Parashat Balak- HaShem is Involved, Problem Solved
34. Bilaam said to the angel of HaShem, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing on the road before me. Now, if it displeases you, I will return."
לד. וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל מַלְאַךְ ה' חָטָאתִי כִּי לֹא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אַתָּה נִצָּב לִקְרָאתִי בַּדָּרֶךְ וְעַתָּה אִם רַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ אָשׁוּבָה לִּי:
A week or two ago, I visited an amusement park and after I got off a topsy-turvy ride, something must have messed around with my mind, because I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, How sad is it that people have to bring themselves to the verge of death in order to have fun. Seriously, taking a leisurely stroll in the park was once enjoyable, but it got to the point where one must hoist themselves onto a 128 miles per hour coaster that shoots them 456 feet into the sky (not kidding, I googled it) in order to have fun. Why do we have to be pushed to such extremes in order to reach the threshold of change?
Where did all our sensitivity go?
Balak, the king of Moav, feels threatened by Benei Yisrael and hires Bilaam, a prophet, to curse them. Any time that Bilaam opens up his mouth to curse, HaKadosh Barukh Hu puts only blessings in his mouth. One of these blessings are:
5. How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov your dwelling places, O Yisrael!
ה. מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל:
Bilaam sees how modest Benei Yisrael are since the openings of their tents do not face each other and therefore they cannot looking into one another’s tent, and decides to praise them for this. Yet, how is Bilaam able to see the entire panorama of Benei Yisrael’s tents?
Balak and Bilaam were standing on a tall mountaintop together and looking down at the camp if Benei Yisrael. This means he could see them, but they couldn’t see him. When we read the Torah ourselves, we take it as a given that such an instance occurred, but while this was actually happening in real life, Benei Yisrael had no idea what was going on! Benei Yisrael have no idea they were even in danger, but nevertheless HaShem saves them.
Do we realize how many times HaKadosh Barukh Hu saves us, and we are not even aware!?
There is a saying, Yeshuat HaShem keHeref Ayin, the Salvation of HaShem is like a blink of an eye. Before you can even blink, HaShem is already there to save you. this is what most people intend when they offer this saying as hizouk to others. However, there is another way to understand this line. Just like a person is not always aware of the many times he blinks every day, so too is a person not always aware of the many Yeshuot that come into his life.
If we only knew how involved HaKadosh Barukh Hu is in our lives, we would behave very differently. Except some people don’t realize, and they need a strong wakeup call to see such things. When Bilaam tells HaShem that Balak sent him to curse Benei Yisrael, HaShem commands him not to go. Yet Bilaam does not listen and goes to curse Benei Yisrael. This happens again. And again.
Bilaam didn’t get it, so HaKadosh Barukh Hu had to resort to more extreme measures to get his attention. On his way to Balak to curse Benei Yisrael, Bilaam’s donkey stops in his tracks; he sees the Malakh haMavet (angel of death) standing in front of him holding a fiery sword. Bilaam doesn’t see this and doesn’t understand why his donkey stops, so he hits his donkey. This happens two more times until HaShem opens up the donkey’s mouth and tells Bilaam that the Malakh haMavet is standing in front of him waiting to kill him. HaShem then opens Bilaam’s eyes and he sees this. Only when Bilaam is on the verge of death does he realize, ‘I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing on the road before me. Now, if it displeases you, I will return.’- I will do Teshuvah. This is all in the Pasuk. Not a Midrash, not a commentary, and not a parable- this really happened.
The Hakhamim explain to us that HaShem has a daily instant of anger, so to speak. How long is that episode of fury? A ‘moment’. The Hakhamim tell us that a ‘moment’ is one six‐hundredth of a second. Bilaam knew how to calibrate his curses precisely for that fleeting moment in which curses are fulfilled. But to prevent this, what did HaShem do? He didn’t change Bilaam. He didn’t make him mute. HaShem changed HIMSELF. Do we realize what a Hesed this is to us? For several whole days, HaShem doesn’t get angry. He changes His essence in order to save us. Bilaam has no way to sneak in his curse. And meanwhile, we are not aware of any of this.
If we realize how involved HaKadosh Barukh Hu is in our lives, if we realized how committed He is to us, how much He loves us, we wouldn’t need such wake up calls as Bilaam had. If we realize how committed HaShem is to us, we would be all the more committed to Him. If He changes his entire essence for us, we should be willing to change our essence for Him too. Look how much HaShem loves us! Can we say that we love Him this much too?
How committed can someone be to HaKadosh Barukh Hu? The Torah HaKedoshah describes Pinhas as zealous for HaShem. What does this mean?
In this Parashah, Benei Yisrael began to serve idols and had relations with the women of Moav. Horrible! How could they get to such a low point? Where is their sensitivity? This deed was so terrible in HaShem’s eyes that He sent a plague that killed 24,000 people as a wakeup call to Benei Yisrael. Is this call not extreme enough to get the attention of Benei Yisrael? They didn’t get it. It got to a point that the Nasi (the Prince) of Shevet Shimon, Zimri ben Salu, engages in a relationship with Cozbi, a woman from Midian in front of the entire Benei Yisrael, including Mosheh Rabbenu. What does Pinhas do? He is so committed to HaKadosh Barukh Hu that he takes a spear and pierces the both of them together mid-act in front of all of Benei Yisrael. This act was worthy enough to stop the plague. This act was extreme enough to finally open up the eyes of Benei Yisrael.
Where is our sensitivity? How many wakeup calls do we need? How loud do these calls need to be in order to get our attention? If we realize how involved HaKadosh Barukh Hu in every moment of our lives, we would be constantly awake, constantly aware. We would be zealous for HaShem!
Be’Ezrat HaShem we should be zokhim to reach such levels. May we always be attentive to the messages that HaKadosh Barukh Hu sends our way and may this only lead us to change for the better! May we always feel the presence and involvement of HaShem in our lives and become even more appreciative of it. In this zekhout may we bring Mashiah Sidkenu BeKarov, Amen!
Wishing every beautiful Neshamah a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!