Thursday, July 10, 2008

Balak 5632 Third Ma'amar

The Midrash in this week’s parsha brings a dialog between Bil’am and God. Bil’am asked God why He preferred to be worshipped by one nation Israel rather than by seventy the nations of the world. God replied with a pasuk in Mishlei (17:1), “טוֹב פַּת חֲרֵיבָה וְשַׁלְוָה־בָהּ מִבַּיִת מָלֵא זִבְחֵי־רִיב/Better dry bread with peace in it than a house full of contentious celebrations.” Dry bread is a reference to the mincha sacrifice that we bring. A house full of contentious celebrations is a reference to the nations of the world because they want to cause strife between Israel and God.
Our service has no ulterior motives whereas the nations of the world served God in order to cause strife between Israel and God. God would rather have our service because it has no ulterior motives. In fact Chazal state explicitly that even when the nations of the world served God, they did it for personal benefit.

Bil’am himself had a personal agenda even as he submitted to God’s will. This is why Chazal understand Bil’am’s fault from the very pasuk that shows his subordination, “... אִם־יִתֶּן־לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתוֹ כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲבֹר אֶת־פִּי ה׳ אֱ־לֹהָי .../Even if Balak would give me a house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to transgress the word of God, my Lord.” (Bamidbar 22:18) He sounds like a tzaddik, yet because Chazal knew that Bil’am was self serving, they understand from here that Bil’am was a glutton for money.

Evil wants to come close to God, too. The Sfas Emes explains the difference between the approach of evil and our approach regarding serving God. Bil’am submitted to God in order to reach higher levels, to show how important he was. We – the children of Israel – ask God to help us reach higher levels in order to submit to Him.

No comments: