Balak

Balak: Fearless Leadership

Bilaam, the heathen prophet, recognized that the strength of the Jewish people was in their high level of modesty. “How goodly are your tents, Yaakov!” he exclaimed, noting the respect for privacy that pervaded the Jewish encampment in the desert. Yet so soon after his beautiful words, the Jewish people tried to prove him wrong. “Israel was staying in Shittim when the people began to behave immorally with Moabite women” (Bamidbar 25:1).

Balak: Reality Test

In a world in which image and marketing play such a crucial role, perception is often more important than reality. In fact, perception often creates reality—beginning with our perception of what is happening around us. “And Balak, the son of Tzippor, saw all the Israel had done to the Amorites”. Balak became nervous and joined forces with his traditional archenemy, Midian (see Rashi 22:4), in order to try and stop the march of the Jewish people.

Balak: Dwelling Amongst the Nations

Perhaps no greater question has vexed the Jewish people as that of our relationship with the nations of the world. Should it be one of integration? Assimilation? Separation? Acculturation? Ghettoization? Should we embrace or reject the world around us? For much of our history, we did not have the luxury to debate this question; the nations of the world made sure that we were a nation that dwelled apart. Thankfully, Jews today can choose whether we should emphasize our similarities or our differences with the nations in whose midst we dwell.

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