The Talmud incisively comments that it is not the mouse that is a thief,but, rather, it is the hole in the wall that allows the mouse entry into the house that is the culprit. There is no question that the villain in this week’s Torah reading is Bilaam. His hatred of the Jewish people is long-standing. He was one of the advisors to the Pharaoh of Egypt who encouraged that tyrant to enslave the people of Israel. Even though it is obvious, even for him, that the will of heaven is that he should not accept the invitation of Balak to embark of the mission of cursing the Jewish people, he forces the issue, and accepts the mission willingly and enthusiastically.
Even a talking donkey cannot sway him from pursuing his evil path and destination. Yet, it is Balak who initiates the entire scenario. He is, so to speak, the hole that allows the thieving mouse Bilaam to enter a situation that will enable him to curse the Jewish people. Balak is the king of Moav and was guaranteed by heavenly decree that his land would not be invaded or annexed by the people of Israel, as his ancestors were descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham.
Because Lot kept faith with Abraham when they were in Egypt and did not inform against Abraham and Sarah, he was afforded almost continual protection and a guarantee that his descendants would not be harmed by the descendants of Abraham. According to the Midrash, even though Balak is aware of all of this, he is still determined to destroy the Jewish people by whatever means are required. And the curses of Bilaam are one part of the plan.
We are taught that hatred is unreasoning, illogical, destructive, and devoid of any rational behavior. All human history shows us the truth of this Talmudic observation. Hatred leads not only to the destruction of those hated but is equally destructive to the hater as well.
Even after the failure of the mission of Bilaam and the clear realization that the Lord is protecting the Jewish people, Balak searches for other means to annihilate the Jews. He makes a covenant with ostensibly the mightiest king in that area and of that time, Sichon, the head of the tribe of the Emorites. And Sichon will dutifully set out to attack and destroy the Jewish people. He is defeated by the Jewish nation, and because Balak and Moav entrusted their sovereignty and independence to Sichon, with his defeat, the lands of Moav also fall under Jewish sovereignty.
This is illustrative of the power of hatred. People will surrender their own rights and property in the mistaken belief that their hatred will somehow translate into the annihilation of their enemy. The whole exercise of the hatred by Balak of the Jewish people transforms itself into his own defeat and demise. Hatred blinds the eyes of even the most previously wise and powerful.
Rabbi Berel Wein