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May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
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Balak: The Attempted Takeover

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But, he did have a strong relationship with Hashem and his curse meant something in Hashem’s “eyes.” If indeed Bilaam would have been allowed to curse Bnei Yisrael, severe damage would have been inflicted, more damage than in all of the wars Klal Yisrael fought.

We suggest the following insight, based on Chazal brought by Rashi. It appears that Bilaam’s agenda was to replace Klal Yisrael as Hashem’s chosen nation with a new nation that would have Bilaam and perhaps even Balak as “Avos.” This is why in trying to get Hashem to agree to allow him to curse Bnei Yisrael Bilaam builds many altars:

“Avrohom built four altars for You, Hashem; I will build seven! Avrohom only sacrificed one ram, I am sacrificing a ram and bull!” (Rashi 23:4).

Bilaam called Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov upright, yesharim and desired to be one of them when he said “Let my soul die the death of the righteous, tamus nafshi mos yesharim.” (Avoda Zara 25a).

Bilaam’s intent to destroy and replace Klal Yisrael is also evident from: “You want to uproot a nation that has 3 regalim, festivals?” (Rashi 22:28).

This all fits nicely with the many mystical sources which say Bilaam’s soul was a reincarnation of Lavan. Lavan argued and rivaled with Yaakov. He told Yaakov at their final meeting that Yaakov’s children, grandchildren and wives were his, Lavan’s. Lavan wished for Yaakov to remain with him and was very upset that Yaakov ran away. Why? As we say in the Haggadah, “Lavan wished to uproot everything.” Lavan wished to take over Klal Yisrael and uproot Yaakov as an Av. This was Lavan and this was Bilaam.

The “competition” between Bilaam and Avrohom Avinu is seen from Pirkei Avos: “Whoever has three particular traits is counted among the students of Avrohom, and whoever has three other traits is among the students of Bilaam. He who has a good eye, humility and contentedness is a student of Abraham, while he who has an evil eye, arrogance and greed is a student of Bilaam.” (5:22) Why the need to contrast them unless there was some real “rivalry,” at least on Bilaam’s part?

Bilaam had desired to become the patriarch of a new nation and replace Avrohom, the mishna points out the fallacy of such a consideration.

But during while Klal Yisrael was in the desert, it was not totally out of the realm of possibility. After all, Hashem Himself had suggested destroying Klal Yisrael and starting a new nation from Moshe Rabbeinu after the sins of the golden calf and the spies. Bilaam felt that perhaps he could capitalize on Klal Yisrael’s failings and convince Hashem to abandon them. Indeed, as the aforementioned pasuk states, “Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal.” Klal Yisrael sinned greatly with the women of Moav at Shittim (Bilaam had advised Balak to tempt the Jews and get them to sin) and Bilaam thought this would be their undoing and possible uprooting as Hashem’s special nation.

So, Hashem says in Micha (message summarized):

“I was so supremely dedicated to you during that time of real decision when Bilaam attempted to get Me to spurn you as My nation. I was committed to our relationship and will always be. Why don’t you show the same commitment to Me? Why do you now abandon Me and My ways?”

As the pasuk (Micha 6:3), “My nation, what have I done to you? How have I made you tired (of serving Me)? Answer Me!”

Hashem says that one would think Klal Yisrael would be ever so devoted to Him but unfortunately that is not the case.

When we read this haftorah, let us remember the potential curse of Bilaam and how Hashem saved us, and rededicate ourselves in some small way to the path of Hashem.

To schedule a speaking engagement with Rabbi Boruch Leff or to receive two books for the price of one, Shabbos in My Soul (Feldheim 2007) and More Shabbos in My Soul (Feldheim, 2008), or to purchase the book ‘Are You Growing?'(Feldheim, 2011) at 40% off, contact the author at: sbleff@gmail.com.

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