Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5776 2016 Power of Speech

Why did Balak call upon Bilam? He heard that Moshe had a great influence upon Bnei Israel with the many speeches he made. He thought he could counter Moshe’s success by bringing in another personality that had
a great reputation that he could affect many changes with his speech. Bilam was the right man for him.
Bilam was finally convinced to come at Balak’s bidding. A strange thing happened during his trip to Balak. The beast he was riding on suddenly started to speak. What was the message that Hashem was sending to Bilam? Plain and simple, Bilam was told that his ability to influence changes with his speech, is meaningless. He was demonstrated that even a beast can be made to speak.

There are many people who speak well and influence people. It does not mean that the message the speaker is sending is the right one. It depends on who is speaking and what he has to say. Moshe spoke in the name of Hashem so his words were heeded. Bilam spoke in the name of Balak and his words ended up ineffective.

We must be very careful what speaker we go to hear and what speaker’s words we take to heart.
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Short Vort on Parshat Balak 2015 5775

Balak was frightened that the Children of Israel were approaching and his reaction was: וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל בִּלְעָם, “He sent messengers to Bilam…”. (Num. 22,5) to come and curse the Jewish people. Rashi comments on this verse: Why did the Holy One blessed be He, let His Shechina rest upon so wicked a heathen as Bilam? I reply “in order that the heathen people should have no excuse to say ‘If we had prophets, we would have changed for the better’.”

The obvious reasoning of Rashi is that their contention was they didn’t believe in the Almighty because they had no prophets, thus they could not believe in that which was not proven to them and they could not see with their own eyes. Hence, the question was if they must have proof to believe, how come they believed in Bilam’s ability to curse effectively?

Many Jewish people do not practice Mitzvot and Jewish traditions. When unfortunately a tragedy occurs, they start believing in all kinds of superstitions. Judaism has laws and traditions for every life occurrence and it is not necessary to believe in unwarranted practices.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5773 2013

When Balak sent for Bilam to come and curse the Bnei Israel, he says to him, I know: אֵת אֲשֶׁר תְּבָרֵךְ מְבֹרָךְ וַאֲשֶׁר תָּאֹר יוּאָר, “…whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is accursed.” (Num. 22,6) Balak wanted Bilam to come and curse. Why did he add that he knows he can also bless?

Balak knew there are two ways he can defeat the Israelites. One way was that his armies would be strong enough to overcome the Bnei Israel with their might. If perhaps, his armies were not powerful enough to overpower them, he then wanted Bilam to curse them and weaken them to such an extent that Balak’s armies would be able to chase them away, even if he could not defeat them in battle.

That is why he emphasized that Bilam can also bless. Bless our armies to be able to defeat them. If that won’t work, then curse the Israelites so we can chase them away. Balak actually mentions both these possibilities in his message to Bilam. He said: אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה בּוֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ, “…perhaps I will be able to destroy them and chase them away from the land.” (ibid)

Israel’s enemies today use the same approach. They tried to defeat Israel through wars and having failed they try by demonizing it.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5772 2012

When Bnei Yisrael were approaching the land of Moav, the king Balak sent to Bilam to come and cast a spell over the approaching nation. This is a strange means of warfare. Why didn’t he send out his army to fight them?

The Midrash (Bereshit Rabah Balak 20) states that Balak recognized Moshe’s victories were not normal. So he consulted with the leaders of Midyan, where Moshe had lived for many years, as to how to deal with him.
They advised him that Moshe’s strength is in is mouth. Hence Balak invited Bilam whose strength was also in his mouth, to come and cast a spell on the Israelites.

The State of Israel in modern times has won all its wars since the establishment of the country. True, it has a strong military. That in itself may not be the answer. Others also have strong militaries. The difference is the same difference that Moshe had over the enemies of his day. He had the help of the Almighty.

Israel today has the same support of the Almighty. There are people who may not want to recognize it but there is no other explanation that can be given why a little country like Israel can defend itself against overwhelming odds. Also, no rational reason can be given why a little country without the vast resources of other large and mighty nations, can be so innovative and offer the world so much in every field of endeavor.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5771 2011

Man’s superiority over animals stems from his ability to speak. Through speech he can convey to others and particularly to the next generation the information he accumulated and they can build upon his knowledge. That is how modern man has been able to make such technical progress.

We read an intriguing incident in the story of Bilam. The beast upon which he was riding suddenly starts talking to him. There is a deep moral implication in this episode. Bilam was going to misuse his gift of speech. He was going to use it to curse the Jewish people. That was not why the gift of speech had been given him.

When his beast started talking to him he was being informed that his talent of speech no longer places him above his animal. The way he was abusing his speech puts him at the same level with his dumb animal.

Humans should be grateful for their power of speech but they must be ever mindful not to exploit it and to use it for the good purpose it was intended.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5770 2010

When Balak sent messengers to Bila’am to come and cast a spell on the Israelites, Hashem appeared to Bila’am in his dream and had a conversation with him which, based on a Midrash, Rashi records. Hashem asked, “Who are these people? Bila’am replied, “They were sent by Balak that I should come and curse the Israelites.” Hashem told him not to go. Then Bila’am said he would curse them from his home. Again Hashem answered “Do not curse them at all.” Then Bila’am said, “I will bless them.” Again Hashem said, “They don’t need your blessings for they are already blessed.”

Then Rashi adds a statement from the Midrash which has become an oft quoted Rabbinic parable, “One says to the hornet: LO MEDUVSHACH VELO ME’UKTZACH, not from your honey nor from your sting.” (Num. 22,12)

What is the meaning of this quotation and what is its implication here? Simply it means I don’t want anything from you; not your good and not your bad.

The Jewish people throughout history have been physically assaulted and harassed by its enemies who tried to annihilate us. It did not work. We were able to withstand the assault. So they tried a different tactic, with kindness. They accepted us into their society and through assimilation we lost great numbers of Jews. This is what the quotation implies. We don’t want your sting and we don’t need your honey. Just let us go our own way.

This is what Hashem was saying to Bila’am. Do not go. Do not curse them and do not bless them. Anything coming from you is harmful to them. Let them live their own way.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 2009 5769

Bilam came to curse the Children of Israel and instead he ended up praising them. He even made a wish: TAMOT NAFSHI MOT YESHARIM UTEHI ACHRITI KAMOHU, “…may my soul die the death of the upright, and may my end be like his.” (Num. 23,10)

Bilam wanted to die like a Jew for he knew that Jews go on to Gan Eden. Furthermore, Jews, because of their traditions, live on even after they leave this world. They leave offspring who continue to live lives similar to that of their departed ones.

Interesting, Bilam wanted the end result and the product of living a Jewish life but did not want the effort to live a Jewish life. The truth is that it is not easy to live like a Jew. The Mitzvot are numerous and some are not easy at all to perform or observe. However, the results of a Jewish life are immeasurable. While there is much hatred against the Jews the world realizes that the Jewish life style certainly has great desirable results. Bilam wanted the results but not the effort required.