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 So, like Bilaam, much of the world has withdrawn from outright advocacy of the genocidal destruction of Jews and has resorted to “blessing” the Jewish people and the State of Israel with pious NGO’s, human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 and hatred.
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 human being.
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
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com