How goodly are your tents Yaakov, your dwelling places Israel… (Bamidbar
He perceived no iniquity in Jacob and saw no perversity in Israel. HASHEM
his G-d is with him and the friendship of the King is in him. (Bamidbar
The friendship of the king is in him: His keen observation is upon
Israel…This informs that HASHEM is their King and they are His Nation…the
way a people rejoice when their king is in their midst… (Malbim)
Israel settled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the
daughters of the Moabites. They invited the people to the sacrifices of
their gods, and the people ate and prostrated themselves to their gods.
Israel became attached to Baal Peor, and the anger of HASHEM flared against
Israel. (Bamidbar 25:1-3)
And the people began to commit harlotry: to commit harlotry with the
daughters of Moab: As a result of Bilaam’s advice, as is stated in [the
chapter entitled] "Cheilek’ (Sanhedrin 106a). (Rahi)
What went so terribly wrong? Bilaam could find no fault in Israel even for a
boat load of money and then without notice we have a national crisis- a
contagion of immorality and idolatry! What happened?
It is fascinating to take note of something highly unusual in this week’s
Torah narrative. Since the spotlight of history found Avraham as its
protagonist and he became the favored one to guide the world to its destiny,
no other personage occupies the attention of the Torah unless it included
somehow the Patriarchs or the Matriarchs or the tribes etc.
Now suddenly we are treated to a tragicomedy of errors as Bilaam and Balak
bungle an attempt at cursing Israel. The rest of the world, with all its
political intrigue might also make interest reporting, but the Torah is not
a history book. It is HASHEM’s teaching book! They are conspicuous by they
Why then focus ever so briefly on Bilaam and Balak? We can easily answer
that again Israel is still the focal point of their foolish efforts. We are
granted a brief glimpse into the hostile mindset and obnoxious ambitions of
those around us and how we are shielded even when we are blissfully unaware
of the dangers that lurk on the horizon. That’s important enough to know but
another point becomes crystal clear in the very end of the episode.
Bilaam was unsuccessful at arousing HASHEM’s anger at Israel! However,
Bilaam learned something valuable that we should be aware of because of its
strategic value. We don’t have to bother fighting Bilaam or to answer the
Bilaam’s of the world. Our sages remind us, “A little bit of light chases
away a lot of darkness!” That darkness is expelled at the speed of light!
What did Bilaam do? He conspired to corrupt Israel. He helped create the
vulnerability he could not find! He caused the People of Israel to invite
Divine rage and wrath upon themselves. We thereby became our own worst
enemies! We don’t have to focus on any of the negativity swirling around
us. Our fate is in our hands. Bilaam got it right, “They are a nation that
Pardon the crude sports analogy but it is just so instructive. This is how
we find ourselves in the world! It’s the NBA basketball championships- the
7th and final game. The clock has just run out! You have been fouled in the
last play and entitled to two foul shots. Your team is down by one. If you
make one, the game goes into overtime and there is a second chance to win
it. If you make both shots you are crowned champs! If you miss both, you are
labeled for all time a chump, a choke- a loser!
The game is in the “away” arena. You are the visiting team! You alone are on
the line! The fans are screaming and booing and doing their best to distract
you to make you miss. You know what has to be done. You have trained your
whole life for this moment and dreamed of this opportunity. You prepare by
focusing and remembering all that you have practiced and learned till now.
You filter out thereby hostile spirits that fills the building! If you pay
even a little bit of attention to them you are lost! If you can block it out
and do what you know, victory is with-in-reach.