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Balak(Numbers 22:2-25:9)

Lightning Rod

Parshat Balak tells of the Jewish people encountering the Moabites in the desert. The king of Moab wants to fortify his country's strength, so he hires a spiritualist named Bilaam to curse the Jewish people.

The question is: If the king of Moab wants to be stronger, why not simply get a blessing for the Moabites. Why does he have Bilaam curse the Jews?

The answer is there are two ways to get ahead in this world: One way is to build yourself up. But that takes hard work and discipline. The other way is to cut others down.

We've all seen it before: One member of the corporate team feels a lack of recognition, so he belittles the achievements of others - which appears to raise himself by comparison.

Interestingly, this same dynamic may lie at the root of anti-Semitism. Before the Torah was given, people built their lives on a subjective concept of right and wrong. But at Mount Sinai, it became clear that there is one God Who sets moral standards for humanity.

And with that, the Jews became a lightning rod for those opposed to the moral message. It's like in school where everyone is throwing spitballs, except one kid. The other kids - in order to avoid the appearance of misbehavior - have two choices: either stop throwing spitballs, or beat up the other kid.

The Talmud even points out that the word Sinai is closely to related to sinah, the Hebrew word for hatred. In other words, the very source of morality - Sinai - triggers a great hatred from those opposed to its message. Amazingly, the evil Hitler gave this reason for persecuting the Jews, by saying: "I free mankind from the restraints of conscience and morality."

At the end of Parshat Balak, the Moabites lure the Jews into acts of idolatry and promiscuity. The Moabites finally achieved their goal: The high-flying Jews had their strength sapped, leaving the hate-filled Moabites more evenly matched.

Published: April 29, 2006

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