פ’ בלק – תשע”ה
Volume 9, Issue 8
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
וירא בלק בן צפור…ויגר מואב מפני העם מאד…ובלק בן צפור מלך למואב בעת ההיא
“Balak son of Tzippor saw…Moav became very frightened…And Balak son of Tzippor was the king of Moav at that time.” (22:2-4)
Why does the Torah not identify who Balak was when his name is first mentioned, rather than waiting several verses to do so?
As Rashi (v. 4) mentions, Balak was originally not the king of Moav; he was in fact not a Moabite at all. It was only “at that time” that he was declared king, as an emergency measure in the face of a possible invasion of the Israelites. And why was Balak, of all people, chosen for this task? Rav Chaim Brisker explained that it was because of his hysterical, fanatical pronouncements against the Israelites: “Behold, a people has gone out of Egypt” (v. 5); “And now, the congregation will lick up our entire surroundings” (v. 4). The Talmud (Gittin 56b) tells us that “anyone who denounces and intimidates Israel becomes a leader.” Since it was Balak’s diatribes against Israel that lifted him to power, the Torah first presents him as just Balak, an ordinary man. Only after quoting some of his anti-Jewish fulminations does it say that Balak was the king of Moav at that time – as a result of these pronouncements. (Brisker Rav)
ובלק בן צפור מלך למואב בעת ההיא
“And Balak son of Tzippor was the king of Moav at that time…” (22:4)
The Zohar tells why the Torah mentions Balak’s father, and not the lineage of the other kings. He explains that Balak, was the only descendant of Yitro who refused to convert to Judaism, and was therefore crowned as king by the Moabites as a gesture of gratitude for his defiance. His father’s name is emphasized to indicate his lack of royal lineage, because he was the king of the Moabites only at that time. The statement of the Zohar may be further explained by applying the words of the Chovos HaLevavos regarding the yetzer hara’s various methods of enticing a person to sin. The evil inclination attempts to ingrain a sense of joy and positive emotion regarding a sin so that the individual continues to fall prey to his desires. The Moabites’ attempt at honoring Balak was to insure that he continue to defy his family’s pressure. The joy and honor of being king would positively enhance his action of defiance, and strengthen him in withstanding his sympathetic emotions towards his family.
Very often when a person experiences some form of joy resulting from a transgression, this will cause him to have a false sense of relief regarding the sin. One who oversleeps and misses minyan, attributes his ability to study better that day to his additional hour of sleep. You can be certain that he is experiencing a momentary bribe from his evil inclination. No benefit can be derived from a sinful act. On the contrary, if a mitzvah had been performed instead, it would have caused him even greater success and accomplishment. The yetzer hara’s methods for ensnaring one to sin are numerous. Success and prosperity resulting from a violation is only a clever tool employed by the yetzer hara to deceive an individual to sin. (Peninim)
לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה
“Please go and curse this nation for me.” (22:6)
On this verse, the Chafetz Chaim used to say, “Come look at the depravity of the nations.” If a Jew finds himself in a predicament or in troubled times, what does he do? He goes to a tzaddik, asks for his blessing, and requests that the tzaddik pray for his salvation, seeking mercy from Hashem. The nations, though, do otherwise. Look, for example, at what Balak did when he felt threatened by Israel. He went to Bilaam not to ask for his blessing that no harm befall him. No, Balak’s request was nothing of the kind. Instead, he asked Bilaam to curse Israel! Such is their nature. Rather than ask for help that would benefit themselves, they ask that Israel be cursed, just like they continue to do today. (Parsha Anthology)
ויקם בלעם בבקר ויחבש את אתונו
“And Bilaam rose up in the morning and saddled his donkey.” (22:21)
Rashi says, Hashem said to Bilaam – “wicked one, their father Avraham has already preceded you.” This refers to Avraham’s rising early in preparation for Akeidat Yitzchak. It is necessary to explain the relationship between Bilaam’s act and Avraham’s act, and the significance of Avraham having preceded Bilaam. We learn from here that Hashem demands of us to exert at least the same effort in performing His will, as the wicked exert in opposing His will. Bilaam specifically rose early in the morning and personally saddled his donkey to show his supreme devotion to the task at hand and thereby direct an indictment at the Jews for not exerting such devotion in pursuance of mitzvot. Hashem immediately responded by noting that Avraham’s alacrity and enthusiasm in performing Hashem’s will.
We should learn from here to expend our energies for Torah observance no less than our energy spent in pursuing our daily activities and livelihood. When we pursue our daily activities energetically, with zeal and enthusiasm, while we are indolent and unexcited regarding our spiritual observances, Hashem points an accusing finger at us. We should demand of our ourselves consistency throughout all our daily endeavors. (R’ Moshe Feinstein)
מה טבו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל
“How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling paces, Israel.” (24:5)
Bilaam spoke not of the lofty spiritual qualities that he saw in Bnei Yisrael, but rather of the good that could be seen in their tents and dwelling places. These are physical things, details of the Jewish home and family life, because it is these things that even someone of Bilaam’s base character can appreciate.
Bilaam could not be expected to appreciate the quality of Torah learning or diligence in fulfilling the Torah’s commandments. The decency and goodness shown by a person to his fellow man makes an impression on even the unlearned, and it causes glorification of Hashem’s Name. The Talmud teaches that one glorifies Hashem’s Name by studying Torah, serving Torah scholars, and dealing with people pleasantly and honestly (Yoma 86a). The Talmud says that this sort of behavior results in a Kiddush Hashem because it will influence people to respect those who keep the Torah, and in turn they will respect the Giver of the Torah. Thus people will say, מה טבו אהליך יעקב, how goodly are your tents, Yaakov, i.e. the tents of Torah study that produce such good people. The letters אהליך, your tents, also spell א-לקיך, your G-d, for the virtues of the students of Torah will reflect on its Giver. (Vedebarta Bam)
ותלחץ את רגל בלעם את הקיר
“And it pressed Bilaam’s leg against the wall.” (22:25)
QUESTION: Why did Hashem make him injure his foot specifically?
ANSWER: There is a saying, “Sheker ein lo raglayim”, Falsehood has no feet, which means that lies cannot stand up for long. Eventually truth prevails and lies dissipate. Bilaam was permeated with falsehood. His attitudes, based on lust for glory and money, so blinded him that he thought he could even deceive Hashem. Therefore Hashem caused the donkey to injure his foot as a message that his attempts to hurt the Jewish people would be short-lived.
In Hebrew the word for falsehood is “sheker”, שקר and truth is “emet”, אמת. Emet is spelled with a “א”, a “מ”, and a “ת”, each of which stand on two feet. On the other hand, the letters “ש”, and “ר” have only one foot, and the letter “ק” has one foot longer than the other, which makes it imbalanced. Truth stands firmly on two feet and can stand forever. One may be able to stand on one foot, but not for long. “א” is the first letter of the aleph-bet, “מ” is the middle letter, and “ת” is the last letter. These three letters together spell the word ”emet”, truth, because something true is true from beginning to end. (Pardes Yosef)
This week’s sheet is sponsored by Sam Levitt in memory of Geraldine Lederman Levitt, M.D., a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother, who was also a highly respected physician in the practice of psychiatry. For future sponsorship opportunities or to receive this publication, please call Steve Zuckerman at 516 652 5266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Lichter at email@example.com. Sponsorships in memory of or in honor of someone are $50.00 per issue.