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Parshas Balak

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Balak

Oct 21, 2009



The Torah relates how Balak sends emissaries to Bilaam, the prophet of the nations, to forge an alliance with him. The goal being bringing about the destruction of the Bnei Yisroel via a curse.

Hashem queries Bilaam, "Who are these men that are with you?" Rashi quotes chazal that Hashem's purpose in asking this of Bilaam was in order to fool him. Bilaam was under the mistaken impression that there are things which are hidden from Hashem. Thus, he decided to forge ahead with his plan to destroy the Jewish nation.

Certainly, Bilaam, who was a navi, possessed sufficient knowledge of the workings of Hashem's creation to know with certainty that nothing escapes the gaze of Hash-em.

Furthermore, chazal comment on the verse "Lo kam b'Yisroel k'Moshe od", that none of the prophets of Israel compared to Moshe, but among the nations there was one prophet who arose and equaled Moshe. This prophet being Bilaam harasha. It is difficult to imagine that someone who was such a degenerate could be held up to a level of comparison with Moshe Rabeinu.

To understand this we must first delve into the very origins of a rasha such as Bilaam. Hashem created evil in the world. There are those who espouse the philosophy that evil exists in it's own right. There exists an antagonism between good and evil and to the victor go the spoils. The world was created for the purpose of all things contained within. If it exists, it was meant to exist and it's very existence gives it legitimacy. This mode of thinking leads to anarchy. One who lives his life by such a credo will be responsible only to himself. He exists, so he must be right in anything he sets out to do.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Hashem created and sustains evil in order to facilitate free will. The purpose of evil is not for it to exist in it's own right, but rather for it to be overcome. It's interesting to note that when Yaakov Aveinu overcame the malach of Eisav the medrash relates how the malach beseeched Yaakov to let him go. He was being called to shamayim for his turn to say shirah. Shirah is an expression of one who has performed a task until it's completion. Once the malach was defeated by Yaakov, his job was done.

The difference between these two schools of thought is the difference between those who utilize evil to overcome it and those who worship it as an end within itself.

Bilaam was the quintessence of the "koach hora". He embodied the source of all that which is evil in the world. He was aware that Hashem is all knowing, but together with this knowledge he possessed a depth of understanding in the creation of the forces of evil in the world. These are forces created by Hash-em that allow a "baal bechira" to choose to rebel against the very One who sustains him.

An adam gadol of pre World War II Europe, by the name of Hagaon R' Mordechai Pogremansky z"l, once explained that there are two creatures who share in common an extreme sensitivity to light. An eagle and a bat. The eagle senses the early morning light before any other creature and soars toward the source of light. It is attracted to the light. A bat, on the other hand, as soon as it senses light, goes into hiding. It is at odds with the world of light.

Moshe Rabeinu and Bilaam harasha each possessed equal sensitivity to the presence of Hash-em in creation. Moshe Rabeinu soared toward the "ohr Hash-em". Bilaam used the creation of Hash-em against him. Chazal did not equate Moshe Rabeinu and Bilaam harasha in the area of "tzidkus", but rather in their knowledge of the forces that Hash-em created.

Bilaam did not err in thinking that there are things that escape Hashem's supervision. Hashem is all knowing. His understanding of the evil in the world caused him to come to the erroneous conclusion that Hashem, by choice, "acts" as if he is ignorant of the wrongdoing in the world. Otherwise he wouldn't give evil free reign. He therefore sought to uproot the bearers of Hashem's standard in the world. Bilaam was fooled into assigning a permanent status to the patience Hashem exhibits to those who go against his will.

Through Hashem's salvation, the true nature of evil was revealed. It's existence is only temporary, until it is eventually overcome.

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