Parshat Balak 5784: Bila’am’s Arrogance and Strong Will; Iterations Today?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Balak is being sponsored by Dov and Lauren Greenberg of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of their son Chaim Simcha’s Bar Mitzvah as well as for the safe return of all Chayalim and the liberation of all remaining hostages without experiencing any further harm, and salvation and true peace for all of Am Yisrael. To the Greenberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses. To the Klahr family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Balak 5784: Bila’am’s Arrogance and Strong Will; Iterations Today?

by Moshe Burt

We open this vort with an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parshat Balak summary in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Bamidbar (pages 217, 228) ;

Balak, the king of Moav, fearing the apparent strength of the B’nei Yisrael, attempts to secure the services of Bila’am, a Midianite sorcerer, to curse the Jews. Bila’am, upon Hashem’s instructions, initially refuses the invitation. When a second group of messengers arrives from the king, however, Bila’am inquires again and gains Hashem’s permission to travel to Balak. Hashem informs the sorcerer, however, that he will be limited in his actions by Hashem’s further instructions.

Hashem… allows Bila’am’s participation in Balak’s plot, but warns the sorcerer: “Only the thing that I will speak to you — that you shall do.” (Rabbi Goldin renders to English Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 22, posuk 20)

Bila’am… arrives in the presence of the Moabite king. [He] warns the king that he [Bila’am] will be bound by Hashem’s will but, nonetheless, endeavors to fulfill the king’s wishes by cursing the Jews.

Torah records:

“Hashem said to Bila’am, ‘You shall not go with them! You shall not curse the people, for it is Blessed!’ Bila’am arose in the morning and said to the officers of Balak, ‘Go to your land, for Hashem refuses to let me go with you.'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 22, posukim 12-13 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash)

But seven posukim later, after Balak’s officers came to summon Bila’am a second time, Torah records:

“Hashem came to Bila’am at night and said to him, ‘If the men came to summon you, arise and go with them, but only the thing that I shall speak to you — that shall you do.'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 22, posuk 20 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash)

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin provides commentary on both posuk 12 and posuk 20 in his sefer, “Growth Through Torah” (pages 350 – 351) :

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz commented [regarding posuk 12] that any unbiased person who heard that the Almighty said not to go with the messengers would understand that the Almighty did not want Bila’am to curse the Jews. We see here the power of bias to blind a person from seeing what any unbiased person could see. What did Bila’am report back to the messengers of Balak? That the Almighty considered him so distinguished that He would not allow him to go with them. It is quite possible Bila’am did not merely lie to them. Rather, his own arrogance led him to fool himself about what he thought were the Almighty’s intentions.

Each person has a similar tendency, said Rav Chayim, to interpret the Torah according to his own bias even though his conclusions might be the opposite of the Torah’s true intentions.

The Talmud (Makos 10b) takes note [regarding posuk 20] that previously in posuk 12 the Almighty told Bila’am not to go with Balak’s messengers who requested that he accompany them to curse the Jews. From here, the Talmud derives the principle, “In the way a man wishes to go, he is led.”

If a person wants to do evil, he will be able to do so. But he will have to pay a heavy price for his successful completion of his evil wishes. Conversely, someone who wishes to study Torah and fulfill the Almighty’s commandments will be successful. When you wish to travel along a certain path in life, you will be Divinely assisted. “Nothing stands in the way of a strong will. When you strongly set your mind on a particular goal, you will have the strength and abilities necessary to meet that goal. What a person truly wants in life, he will usually obtain. (Rabbi Pliskin citing sefer Alai Shur, pages 120 — 121)

Rabbi Pliskin’s commentary regarding the power of bias and one’s arrogance would seem to extend beyond his context regarding Torah study and fulfillment of Hashem’s commandments, or not. Negative prejudices (synonym of bias) can take hold in any field of endeavor and for sure, in such areas as contemporary politics and statecraft (noun: the art of government and diplomacy) and military high command manifesting as lust for power versus an incumbent (adjective: holding an indicated position, role, office, etc., currently) governance.

This would seem to relate to our current malaise (noun: a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort) in Eretz Yisrael arising from divisiveness among the Am. This long simmering divisiveness and prejudice came to the fore during Knesset’s attempt to legislate Judicial Reform and extended to what appears as arrogance and power-hunger on the part of both the military high command and certain members of the government’s “war cabinet” during our long, expensive and exhaustive multi-front war against a multitude of the barbaric, animalistic terrorists: Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their collaborators among the so-called “innocent Gazan civilians” as well as their weapons and munitions tunnel pipelines from Egypt, Hezbollah, the PA in Yehudah and the Shomron, Iran and the Houthies.

May it be that our Chayalim, regardless of the machinations of their high command and the government’s “deep state”, emerge totally victorious — eradicating from the face of the earth Hamas, their terrorist buddies and the so-called “innocent civilians” of Gaza who joined with Hamas in their murderous deeds, that the Chayalim return home whole — physically, mentally and spiritually and that the Chayalim Liberate and bring home all remaining hostages. And may we see the restoration of true unity within Am Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terror entities, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and brought home to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his fourth year at home in Eretz Yisrael and continues in a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia as well as the US and Canada, the real Jews via matrilineal descent, make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — 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.