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Monday, Tammuz 9, 5773 / June 17, 2013


This Shabbat, in the Diaspora, we will read Parshat Balak.  In this Parsha the Torah tells us the story of Balak and Bilaam. They both hated the Jewish people and wanted to have them destroyed. 


Balak, King of Moab, saw that the Jewish people, who just defeated the two mighty kings, Sichon and Og, were now encamped on the border of his land.  He became extremely frightened for his own land and people. The Jewish people had no intention to conquer his land.


He realized that if the two kings Sichon and Og couldn’t defeat the Jewish people, he surely had no chance against them in battle.  His only choice was to defeat them in a different way.  He knew that Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, lived in Midyan before becoming their leader. He asked the elders of Midyan, “What is Moshe’s power? And how can he be defeated?”


The reply he received from Midyan was that Moshe’s power is in his speech, in his prophecy and in his power of prayer.  Balak knew that the only person who can match up to Moshe in that area, was Bila’am.   He summoned Bila’am, who was the master sorcerer of his time, to come and curse the Jewish people.  This way, Balak believed that he will have a fighting chance to defeat the Jewish people.


Balak built many altars and brought forty two sacrifices, hoping that in the merit of his sacrifices, G-d will allow Bilam to curse the Jewish people.  But try as hard as he would, G-d always put words of blessing in Bilam’s mouth and instead of cursing them, he actually blessed them.  When Balak realized that Bilam was no help and in fact made things worse for him, he chased him away.


Of the 54 Parshiot (portions) of the Torah, only five are named after a person: Noah, Yitro, Korach, Balak & Pinchas.  Naming a Parsha of the Torah after someone is a great honor.


We can understand a portion of the Torah being named after Noah, who was a righteous person and saved from the Great Flood.  Also, Yitro, who was Moshe’s father-in-law and  joined the Jewish people.  Korach was Moshe’s cousin. Although he argued against Moshe and was punished, yet, our sages say that he and his people were great scholars.  Also Pinchas, about whom we will read later in the Torah, was a great person and received a special reward from G-d for his good deed.


Q.   Why would the Torah name a Parsha after Balak, who wanted to kill the Jewish people?


A.   The Talmudic sages explain that because of the forty-two sacrifices which Balak brought, he had the merit that Ruth descended from him. Subsequently, from Ruth came King David and King Solomon, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  Although Balak’s intentions for bringing the sacrifices were not for a good reason, as it was in order to bribe G-d so that He will allow Bilam to curse the Jewish people, yet, the fact that he brought all these sacrifices stood in his merit. For, every good deed gets rewarded.


It is because of Ruth, King David and Solomon, who were descendants of Balak, that the Parsha is called by his name!  The lesson: No good deed goes unnoticed.  If not for now, it may even be an investment for future generations. 




Montreal Candle lighting time: 8:22 / Shabbat ends: 9:44