Parashat Balak // “Balak”

- י י ל -

Why should we be ready to find the truth?

Balaam sets out to curse the Israelites but his donkey stops at the sight of an angel from God

“And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side…and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me” Numbers 22:27 – 29

  • Balak, king of Moab, seeks to curse the Israelites as they pass through his territory. He commissions Balaam to do his bidding. Balaam promises God that only blessings will come out of his mouth – but in truth he intends to curse the Israelites. It is none other than Baalam’s own donkey who shows him that his motives are corrupt – stemming from his lust for money and prestige. Balaam, the great prophet, is in fact morally corrupt – he is willing to offer the negative aspects of his talents in exchange for money. That is the reason his curses are ineffective. God allows him to repent – but just like Pharaoh before him, Balaam is led astray by his inner darkness and tempted to elude reality. Every person has a duty to courageously seek the truth. Reprimand may come even from the lowest of creatures. 
  • Many of the things around us are there to guide our actions and thoughts. In Balaam’s case, his donkey helps him to reveal the truth – but Balaam is blinded by his own arrogance and refuses to listen.

The Israelites can only fulfill their destiny if they preserve their identity

“For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” Numbers 23:9

  • The Israelites can only extract their true potential if they remain true to who they are – not only in the land of Israel, but in their eventual exiles, as well. When the Jewish people preserve their identity and customs, they will not provoke antisemitism. Instead, they will position themselves as a light unto the nations and trigger the admiration of these other nations.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “Balak”

  • We must always focus on the entire perspective and not forget the ultimate vision. Only in this way can we free ourselves from the envy and selfishness that lead to negative attitudes and inner darkness.
  • Our material endeavors should never take precedence over God’s vision. If we impose our own desires on reality, we are sure to damage others and crush anything standing in our way.
  • When we are able to see the “bigger picture” and neutralize our ego and envy, our eyes are opened. Through constructive insights, we may find it easier to share and influence others.
  • Every person has the duty to courageously seek the truth. Reprimand may come from even the lowest of creatures. We must be open to pursuing the truth and aware of the signs that may appear along the way.
  • Many of the things that surround us are there to help us discover the truth. We must be open to finding anything that might facilitate our spiritual progress. 
  • Salvation emerges precisely from distress and adversity. Failure comes from a resistance to face the truth. Each crisis is an opportunity to grow again and begin something new.

Loyalty requires self-respect and the humility necessary to put others above ourselves.