Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Balak) Remarkably Devoted

Bilaam was universally recognized as the leading non-Jewish prophet. Although Bilaam communicated with G-d, he was far from being pious and virtuous. Bilaam had an immoral lifestyle and sanctioned immoral behavior in society.

How was this possible? After all, Bilaam had a direct communication with G-d.

When we examine the Torah’s description of Bilaam’s fixation on cursing the Jewish Nation we can find an answer. G-d told Bilaam not to attempt to curse the Jews, yet Bilaam insisted. While en route, Bilaam’s donkey began to speak to him, yet Bilaam failed to internalize the Divine message and continued to try to curse the Jews.

G-d’s communication did not affect him in an uplifting, spiritual or moral way because Bilaam’s entire focus was on hating the Jews and when one is engulfed with hatred, it inhibits their ability to see things logically and rationally.

The Medrash teaches us that when one is smitten or motivated by extreme feelings of love or hate, one cannot make proper choices and decisions.

The Mishna/Talmud teaches us that the miraculous ability for Bilaam’s donkey to speak was one of the special creations created at the end of the sixth day of creation.

Was Bilaam so important that such a creation should be made just for him? Perhaps it wasn’t a miracle just for Bilaam; the donkey spoke to teach us that a person can slip so low that he will ignore such a blatant and phenomenal miracle.

Commentators explain that G-d created a special wake-up call for the wicked Bilaam to teach us to internalize the slight reminders that are ‘planted’ by G-d to divert and redirect our attention when we stray from the proper path. If G-d sought to redirect Bilaam, surely He will send us subtle messages to prevent us from straying, for after all we are connected to G-d and are certainly far more precious than the wicked Bilaam.

The Torah relates that at the end, Bilaam came around and actually blessed the Jewish people.

The Talmud relates that although on the surface it appears that Bilaam blessed the Jewish people, his sentiments were laced with an evil eye and were actually curses coated in blessings, and eventually, his blessings turned against us.

In the beginning of the week we all experienced pain when the dreadful news that three of our brethren in Israel were found murdered. Throughout the ordeal the mothers of the three teens held themselves with dignity. They exuded a belief in prayers to the Almighty and in the power of being more attentive to observances to serve as a merit to bring the boys home safely. We saw how our nation was unified to such a great degree.

We saw the miracle of our blessed existence!

Yet, similar to the wicked Bilaam, our enemies fail to recognize our sincere devotion and loyalty to the Almighty and our ability to mourn and accept the Divine judgment in an appropriate and dignified way.

We hope for the time all will recognize that we don’t seek to curse or harm anyone. We pray for the day the words of the daily Aleinu prayer, “Then will Hashem be One and His Name be One” will be unanimously accepted. This will be the day G-d will herald His long awaited redemption with the coming of Moshiach – and from that day on, His Oneness will be clear to all!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family