Balak 5781 – And You Thought Mister Ed Was Something Special

By: Larry Tobin

Parshat Balak, to say the least, is a very unusual and interesting Parsha. To summarize briefly, The B’nai Yisroel were having a field day destroying all of their enemies. Balak, king of Moab, feared that he was next. He could have made friends with the Jewish nation by simply offering them food and water during their journey through the wilderness. But no! This was not the vision of our Jew hating king. Yes, there were anti-Semites even way back then. He concocted a diabolical plan. Get the renowned sorcerer, Bilaam, to curse the Jews. Bilaam, at first, was not anxious to get involved. He had heard of the power of the Jewish G-d. Ultimately, however, he caved in to the pressures exerted by Balak and set out on his donkey to curse the hated Jews. Lo and behold! An angel blocked the donkey from proceeding forward. Bilaam beat his donkey mercilessly trying to get it to move. Then the aha moment happened. The donkey starting speaking and asked Bilaam why he was beating him. Try as he may to curse the Jews, Bilaam’s curses were turned into blessings by G-d.

Stage right, act two. The Jewish people, including Moses, were unaware of the dangers they potentially faced with Balak and Bilaam. Moses learned of these events only after being informed by G-d of their occurrence. Moses, at the time, really had his hands full. The B’nai Yisroel were engaging in their customary habit of complaining. This time they complained about Manna. They didn’t like it and missed real food, especially meat.

Stage left, act three. I’ll title this act: How to really tick off G-d. Simple. Take a forbidden Moabite princess into your tent to engage in forbidden acts with her while making sacrifices to a Moabite god. Hashem, who had just saved the Jews from the curse laden Bilaam, now turned his wrath on the B’nai Yisroel hitting them with a plague worse than covid and wiping out twenty-four thousand Jews lickity split. It took the sharp shooting of Pinchas to put an end to the plague, i.e., a carefully thrown spear that shish kabobbed the offending duo.

Great stories, but do they make any sense? Is the Parsha trying to teach us something? Anything? Let’s look back at the curses/blessings of Bilaam for the answer. G-d had put words in the mouth of Bilaam. Now, we believe that G-d loves us. But where do we ever hear from G-d his expression of love for us? I know, I know. Actions speak louder than words. But sometimes it’s nice to hear those magical three words: I love you.

Check out the G-d inspired blessings of Bilaam. They’re a downright love sonnet. “How goodly are thy tents. O’ Jacob, etc., etc. Okay, if G-d loves us, why the plague? On the other hand, how could the B’nai Yisroel treat G-d in such a disrespectful manner? I have no ready answer for the second question. But regarding the first question, this seems to have been answered by G-d Himself in Hosea. Hosea wondered how G-d could still love the Jewish people given the way they act toward Him. G-d explained to Hosea that the Jewish people are like an unfaithful wife. Despite her infidelity, you still love her and are willing to take her back. Yes, G-d delivered a well-deserved plague, but quickly resumed his loving and caring for the B’nai Yisroel.

Yes folks. Parshat Balak is actually a love story. The story of G-d’s never- ending love for the Jewish people. If you don’t believe me, go ask Bilaam’s donkey.  It will confirm that I am right.

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