Parsha Balak 5767: Bila’am, The Ba’al Peor and Dividing B’nai Yisrael From Within

by Moshe Burt

Shem Mishmuel brings a Rashi which discusses the unusual loshen — regalim (the word usually used to denote festivals) used in our Parsha Balak where Hashem brings the donkey to speak to Bila’am expressing; “What have I done to you, that you hit me these three times.” [1]

Shem Mishmuel brings Rashi quoting Chazal which notes: “These three times — it was a hint that he [Bila’am] wanted to uproot the Jewish nation, who celebrate three pilgrim festivals each year.” [2]

Shem Mishmuel then states that the Arizal adapts the idea of the three festivals to suggest that “Bila’am’s intention was not to destroy the nation in it’s entirety, but to eliminate from it the observance of the three festivals.” [3] The question is asked why our adversary Bila’am would desire to eradicate the observance of this mitzvah more than any other?

He then brings a Mishnah which teaches, “Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit and an insatiable soul are pupils of the wicked Bila’am.” [4]

He then adds that the above Mishnah corresponds to another Mishnah where Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says, “Jealousy, lust and the desire for honor remove a man from the world.” [5]

In the context of contemporary Jewish history in Eretz Yisrael, #5, “Jealousy, lust and the desire for honor remove a man from the world”
seems highly pertinent. After the recent “gay display” and the proclivity for our national leaders to become embroiled in various and assorted acts, trysts and escapades, the lust part seems particularly pertinent.

Balak, the King of Moav recognizes that the Jews cannot be defeated in a conventional war, their Divine protection is too great.

So he calls upon the wicked, greedy Bila’am with confidence that Bila’am’s insight as to how and when to curse the Jews will turn the trick and compell their Protector withdraw protection from B’nai Yisrael.

We learn that Hashem accedes to Bila’am’s desire to travel to Balak, but with this caveat; that he speak only as Hashem orders. And so, from whatever angle Bila’am views the B’nai Yisrael, while he wants to curse them, he is compelled by Hashem’s words to bless them.

But before Bila’am takes leave of Balak, seemingly humbled and defeated, he provides one piece of insight to Balak as to how to form a wedge, a wall between the B’nai Yisrael separating them from their Divine Protector.

He imparts to Balak a plan for the Moabite women to seduce Jewish men, through their allures, to the avodah zora — the Ba’al Peor. And so, we learn that as the B’nai Yisrael encamped at Shittim, many of the B’nai Yisrael submitted to the seductions. We learn the story of Zimri, the prince of Shavet Shimon and the most prominent individual to take part in this act of physical lust, who cohabited with the Midianite Kosbi, daughter of Tzur. We learn, as related by R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen regarding words of R’ Sonnenfeld; 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.)

All the while a plague was taking the lives of 24,000 Jewish men who similarly participated. And we learn the story of Pinchas who saw this sin happening on a massive scale, saw that Jews were dying and that one of the most prominent of leaders was taking part. He feared for the Chillul Hashem taking place and remembered the appropriate Halacha taught by Moshe regarding circumstances where zealousness was necessary. And so we learn that after consulting with his Rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu, Pinchas maneuvered into position and slew both Zimri and Kozbi with the same spear in one fell swoop. At that moment, in merit of Pinchas’ act, the plague ceased.

And in the merit of Pinchas’ act, we learn further in Parsha Pinchas that he is honored by Hashem in having the parsha named for him, in having the Kehuna conveyed upon him and in being granted eternal life. Hashem silenced those politically correct who demanded that Pinchas be executed, who couldn’t see past that he murdered a leader of B’nai Yisrael, albeit that Zimri acted inappropriately for his station and in attempting to perpetuate an immense Chillul Hashem.

Just as Bila’am set in motion a scheme by which B’nai Yisrael would divide against itself and defeat itself from within in ways which could not even attempt, so too, the Arabs — the Islamics with the complicity of so-called enlightened West, foist a distorted “dual-morality” upon Israel. This morality ignores all conventions of morality in shedding the lives and blood of hundreds of Jewish non-combatants, while bringing the wrath of countless human-rights organizations down on Israel if the IDF harms human shields protecting Fatah, Hamas, Kassam-launching terrorists. In short, the Israeli government which is dying to please the nations and placate their distorted “morality” at any and all cost in Jewish lives, defeats itself from within just as the B’nai Yisrael was divided amongst itself due to Bila’am’s schemes.

Our Parsha this year coincides with the aftermath of the so-called Fatah-Hamas “war” in Gaza. Here were pitted Iran’s proxy Hamas vs Fatah and their al Qaida partners as the current government of Israel falls all over itself to prop up one evil over the other, both having the same avowed goal — our eradication.

Our parsha also coincided with another attempt at a “gay display” in Jerusalem which proved to be a bust. It was a bust except for future precedent — the future demands for a more provocative public spectacle which would cross over all of the moral “red lines”, the bounds of what is appropriate, to that which lends itself to spinning Israel as being gay and swinger-friendly in so-called “international markets.”

There is not even the distorted rationale of Zimri to justify such spectacles in our Holiest of Holy Cities. It is an abomination; it is not normal, it is not to be tolerated in the camp of the B’nai Yisrael. Lest we forget the ages old adage which refers to the “land spitting out it’s inhabitants.”

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, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us and that 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — 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.

[1] Sefer Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Balak, page 347 quoting Rashi on Bamidbar Perek 22, posuk 28.

[2] Sefer Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Balak, Rashi, loc. cit.

[3] Sefer Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Balak, page 347 quoting the Arizal.

[4] Sefer Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Balak, page 347 quoting Pirkei Avos, Perek 5, pusuk 22.

[5] Sefer Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Balak, page 348, quoting Pirkei Avos, Perek 4, posuk 28.

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