Photo Credit: Jewish Press

This week we read Parshas Balak in which Balak, the king of Moav, hires Bilaam, a prophet, to curse Bnei Yisrael.

This was the final enemy Bnei Yisrael would face before entering Eretz Yisroel.

Rabbi Raskin

However, the Chumash tells us that each time Bilaam opened his mouth to curse them, what came out was a blessing. And what amazing blessings they were. The most explicit mention of Moshiach that we have in the Torah comes from Bilaam’s mouth and can be found in this parsha: “There shall shoot forth a star out of Jacob…” (24:17).

As we know, the Torah refrains from using negative words to describe things. For example, when relaying which animals Noach was to take into the teivah, the Chumash says “lo tahor,” not pure, as opposed to “tamei,” impure. So why is this parsha named after Balak, who wanted to destroy Bnei Yisrael?

To understand why, we must answer a similar question: Why do we have a parsha in Sefer Shemos named after Yisro who was not only a former idolater, but actually served as a priest for Avodah Zarah!

The explanation is as follows: Hashem gave us the Torah so that we would make a dwelling place for Him in our physical world. How do we accomplish this task? By taking even the lowest aspects of the world and transforming them into something more G-dly and spiritual.

And that’s why Yisro’s coming and acknowledging Hashem’s existence was the best preparation for Matan Torah – even a former idolater can recognize Hashem’s presence. The parsha is called Yisro to symbolize that transformation.

In Parshas Balak, Bnei Yisrael are ready to begin a new chapter. They are changing from a nation that lived totally on Hashem’s grace and kindness – given manna from Heaven, clothes washed while were worn and water directly from the well of Miriam – to a nation that would now have to physically work for everything they needed. Rather then spending all their time learning Torah, they would have to work the land.

In other words, they would have to take the physical world and transform it. How does one prepare for this task? By seeing the transformation of Bilaam’s curses and Balak’s hatred into blessings and love for Bnei Yisrael. It’s a clear reminder that with Hashem’s protection anything is possible.

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Brattleboro, Vermont is a small rural community. Chabad hosts Shabbos meals and holiday programs and provides the community with group and one-on-one Torah classes.


State Capital: Montpelier
State Nickname: The Green Mountain State
State Motto: Freedom and Unity
State Flower: Red Clover
State Bird: Hermit Thrush
First Shul: Ohavi Zedek, started by 18 people in 1885 in Burlington, Vermont