Parshas Balak 2018: Use It Or Lose It
There are four categories of being in life:
1. Inanimate objects, 2. Plants, 3. Animals, and 4. Humans.
However, what exactly sets us, mankind, above the plants and animals? What make us a higher life form than the ferocious lion or the speedy cheetah?
Hashem entrusted only us with the capacity of intelligent speech.
“Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.” (Numbers 22:2)
Balak, King of Moab heard how the B’nai Yisrael were making their way through the desert to the land of Canaan (soon to be Israel). He became fearful that they would come to conquer his nation next. He sent messengers to summon Bilaam (of Pethor) who was a gentile prophet with potential equal to that of Moshe Rabbeinu. Bilaam was able to speak directly to Hashem. Hashem endowed him with a similar level of prophecy so the gentile nations could not complain that G-d never gave them a leader like Moshe.
King Balak’s plan was to have Bilaam curse the Jewish people to make them spiritually weak and vulnerable to be able to mount some kind of retaliation. When the King’s messengers reached Bilaam with a small fortune to incent him, he requested that they stay with him overnight so that he could ask Hashem for permission to meet their request (he wanted the money). Hashem warned him not to curse the Jewish people and Bilaam sent them back. The messengers returned to King Balak who then sent an even bigger delegation of even more prestigious courtiers to encourage Bilaam. As the messengers pressed him with even more compensation than the first time, Billam’s greed took over and he went with them against Hashem’s warning. However, Hashem did grant him permission to some degree; he allowed him to go but to speak only as Hashem directed him.
As the events unfolded, they travelled to a destination which overlooked the Jewish camp where Bilaam could effectively curse the people. Bilaam twice, tried to curse the Jewish people but both times Hashem altered his words. As the pasuk says, ”And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth…” (Numbers 23:5). Hashem literally changed Balaam's words from a curse to a blessing.
Hashem gave mankind intelligent speech to be able to elevate himself and build a stronger relationship with his Creator. Bilaam misused his speech when faced with a challenge, he succumbed and tried to disobey Hashem by cursing His “chosen people”. Hashem stripped him of his ability to curse and instead Bilaam delivered two superemly generous blessings to Israel.
stripped him of his ability to curse and instead Bilaam delivered two supremely generous blessings to Israel.
Hashem gave us speech to uplift ourselves and the world through words of prayer, encouragement, kindness, and words of Torah. When we use our speech properly, we can accomplish great things!
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters