly.

R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen is cited in Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni referring to R’ Sonnenfeld who noted that Zimri’s distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” evolved from;

“…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel, to dissuade the lustful man from finding himself in the camp of idolaters.” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1115.)

Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model; bringing co-habitation with Moabite women into the camp of B’nai Yisrael lest men go looking for it outside, i.e., at the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement and seduction to the avodah zora Ba’al Pe’or, seemed a cover for his (Zimri’s) true motivations and intentions. Zimri’s “In your face, Moshe” demeanor was motivated by lust for power, just as Korach’s true motivations were covered by rationale of accusation of nepotism against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron.

We learn in next week’s Parsha Pinchas that there was much dispute in The Camp as to Pinchas’ action. There were those who wanted Pinchas killed for killing another Jew and Hashem thus conveyed the Kahuna upon him in recognition of the justness and Kiddush Hashem of his action.

What is seen here is toleration of immorality within the Jewish Nation for the sake of expedience; preemption, through institution of a purportedly “L’Shaim Shemayim”, “sanitized” version of co-habitation inside the camp, to preempt Jewish men going to the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar and being seduced, by way of immorality, to avodah zora.

How very much it seems that the contemporary toleration of evil, of immorality, i.e. same gender relationships, spousal abuse, “sanitization” of child abuse — at home, in the street, at school for the sake of expedience parallels its Sefer Bamidbar model.

How closely does the toleration of evil eviction and displacement of Jews from their homes and communities, i.e. from Gush Katif, Amona, Beit HaShalom, Federman’s farm, Ulpana, etc., or construction freezes — real or de-facto, or feigned trepidation over the UN, or of a “Super Power” — all eminating from lack of Torah rooting and disdain for Torah, correlate with the lack of emunah which gave rise to the toleration of evil, of immorality in the Camp in BaMidbar?

How closely do certain liberalized “novel, misleading ideologies” of tolerating evil by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel regarding family purity issues by certain contemporary so-called “poskim” mirror the Bamidbar model? And gay rights and same-gender marriages? And what about attempts to brand Israel as a “gay and swingers paradise” for economic gain? Or acceptance and embrace of evangelical financial and political support?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all or any part of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem, Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.