Bilaam's Killing Kindness
The Torah records for us in this week’s parsha the appearance of an old
enemy in a new guise. According to Midrash, which reflects traditional
rabbinic thinking on the subject matter being discussed, Bilaam had advised
Pharaoh decades earlier to exterminate the Jewish people. Pharaoh, for
various reasons and circumstances beyond his control, was unable to finish
the job though vast numbers of Jews were consumed in his slave house and
crocodile infested rivers.
Now Bilaam returns to the scene, this time as an ostensible agent of Balak
but in reality as an independent agent of his own hatred of the Jews,
determined to enforce his own nefarious plans to destroy the Jewish people.
He is prevented from so doing by God’s restraint placed upon him.
Nevertheless thousands of Jews will die because of his advice and behavior.
Bilaam is the first Human Rights Organization of history. He speaks
beautifully. Some of the finest Hebrew poetry spills from his tongue and
mind. He has many complimentary things to say about Israel but as the rabbis
put it: “From his words of blessing one can easily deduce what curses he
really meant to utter against the Jewish people.”
One need merely look behind the sanctimonious facade that defines Bilaam in
order to glimpse the enemy that leers with hatred against the Jewish people,
its Torah and its faith. Bilaam is the father of all hypocrisy and pious
sounding criticism leveled against the Jewish people throughout the ages and
currently against its lonely embattled great little state. Bilaam states,
“How goodly are your tents, Jacob” and yet he compares us to a raging lion
and a destroyer of other nations. Subtly, his compliments and blessings are
clearly his curses.
In the last century much of the world attempted and abetted the murder of
millions of Jews. Again, for various reasons the “Final Solution” to the
“Jewish Problem” was not completed. So, like Bilaam, much of the world has
withdrawn from outright advocacy of the genocidal destruction of Jews and
has resorted to “blessing” the Jewish people and the State of Israel with
pious NGO’s, human rights organizations, UN commissions – all of which are
dedicated to saving Israel from itself.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there are many Jews overwhelmingly
ignorant of their own faith and traditions, naïve in believing the façade of
Bilaam as being genuine, that have joined the chorus of Bilaam’s hypocrisy
Jews love Bilaam, his words, his lofty ideas, and his flattery. They find it
hard to believe the worst about him and therefore the Jewish people and the
State of Israel continually suffer grievous injury from his subtle attempts
to harm and destroy. Bilaam builds altars to God and proclaims his
righteousness and presents his credentials as prophet, wise man and noble
He not only knows what is best for Israel, if they would only listen to his
counsel and wisdom, but boasts that he knows the details of God’s will as
well. He possesses eternal truths and no facts or realities should be
allowed to contradict his set ideas. He will kill us with kindness, with
Rose Garden ceremonies and Nobel Prizes. But kill us he will, if he only
can. So once again the Lord will have to stop him, as He undoubtedly will.
Rabbi Berel Wein