Balak: Learning of the Hypocrisy of Nations

If someone would read Parshat Balak objectively without any previous knowledge, he can easily get the impression that Bilam is, at the very least, a righteous man. During the entire parsha, Bilam proclaims that he will only do what Hashem tells him to do. What piety! And let us not forget the wonderful blessings he bestows upon us. The fact is, we do not see any serious references in the text to feed Bilam’s image of a vicious anti-Semite.

In sharp contrast, someone who reads Rashi’s commentary from the outset of the parsha will notice an interesting pattern. In each case where Bilam comes off sounding righteous, Rashi is there to correct our misconception, placing Bilam’s words and actions in a totally different light, attributing to him all kinds of strange motives. How can Rashi deviate so sharply from the simple understanding (“pshat”) of the text?

The fact is that Rashi is indeed giving us the “pshat”. For Rashi notices from the very beginning something strange about Bilam’s behavior. In his capacity as a prophet, he is requested to curse Israel. What is his answer? Does he reject the idea from scratch as one would expect from a decent person? No. Instead, he issues all kinds of statements – “Wait until morning”, “Let us hear what Hashem says”, etc. – as if our “tzadik” somehow thinks he can pull it off!

Most importantly, Rashi gains insight into what Bilam is all about by having an overview of the entire parsha. He knows that after Balak’s scheme fails at the end of the parsha, it is Bilam who decides completely on his own initiative to advise Balak on how to destroy the Jews. In Parshat Matot, when the Jews take vengeance against Midyan, the Torah emphasizes: “And Bilam Ben Beor they killed by the sword” (31-8), for he was one of the major culprits involved in the sin with the Midyanite women. It is clear now. The Torah takes the trouble to expose the true face of Bilam the Jew-hater, who did not curse the Jews due to circumstances beyond his control, but his venom found a different outlet in his scheme to entice the Jews to prostitution. From this we see that all the apparent righteousness of Bilam is but an illusion. Bilam is a fraud.

In today’s world one can find many “Bilams”. A superficial look at the Clinton’s of the world might detect a lot of good intentions and even a certain “love of Jews”. It may appear that the saying of the sages, “The Halacha is known, Esau hates Yaakov”, does not apply. However one who reads the parsha of the gentile, Parshat Balak, accompanied by Rashi will see the situation for what it really is. The gentile’s friendly demeanor and even the praises he may heap upon us is a cover for the “final act” he has in store for us.

Like Rashi, we must have the foresight to see what they are really planning for us at the end of the “parsha” – total retreat to the 1967 borders, dismantling of nuclear capabilities, and total submission. Only then will it be clear that all their sweet talk is a smoke screen for their demonic devises. Like Rashi, we must use foresight to interpret their deeds from the very outset of the parsha in the proper light.

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