Greetings from the holy city of Jerusalem!
This week's parsha describes how the Moabite king named Balak wanted to annihilate the Jewish people. Since the Jews (in last week's Torah portion) were victorious in their battles against the powerful armies of Canaan, Emor, Sichon and Og, Balak understood that he would be unable to destroy the Jews through military force. He therefore decided to investigate the source of the Jewish people's strength. Knowing that Moses had spent many years in Midian, he inquired of the Midianite elders, who responded that Moses's strength lay in his power of speech. This gave Balak an idea: He hired a gentile prophet named Bilam in order to curse the Jewish people. Balak reasoned that if the Jewish people could be protected by speech, the power of speech could also bring about their downfall.
On this parsha, the Slonimer Rebbe discusses the idea that God desires to make this earthly world into a home befitting the Divine Presence. This transformation is achieved by mankind overcoming their passions, thereby sanctifying all physicality on earth and turning it into a spiritual realm.
The Sogitchover Rebbe, in his monumental work "Shem MiShmuel," adds that one place on earth has the potential to uplift the entire world: the Land of Israel. Through the unique commandments that are tied to the land, we can transform materialism into spirituality.
In the time of Moses, had the Jews succeeded in entering the Land and living there according to the Torah, they would have been able to elevate and purify not just Israel, but the entire world! With this transformation, any society or individual throughout the world would be required to use materialism for only spiritual purposes. This is because a sanctified world operates on a completely different frequency. The verse in Zachariah (14:17) informs us that, in the future, any family that refuses to go up to Jerusalem and worship God will not have any rainfall on their fields. A sanctified world does not tolerate impurity.
CHANGING THE WORLD
This is a prospect that frightened the likes of Balak and Bilam, who wished to maintain their abominable lifestyles. They had no desire to submit to the power of spirituality. Therefore, they devised a plan. They would allow the Jews to continue having their manna (spiritual food), their holy water (which came from a rock), and their Clouds of Glory (which provided a spiritual environment). Balak and Bilam saw no need to prevent the Jewish people from enjoying these miraculous sources of protection - as long as they maintained them solely in the desert, and did not enter the Land of Israel! Balak and Bilam knew that, if the Jews entered Israel, that could change the entire world.
The plan to keep the Jews in the desert is mentioned explicitly in the Midrash (Bamidbar Raba 20:7), which explains the verse "Let us drive them out of the Land" (Numbers 22:6). According to the Midrash, the verse does not mean that Balak and Bilam wished the Jews to disappear from the face of the earth; rather, since Balak and Bilam wished to maintain their impure lifestyles, their sole objective was to prevent the Jews from entering into the Land of Israel.
We see from here that the nations of the world are willing to offer the Jews thriving religious communities across the globe, as long as the nations can maintain jurisdiction over the Land of Israel. Things haven't changed much since the times of Balak. The Torah teaches that the plan of Balak and Bilam ultimately failed. So, too, in our own day and age, we see the Jewish people returning to their Land, sanctifying body and soul - while the rest of the world fights to influence events in Israel.
May we all be blessed to build a home for God here on Earth. May we be able to transform land into heaven and body into soul, and to see the results of this transformation on a global level.