This week’s parsha offers us the opportunity to meet the unofficial founders
of the Human Rights Organizations of our time. Here we see the ancestors of
Kathleen Ashton, who is the head foreign affairs person of the European
Union, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the
left-leaning anti-Semitic professors of academia the world over, the
neo-communist Putin and the rest of the well-meaning, ever protesting
“friends” of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Bilaam is engaging in public prophecy concerning the Jewish people, and all
for our own good. He, like his diplomatic descendants of our time, is the
one person that really knows what policies we should follow in order to
guarantee our long-range future survival and success. Therefore, his words
are soothing, beautifully phrased and dripping with friendship and compliments.
But in his heart of hearts Bilaam and certainly Balak mean us no good. They
protect terrorism, educate generations to hatred and violence and yet
hypocritically cluck in amazement when violence, kidnapping and rocket
attacks against Jews continue. On the surface one can find almost no fault
in the words of Bilaam.
The Jewish people were and are so enamored by his compliments that our
prayer services every morning begin with his statement of how goodly are the
tents of Jacob. Jews love and treasure every complement, no matter how
patently insincere and begrudgingly given, from non-Jewish sources and persons.
King Solomon in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes cautioned us that it is much more
beneficial to hear criticism from a friend than complements from those who
do not really like us. Nevertheless, we have always been naïve when it comes
to Bilaam and his intellectual and diplomatic descendants.
The Torah itself tells us that the Lord reversed the curses of Bilaam and
turned them into blessings. What curses are meant in this statement? We do
not read in the Torah of any direct curses or even sharp criticisms aimed at
the Jewish people uttered by Bilaam. So why does God have to interfere, to
reverse seemingly nonexistent curses? The answer to this is a relatively
simple one. The Lord Who not only hears what we say, but more importantly
knows what we mean, sees beyond the beauty of the words of Bilaam.
There is a well-known story that I have often related of two women that
constantly fought and cursed each other. The rabbi of the community
intervened and on Yom Kippur eve forced a reconciliation and extracted a
promise that they would only say nice things to each other hereon in. The
women were forced to agree to the rabbi’s terms. However, walking home after
Yom Kippur services one of the women turned to the other and said: “Blessed
may you be, but you know what I mean!”
The Lord fully understood what Bilaam meant with his ”blessings” and
compliments to Israel. Hence, His intervention and the reversal of the
unspoken curses into spoken and eternal blessings and compliments. Not much
has changed in the world since the days of Balak and Bilaam. Jews the world
over and here live in a hateful and dangerous environment. We would do well
to realize that we should be wary not only of those who openly curse us and
even of those who claim that they have our best interests in heart when they
advise and criticize us.
Rabbi Berel Wein