Parsha Balak 5769: Agenda Behind Toleration of Evil in the Camp


by Moshe Burt

In previous years when speaking about Parsha Balak, about Bila’am’s scheme to lure Jewish men to immorality and avodah zora, as well as connecting Pinchas’ action, in killing Zimri and Kosbi in the act of co-habitation before the Assembly, this author referred back to a posuk in Parsha Ki Tisa;

You shall annoint Aaron, his sons and their descendents as Kohanim…

But Pinchas was omitted by the posuk in Parsha Ki Tisa as he was born in Mitzrayim, before Yetziyot Mitzrayim, before Matan Torah, to Aaron’s son Elazar, heir to Aaron’s position of Kohen Godol. The Kohanic inheritance and lineage would only kick in after Matan Torah, thus by the annointment of Aaron and his sons, Pinchas Ben Elazar fell through the cracks.

It was after Balak contracted Bila’am to come and to curse the B’nai Yisrael but, compelled by Hashem, he could only bless the Jews from 7 different vantage points. Upon Bila’am’s leave of Balak, he proposed a scheme which he saw as undermining the Kedusha and status of B’nai Yisrael — that Hashem cannot tolerate immorality and avodah zora.

Thus we see;

  • Bila’am’s scheme to seduce Jewish men to avodah zora by way of immorality (co-habitation)
  • The resultant plague killing 24,000 Jewish men

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. His 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., the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement and seduction to the avodah zora Ba’al Pe’or was cover for his (Zimri’s) true motivations and intentions — “In your face, Moshe,” just as Korach’s true motive was lust for power covered by rationale of accusation of nepotism against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron.

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, of Jewish men going to the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar and being seduced, by way of immorality, to avodah zora.

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.)

In this context, Yehuda Nachshoni’s discussions on our Parsha Balak cite R’ Saadia Gaon, Chazal, Rambam, the Maggid Mishne and the Lubavitcher Rebbe who all disccussed the validity and legal status of Pinchas’ slaying of Kosbi, along with Zimri, and non-Jewess Kosbi’s legal status visa vi her liaison with Zimri and whether Pinchas should have gone for a ruling in law as to killing Kosbi.

Nachshoni cites Rashi in Sanhedrin who enunciates and discusses the constraints on a zealot (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1112.);

Respectable people who avenge Hashem’s anger. They are allowed to kill the sinner while he is in the act.

  • a/ The zealot must free himself of personal interests and avenge only the wrath of Hashem.
  • b/ The zealot is innocent of murder only if he performs his act at the same time that the cohabiter is committing his crime.

He also cites the explanation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l for Rashi’s treatment of Pinchas’ zealous act against Zimri and Kosbi (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1113);

“He impailed the woman through the belly”; “He aimed his spear between their male and female members, proving that he did not kill them in vain.” Why would we think that he had killed them in vain? Rather, the Torah here alludes to the law that a zealot has free reign only while the act is in progress.

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.

It would seem that the entire analysis above, the discussion of the distortion and erroneous rationale of Zimri’s actions; his “model” for preempting idolatry — has its modern-day applications or understandings, i.e. contemporary events of recent months and years, among them:

Last year’s terror attacks at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, the bulldozer terrorist rampages in which Jewish deaths occurred due to police hesitation or inaction, a general mindset of inaction, indecisiveness and equivocation at terror attack scenes om he part of all levels of existing governance as well as the government and IDF not moving to liberate the 3 captives of 2 years ago by force soon after their capture (rather than making deals to release hundreds or thousands of blood-laden terrorists to kill and maim again or to continue the cycle of kidnapping more soldiers). We can add the toleration of corruption in government, the toleration of expulsions and giveaways under bogus rationalizations such as “peace”, “confidence-building”, “American pressure for ‘2 state (sic) solution'”, “saving of lives,” etc. to a list of many other instances too numerous to list here. All of these seem, in truth to be disguising true motivations. Just as Zimri’s true agenda and motivation was “In your face, Moshe” and Korach’s was pure and simply lust for power, what are the true motivations for tolerating evil in the modern-day camp of B’nai Yisrael? This author wrote regarding Korach’s rebellion:

…It would seem that in watching contemporary history, modern-day secular political “leaders”, and their “religious” political counterparts consciously fear the loss of power, the loss of influence to result from the unity of the entire B’nai Yisrael living and possessing the entirety of Eretz Yisrael. These corrupt, self-interested, self-aggrandized “leaders” fear the day when the unity of entire B’nai Yisrael possesses the entirety of Eretz Yisrael and thus every man is charged with the mutual responsibility for each other — no more cheating your fellow, no more deception, no more dishonesty, no more graft, bribes and corruption, no more violations of omission or comission — on any level.

To this author, the above is the fundamental truth behind what motivates tolerance of evil in the camp, i.e. bringing to actualization the blind, at all costs divorce of Israelis from their Yiddishkeit, from their Jewish heritage, laws and traditions and from the eternal Jewish link with the Land of Israel. This truth, as previously stated regarding the Miraglin and regarding Korach, lies beneath the surface of all of the euphemisms; territories, occupied territories, Oslo, “shtachim”, Saudi or Arab League “peace” plans, “American or EU pressure,” “roadmaps”,
“disengagement”, “consolidation” and multitudes of other rationales too numerous to list here. Israel’s political leaders, elitists amd journalists; they know the score behind their agendas — just as it seems that the Miraglim did.

May we be zocha in this coming year that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and kidnapped captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashen 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.