Moshe Kempinski


TORAH PORTION of “BALAK” (Numbers 22:2–25:9)

Continue studying with us as we explore PARSHAT HASHAVUA, the weekly portions of the Torah (the five books of Moses)

Who ,then, is this mysterious Bilaam the so called “prophet of the nations” who is granted the experience of “And Hashem put a thing in the mouth of Balaam” (Numbers 23:5)?

Clearly he is not a false prophet .Perhaps he is even a servant who yearns to be faithful .

Yet he fails at his task because of the hatred he holds in his heart that hatred is compounded by a  severe character flaw that seems to envelop him .

 This character flaw will actually  lead him eventually to his death.

”Along with their other victims, they slew the kings of Midian:  Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian.  They also put Balaam son of Beor to the sword” (Numbers 31:8 also Joshua 13:22).

Let us return to the context of the Biblical text.

Balak frightened by the approaching Israelites ,  attempts  to achieve a spiritual victory by means of Balaam’s curses . As he says to Balaam; ” for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”

Yet even though. Balaam desperately  wants to fulfill the whims of Balak he cannot declare anything other than what G-d has told him to declare.

“Even if Balak gives me a house full of silver and gold, I cannot do anything small or great that would transgress the word of Hashem, my G-d.”(ibid 22:18)

Yet even after he is told by Hashem not to go “with them”  and even after he informs Balak’s messengers of that fact, he turns to the messengers with the following statement;

 “Now, you too, please remain here overnight, and I will know what Hashem will continue to speak with me.”( ibid:19).

That is to say maybe Hashem will change his mind because I wish it to be so!

To understand this seemingly impudent statement we need to return to the words of King Balak to Balaam.

“Please come and curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will be able to wage war against them and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”( ibid 22:6)

“whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”

Could such a statement be taken seriously by one who hears from Hashem , even if only in night dream/visions?

How different are these words than those spoken regarding  Abraham

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”(Genesis 12:3)

Abraham and his descendants completely understand that they are not the source of blessing but rather a vehicle through which Hashem can  bring blessings into the world

 Balaam on the other hand truly began to believe the lie that “whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”.

It is all about him .

He fervently believed that Hashem would change His mind because  he, Balaam willed it to be so.

Hashem finally allows Balaam  to get to the place wherein he can “curse”the people of Israel, yet with strict instructions not to.

 Yet during that journey  Hashem begins the process of the humbling of Balaam by allowing  Balaam’s donkey  to spiritually see things that Balaam was blind to. In the next phase of humbling Hashem gives the power to speak Hashem’s words to the donkey.

Balaam was being given a clear message.

As a result of that humbling experience , it is in fact Balaam that delivers some of the most powerful and poetic blessings spoken of the Jewish people.

Balaam finally declares about the people of Israel “Those who bless you shall be blessed, and those who curse you shall be cursed.”( Ibid 24:9).

Yet even that faithful declaration becomes soon tainted by that ever present flaw in Balaam’s character as he offers the enemies of the people of Israel advice as to how can damage and stall the journey of the people of Israel, It is for that that he is then punished in the time of Joshua’s leadership.

Yet Balaam’s experience and the lessons he learned reain a constant reminder to all who desire to listen and know.

Hashem is the source of all true blessing.

As a result , our most lofty purpose is to attempt  to be the vehicle through which that true blessing is expressed.

LeIlui Nishmat Yehudit bat Sinai veGolda Yocheved

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