The ‘Curse’ Can Be the Blessing

If not for its length, we would recite nearly the entire Parashas Balak in Krias Shema (brought in Brachos 12b). Why? Because of the passuk, “He crouched and lay down like a lion and a lion cub, who can stand him up?”

What is it about this particular passuk that caused Chazal to consider it for daily recital?

Rashi explains that it is similar to the passuk in the first parashah of Krias Shema, “When you lie down and when you arise,” and it teaches us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu watches over us when we lie down and when we arise. Knowing this, we can sleep in peace and tranquility as a lion and its cub do, unafraid of predators.

This week’s haftarah relates the words of Hashem through the Navi Michah: “My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Bilaam son of Beor answered him … So you may know the righteous acts of Hashem.”

(Some authorities hold that there is a daily obligation to remember what occurred between Balak and Bilaam. The Pnei Yehoshua suggests that it was for this that Chazal wanted to incorporate this parashah into Krias Shema.)

What are the “righteous acts of Hashem” that the passuk is referring to?

Bilaam was hired on his reputation: He had known the fraction of a second a day during which Hashem becomes “angry,” so to speak. But during the days that Bilaam tried to curse us, Hashem didn’t become angry, for if he would have, there would have been nothing left of our people.

What could he have uttered in a quarter of a second? The Hebrew word kaleim — “destroy them.”

Not only didn’t Hakadosh Baruch Hu give him the opportunity to say that word, but He put into Bilaam’s mouth the same letters in a different order, with a very different meaning. “Hashem his G-d is with him, and the friendship of the King is in him.” The letters of the word Melech — king — are the same as those of kaleim.

The story of Hakadosh Baruch Hu putting words of blessing into the mouth of a sworn enemy of our people is an enduring testament to His infinite, boundless love for us.

According to some meforshim, by the time he arrived to meet Balak, Bilaam had lost his supernatural powers. Yet he merited to speak words of nevuah that are recorded for all eternity in the Torah — because they benefited Bnei Yisrael.

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The love of Hakadosh Baruch Hu for us is always present, though not always apparent. Even when we rebel against Hashem and anger Him, though He hides His Face He does not stir from among us.

Compared to the horrific persecution our ancestors suffered during our long sojourn in the diaspora, and in particular what happened to our people only seven decades ago, we have much to be grateful for. However, we are constantly being reminded that we are in galus — even in our own Land.

As previously noted in these pages, with weeks left before a High Court deadline, there is growing concern about the crisis regarding the ability of yeshivah students in Eretz Yisrael to continue learning Torah without hindrance. In the United Kingdom, the Jewish community is facing an unprecedented governmental challenge to the purity of the chinuch system. In the United States, the threat to our mosdos hachinuch comes also from within, as a handful of individuals who have turned their backs on the community that raised them give no sign of backing off their campaign of dismantling our hallowed system.

* * *

In 1793, the Jews of Hungary were about to be granted equal rights, an unprecedented, revolutionary development for that region.

Most Jews were relieved and grateful. But in a public drashah, the Chasam Sofer put the development in a different light. He told a parable of the king’s son, heir to the throne, who got into bad company and veered from the right path. His father did everything he could to get him to change his ways but eventually, with no choice, exiled him to live in poverty among the peasants in a distant land.

One day the king — his heart still filled with compassion and longing for his son — sent a team of workers to build his son a palace in his exile.

At first the prince rejoiced at the gesture, but on reconsideration, his joy turned to pain and weeping. “If my father is spending so much money on improving my lot it must mean that he plans to leave me here much longer…”

Let us hope that the current troubling developments, painful reminders of our galus status, are harbingers of imminent Geulah.

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