Thursday, June 24, 2010

Balak 5632 Fourth Ma'amar

In this week’s haftara the prophet exhorts us to remember the story of Bil’am and Balak, “עַמִּי זְכָר־נָא מַה־יָעַץ בָּלָק מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב וּמֶה־עָנָה אֹתוֹ בִּלְעָם בֶּן־בְּעוֹר ... לְמַעַן דַּעַת צִדְקוֹת ה׳׃/My people, please remember what Balak, king of Moav schemed and what Bil’am son of Be’or answered him … in order to recognize the righteous acts of God.” (Micha 6:5)  Also, Chazal relate the importance of remembering the story of Balak.  There were even those who wanted this story to be a part of Kri’as Shma.[1]  It isn’t, the Gemara tells us only  because it would have inordinately lengthened Kri’as Shma.  What is so important, so significant, about the story of Balak that the prophet asks us specifically to remember it and that it almost became a part of the Krias Shma?

The story of Balak is unique in that an implacable enemy was not only ineffective; he actually blessed us against his own will instead of cursing us.  When the nation follows the path of truth and is aligned with God’s will even their most implacable and hostile enemies submit to God’s will.

We find this same idea on a personal level as well.  Chazal tell us that two angels, a good one and a bad one, escort each of us home from the synagogue Friday night.  If they find a home prepared for Shabbos, the good angel says, “May it be your will that this will happen next Shabbos as well.”  The bad angel answers Amen against his will.

We actually pray for this in the prayer that we say immediately following the Amida, “וְכָל הַחוֹשְׁבִים עָלַי רָעָה מְהֵרָה הָפֵר עַצָתָם וְקַלְקֵל מַחְשַׁבְתָּם/And all who wish me ill, quickly overturn their scheme and corrupt their thoughts.”

Many times we are faced with hostile and vicious enemies.  There seems to be no way to overcome them.  From the story of Balak we learn that although we may not be able to overcome the enemy in a direct manner, there are other options.  Although it seems improbable, it is an important part of serving God to cultivate a strong belief that all our enemies, even those who are the complete antithesis of holiness must subside and submit to the will of God.  There is no such thing as a creation acting autonomously, even our cruelest enemies.

Our worst enemies will submit to God’s will though, only  if we compromise not an iota, if we stay on the path of truth, the path of God.  Then we will merit not only the destruction of our enemies but their blessing, just as the nation of Israel merited it on the plains of Moav.

[1] Brachos 12b

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