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Parshas BALAK:
End of Story?
By Rabbi Yossi Landa

There is a central question that applies to this week's Torah portion, Parshas Balak.

The Torah could have described the entire episode of Bilaam with a few short verses. Balak the evil king of Moav, hires Bilaam to curse Israel, but against his will Bilaam ends up blessing them.

End of story.

Instead, the Torah relates in lengthy detail the brachos (blessings) that Bilaam delivered. This teaches us that every word and every verse that Bilaam uttered are essential parts of Torah. Bilaam's words have the same infinite depth, and layers of meaning as any other chapter in the Torah. To understand the significance of this concept, consider that if even one letter is missing from the words of Bilaam's blessing in a Sefer Torah, the Torah is as defective as if a letter was missing from the "Shema"!

Bilaam's blessing is not merely happenstance, it is "Dvar Hashem" -- words which Hashem specifically put in the mouth of Bilaam, (to be put in the Torah). But why did these lofty prophecies about the greatness of Israel -- in fact, why did this entire Torah portion -- have to come from G-d through the mouth of the wicked Bilaam?

The many possible answers to this question include the following: "No two prophets, prophesied in exactly the same manner," our sages tell us. For even when two prophets foretell the same event, they use different words and expressions. Since the prophecy is channelled through the soul and mind of each individual prophet, it receives that prophet's particular "stamp". For example, our sages comment that Ovadiah, an Edumean convert, prophesied about the downfall of Edom, because (in their words):

"Let Ovadiah who dwelled between two wicked people, Achav and Ezevel, and did not learn their deeds, prophesize the downfall of Edom, the descendants of Esav, who dwelled between, two righteous people Yitzchak and Rivkah and did not learn from them."

Ovadiah was chosen because of his unique relationship to Edom and his individual perspective.

Bilaam was not from Am Yisroel (the nation of Israel). He was an outsider, familiar with the depths of wickedness and depravity. From the core of his being he knew the differences between Yisroel and other nations, between kedushah (holiness) and its opposite. He was the fitting receptacle for this prophetic blessing which describes the greatness and holiness of Am Yisroel. He was able to exult them from the depths of his soul! He was chosen to voice the words Hashem, "How Good are your Tents Jacob!", and "They are a nation that dwells alone, not counted among the nations."

May we merit the fulfillment of Bilaam's final prophecy regarding the end of days "and a star will rise from Yaakov."

-- Rabbi Yossi Landa

* Rabbi Landa is a full-time member of the Kollel.

1997 by the Chicago Community Kollel

Published Friday July 18, 1997

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