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Shabbat BALAK Readings and Commentaries

Numbers 22:2-25:9; Micah 5:6-6:8
by Michael Schneider, Jerusalem

We read in our weekly Torah portion about Balak, king of Moab, who was frightened by thevictorious people of Israel after they defeated the mighty Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. (Both of these battles are still remembered in daily Jewish prayers!)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Insert of the GSI editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Video-Commenatry of Rabbi chaim Richman, The Temple Institute, Jerusalem:
„There is nothing new under the sun,“ and that goes for the „new“ antisemitism, and the „international community’s“ exasperation with Israel’s obsession with such petty issues as sovereignty, security, viability and her continued existence as a free and independent people in their own land. Many years ago the long-time enemies of Moav, (led by Balak ) and Midian, (represented by Bilaam ), joined forces to try to erase their mutual enemy Israel. The urbane and cosmopolitan Bilaam was called in to put a politically correct face on the viciously antisemitic diatribe they were espousing…

Balak turned to spiritual powers for help: He called upon Balaam, a known seer, to curse Israel! We see that at first Balaam resisted the demands of the king, wanting to obey God. The king sent first messengers then princes to persuade him. God saw Balaam’s heart grow increasingly weak so He allowed him to go: “Rise up and go with them” (22:20). Balaam waited for the ‘green light’ from God. We read how quickly the next morning he packed his donkey and went.

God used the situation to demonstrate that he can use anyone to proclaim His word, even through a talking donkey.
Later we see that instead of a cursing, Balak had to listen to a blessing on Israel (23:11 and 25) three times. He, like Pharaoh, did not give up easily and it became a power struggle between a human ruler and the “still unknown” God of Israel.
“Blessed is everyone who blesses you (Israel), and cursed is everyone who curses you.“ (24:9) However, the story shows us, that the Jewish people are the most cursed people in all history! The United Nations has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than against all other nations put together including Iraq! Of the 175 resolutions of the UN Security Council, 97 were against Israel! (figures 2006)

On the other hand, people, companies and individuals are blessed because they bless Israel whether through practical and financial help or prayer. Yes, this formula still holds good.

A classic example is seen in the history of the two parts of Germany before the reunification. East Germany (GDR) did not want to acknowledge their guilt towards the Jewish people, but West Germany did. Even the Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany ordered in 1965 compensation payments to Holocaust survivors. The blessing and the curse were obvious: West Germany prospered and became an economic super-power, while the GDR simply did not progress for a period of 40 years. Yes, we are speaking about the same “hard-working” Germans. Just look at the United States, which stands on Israel’s side most of the time and has been blessed for that.
One of Balaam’s blessings even became the introduction of a prayer: “How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel” (24:5).

Let it be a word of comfort to us: God can change any ordered and planned curse into a blessing!

Shabbat Shalom

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