In this week’s portion, we read of the great fear and disdain Balak the king of Moab has for the young nation of Israelites;
“Moab became terrified of the people, for they were numerous, and Moab became disgusted because of the children of Israel.Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this assembly will eat up everything around us, as the ox eats up the greens of the field. Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time.”(Numbers22:3-4)
Balak then hires Balaam the “prophet to the nations” to curse Israel. (Numbers 22:5,6)
Balak is not just another of the enemies of Israel. His family’s relationship with children of Israel has ancient roots and his descendants will impact and influence the descendants of this people for generations, until the end of time.
Balak is from the people of Moav . Moav is the child of a relationship between Lot and his daughters because they mistakenly assumed that there were no more possible suitors existing on the earth.
Lot himself had an uneasy relationship with Abraham his uncle. At first he is accepted as a full-fledged member of the family;
“And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.”(Genesis 11:5)
Yet on the return from Egypt after Abraham’s family goes there during the famine we begin to see a change;
“And Abram came up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that was his, and Lot with him, to the south.(Genesis 13:1) . Nechama Leibovitch points out that the words, ” and Lot with him” shows the beginning of the fissure developing.
That fissure becomes an open chasm after the friction between Lot’s shepherds and those that worked for Abraham;
“And Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no quarrel between me and between you and between my herdsmen and between your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not all the land before you? Please part from me; if [you go] left, I will go right, and if [you go] right, I will go left.”( ibuid :8-9).
Lot then chooses to leave; “And Lot chose for himself the entire plain of the Jordan, and Lot traveled from the east, and they parted from one another. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and he pitched his tents until Sodom..(ibid:11-12).
After all that they had experienced together as a family and after everything Abraham was willing to sacrifice on his behalf including going to war to redeem him, they part ways. That parting must have been difficult and undoubtedly inlaid with great psychological scars and trauma.
Then it is on the outskirts of Sodom that Moav is born. It is from then that the fissure between Lot and Abraham eventually develops into a wide and impassable chasm. Some psychological wounds and rivalries carries through into generations.
“No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of Hashem; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of Hashem, 4because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you” (Deuteronomy 23:2-4)
Yet the cycle of Biblical events and destiny never ceases to return in order to allow a “tikkun-fixing”.
We understand that Ruth is the granddaughter of Eglon, king of Moab, who himself was a grandson of Balak, king of Moab.( Talmud Sanhedrin 105b.)
The Tikkun begins with Ruth. Just as Balak tries to curse the Israelite people three times with the aid of Balaam ,we see Ruth being told three times to go back home to Moav by Naomi;
“And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each woman to her mother’s house. May Hashem deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the deceased and with me. ( Ruth 1:8). Then again “And Naomi said, “Return, my daughters; why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they should be your husbands? ( ibid :11) Then finally again to Ruth after Orpah has left;”And she said, “Lo, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her G-d; return after your sister- in-law.”(ibid:15)
Two daughters of Moav making two different decisions. Orpah returns to “her people and to her G-d;” and Ruth declares “for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your G-d my G-d. “(ibid”16).
Both those decisions had long term implications. In Midrashic tradition Orpah is identified with Harafa, the mother of the four Philistine giants ,one of them being Goliath;
” These four were born to Harafa in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants (II Sam. 21. 22); (Soṭah 42b).
Ruth’s decision is impactful as well and is even more relevant to people of Israel and to the world.
“A son ( grandson) has been born to Naomi,” and they called his name Obed-he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. And these are the generations of Perez: …. 22. And Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David. ( Ruth 4:17-22)
So what is it that pulled Balak away from his familial roots? What caused him such supernatural distress?
It is the same distress that has birthed the hatred of the descendants of Abraham from the beginning of time until the very end. Balak’s disdain was not about politics or about land for peace. The hatred of much of the world against the Jewish people is not rational as well. To some the Jews represent Communism, while to the others they represent Capitalism. To some they were hated because they were the refuse of society, while to others they represent a hidden cabal trying to control society. To some they are hated because they were “chosen , while to others they are hated because they represented the “unchosen”.
It is all sourced in a deep and crippling misunderstanding that thinks that G-d has favorites.
He does not. G-d “chooses” a people not because they are stronger or weaker and not because they are wiser or more ignorant. He chooses them because He is using them to elevate and educate the world and all its inhabitants. When Hashem took the Israelites out of Egypt He did it to educate the world;
“ But, for this [reason] I have allowed you to stand, in order to show you My strength and in order to declare My name all over the earth.”( Exodus 9:16)
When according to Ezekiel He returns all the exiles He is doing it to educate the world again
“When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;”( Ezekiel 39:27)
Yet if one believes that G-d does have favorites , one would do anything to become that favorite. That would include killing, replacing, or impersonating the one thought to be the favorite. So Esau and most of his descendants including Amalek will do everything to destroy or replace Jacob. Ishmael and his descendants set out to do the same.
Balak, Bilaam ,Amalek and all the forces that have risen against Israel are crippled by that same hatred. Their need to replace the Jews ,kill the Jews or convert the Jews all come out of that same spiritual misplaced jealousy.
There are great forces attempting to make the Jewish people feel unholy and incapable of achieving their spiritual destiny. Concurrently there are forces attempting to destroy this people.
The people of Israel must be ready to battle on both fronts. It is our destiny that we will succeed.
Le-refuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved