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Get It Right!

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Balak

Jul 4, 2014

Parshas Balak 5774


Get it right! (The Second Time)


Balak, the king of Moav, hires the gentile prophet Bila’am to curse the Bnei Yisroel. They were not a direct threat to the people of Moav. Hashem commanded the Bnei Yisroel against waging war with the nations of Amon and Moav.


Balak knew first hand that the curses of Bila’am were effective. It was Bila’am who prophesized that Balak would rise to power. Bila’am’s curses came to the aid of Sichon, king of the Emorites in their war against Moav.


Upon Balak’s insistence, Bila’am attempted to curse the Bnei Yisroel on three occasions. Each time Bila’am instructed Balak to build seven altars and offer a cow and a ram upon each one, for a total of 42 korbanos.

Bila’am sought to outdo the avoda of the Avos. The Avos built seven altars in total. Avrohom Avenu built four altars, Yitzchok Avenu built one, and Yaakov Avenu built two.


Rav Yehuda tells us in the name of Rav, “One should involve himself in Torah and in mitzvos even if not for the sake of heaven, from amidst the performance of avoda shelo lishma will ultimately come avoda lishma. We see this from the forty two korbanos brought by Balak the wicked. In the merit of those korbanos he merited a worthy descendant.”  


The righteous convert, Ruth, was a direct descendant of Balak.




What did Balak fear that caused him to attempt to wipe out the Bnei Yisroel?


Why would Bila’am think that bringing korbanos to Hashem would allow him to curse Hashem’s people?


Balak brought sacrifices in order that the curses of Bila’am would be effective. Why is this considered a mitzvah at all? It is not a mitzvah shelo lishma. It is an aveira.




The wicked ones of that time were a lot more aware of G-d’s presence in this world. They believed in his Omnipresence. They believed He was all powerful. Yet, they rebelled against Him.


How is this justified?


The answer lies in the power of bechira. Hashem created the world with one purpose in mind. He designed a world filled with choices. He created man with the power to choose to do as he wishes.


The wicked ones of that time took this one step further. If G-d created man within a world of choices, and He allows man to choose, then anything man chooses is a legitimate choice. Hashem even allows man the choice of rebelling against Him. Choosing to throw off G-d’s authority is viewed as G-d’s will in their eyes.


G-d granted free will in order for it to be used. In their distorted perspective, any limits placed on the power of free will is an assault on G-d’s honor in this world.


This belief is a distortion. It is one that can be traced back to the first choice made in Gan Eden. The snake convinced Adam and Chava that it is G-d’s will for them to partake from the fruits of the Eitz Hada’as. G-d wants them to be free to disobey Him. If G-d had not wanted them to disobey His command, why did he create the Eitz Hada’as in the first place? G-d does not create trees for no reason.


In truth, the tree was not created for nothing. The purpose of evil is for man to choose to avoid it. The purpose of the Eitz Hada’as was for Adam and Chava to be aware of it, know of its allure, and resist its attraction.


Thus, there are two diametrically opposed belief systems for the purpose of man in this world.




Bial’am was from Aram Naharayim. According to one view in Chazal, he was Lavan Ha’Arami. Balak was descended from Lot. They both laid claim to being from the family of Avrohom Avenu.


Avrohom Avenu was the wellspring of emunah in this world. His family members were also immersed in emunas Hashem. But they went off in the opposite direction. Instead of an emunah that would require personal responsibility, they followed a path that would allow them to do as they pleased. They grant legitimacy on their life’s choices merely by choosing.


Obviously, the two systems cannot co-exist.


Bila’am prophesized that Balak would rule. He sought to unite with Balak. Balak’s rule would be a rule through which he would forge the world in his own image.


They feared. They were afraid upon hearing of the Bnei Yisroel’s coming. It was a threat to everything that they held dear.


They sought not to destroy the Jewish nation. In their distorted view of things, they believed that Hashem would allow them to replace the Jewish nation.


The korbanos of Balak surpassed those of the Avos. Balak was putting himself in position. He would be the “new Avos”. He understands what true malchus of Hashem is.


Only through totally free will can Hashem’s honor be spread throughout this world. Any coercion whatsoever takes away from the honor of the king. If one accepts G-d as a king because the refusal to do so is an illegitimate choice, because it is an aveira, then one is not truly choosing.


This is what went through the minds of Bila’am and Balak when they offered the korbanos.


Distorted as it was, the stated intent of Balak was to fill the world with the malchus of Hashem. He was under the mistaken impression that he is performing G-d’s will by doing so. He is saving the world.


He was wrong and paid the price for being wrong.


But his great great granddaughter got it right. Ruth converted. She was a daughter of kings. She left them and all they stood for. She embraced the true belief of malchus Hashem. She did so because she was descended from Balak.


And she was the great grandmother of Dovid Hamelech. The one who filled the world with the songs and praises of the glory of the malchus Hashem.

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