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Balak

PARSHA ON PARADE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF MY DEAR FATHER AND REBBI:
HARAV HAGAON RAV YESHAYA SHIMANOWITZ Z'TZL ,
ROSH YESHIVA
IN
YESHIVAS RABAINU YAAKOV YOSEF
(RABBI JACOB JOSEPH YESHIVA - RJJ)
IN NYC FOR OVER 23 YEARS.
NIFTAR ON 20 ADAR 5758 - MARCH 18, 1998.
MAY HE BE A MAYLITZ YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL.

AND

MY DEAR MOTHER
REBITZEN BRACHA ETEL SHIMANOWITZ A'H
WHO DEVOTED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO MY FATHER AND HIS TORAH,
NIFTERA ON 21 TEVET 5770 - WED EVE. JANUARY 6, 2010.
MAY SHE BE A MAYLITZA YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL


Menachim Z. Shimanowitz

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PARSHA
FACTS

NUMBER OF MITZVOT: 0

NUMBER OF PESUKIM (SENTENCES): 104

NUMBER OF WORDS: 1455

NUMBER OF LETTERS: 5357

HAFTORA: (Additional portion, from Prophets, which is read after the Parsha)
Micah 5:6 - 6:8

THE FAST OF SEVENTEENTH OF TAMUZ
תענית שבעה עשר בתמוז נדחה IS SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019.
Shiva Asar B'Tamuz, 17 Tamuz, a Public Fast Day, is the beginning of the Three Weeks.

This week we study Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avot - "Ethics of the Fathers"


פרשת בלק
THE
PARSHA
In our last episode we warped into the 38th year of wandering in the desert. On the edge of Eretz Yisroel, Bnei Yisroel was looking for peaceful passage through the kingdoms of Edom and Moav. Both Edom & Moav refused to let them pass through and Hashem commanded Moshe not to do anything about it.

So Bnei Yisroel was forced to take a longer route to reach the border. During this trek they fought and defeated the mighty giants Sichon and Og and their fierce warriors in battle.


MOAV
MAKES
A MOVE

As our Parsha opens, the Moavites are having second thoughts. They've seen the unbridled strength of Bnei Yisroel in battle. They know, however, that Hashem ordered Moshe not to destroy Moav. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Bnei Yisroel won't find a way to chase the Moavites off their land!

The first thing Moav does is make peace with their neighbors - and enemies - Midyan. Now their forces join together to fight the Bnei Yisroel.


BALAK -
THE
NEW KING

Next, they choose a new king. His name is Balak. Balak is a famous Midyanite prince who is very wise and strong. It is Balak's job to find a way to conquer Bnei Yisroel. Moav expects Balak to prepare the army for war. But Balak wants to take it one step at a time. Balak's first goal is to discover what is the source of Bnei Yisroel's strength.

The Moavites know that Moshe spent many years in Midyan at Yitro's house. They send messengers to the wise men of Midyan to obtain the secret of Moshe's success.

The wise men respond that Moshe uses the name of Hashem to strike down the enemies in battle. When Balak hears this, he decides that he must find a person with equally supernatural powers who can use Hashem's name against the Bnei Yisroel.


BILAM - PROPHET
OR
PROFIT?

Ladies and gentlemen... boys and girls... introducing the greatest magician, dream interpreter and what a prophet... Bilam!

Bilam lives in far away Pethor. Balak sends a group of noblemen from both Moav and Midyan to meet with Bilam. They invite him to come curse the Bnei Yisroel. If Bilam accepts the job there's a large pile of cash, a big shindig at the palace, and a full line of magic equipment and accessories.

Bilam accepts the offer, but has an even better idea - he'll do it for FREE!

Bilam insists that they remain overnight. He then prepares to receive prophecy. After all, Bilam is smart enough to know that only Hashem can grant permission to curse the Bnei Yisroel.

But the prophecy goes the wrong way and Hashem refuses to give Bilam permission to curse the Bnei Yisroel. The delegation brings the bad news back to Balak. Balak figures Bilam needs more incentive - like more money! He sends a new and higher ranking delegation.

Again, Bilam asks them to stay the night while he asks Hashem for permission. Again, Hashem forbids him to curse the Jews. That's okay. Bilam decides to go anyway.


THE
TALKING
DONKEY

Bilam's Donkey Bilam wakes up early in the morning and saddles his own donkey. This makes Hashem angry. He sends a Malach (angel) to stop Bilam. As Bilam rides his donkey to the Jewish encampment, the Malach stands in the middle of the road with a drawn sword, blocking the donkey's way. Only the donkey can see this Malach. Bilam has no clue a Malach is even there. The donkey veers from the road, onto a field, in order to pass the Malach. Bilam whips the seemingly rebellious donkey with a stick.

A while later, they are traveling along a narrow path with fences on either side. The Malach appears once again. When the donkey sees the Malach, it edges over to the wall crushing Bilam's foot against the wall. Again, Bilam whips the donkey with a stick. Later, for a third time the Malach stands in the donkey's way. This time, the donkey lies down and refuses to move. Losing his temper, Bilam beats the donkey mercilessly.

Miraculously, the donkey speaks to Bilam.

"I feel sorry for you, Bilam. I'm just a stupid animal but you had to use your stick three times to get me to obey you. Imagine what it'll take to curse the Bnei Yisroel when Hashem refuses to give you permission."

Hashem "opens" Bilam's eyes to reveal a Malach with a sword standing before the donkey. The Malach reminds Bilam that Hashem will not let him harm the Bnei Yisroel. The Malach allows Bilam to continue his journey to Moav but warns him that the evil plan to curse the Bnei Yisroel will never work. In the end Bilam will speak only the words that Hashem puts into his mouth.


ARRIVAL
IN
DENIAL

Bilam may be a prophet but he's also a Rasha! He still believes that he can just get up and curse the Bnei Yisroel.

The next morning Bilam sets out to curse the Bnei Yisroel. Balak is also a great magician, so he joins Bilam.

Bilam knows that Hashem doesn't want him to curse the Jews, but he has a plan: There is a moment in the morning when Hashem is angry. Hashem is judging sinners at that time. Bilam knows when that moment is, and at that exact moment Bilam will do his dirty work.

Balak has another plan. He will find the Bnei Yisroel who have done Aveirot (sins) and curse Bnei Yisroel through them. Balak leads Bilam to Ba'al, a mountaintop, where, in the future, men from the tribe of Dan will set up an idol. Bilam orders Balak to set up seven altars to bring sacrifices to Hashem. Meanwhile, Bilam will go further up the mountain to meditate.

Bilam finds a spot to wait for the moment when Hashem will be angry with the sinners of the world. But today that moment does not come. Hashem decides not to sit in judgement on this day. Bilam's plans are foiled.

Hashem appears to Bilam and informs him that the party is over. From now on, Hashem will tell him what to say and when to say it! But Bilam still doesn't believe he's through. He trots down the mountain to find Balak and the Moavite princes still sacrificing on the seven altars.

Bilam is now ready to start the cursing festival. He takes a breath and gets ready to start. But instead of a curse, his tongue rolls out a bracha (blessing)!

Essentially he compares the Avot (forefathers) to rocks and the Imahot (foremothers) to hills, declaring that they will support the world forever through the Z'chut (merit) of their good deeds.

Balak & Bilam When Bilam finishes, Balak is waiting for an explanation. "If you can't curse them, do you have to bless them? Why can't you just keep your mouth closed?" Bilam replies, "Do you think I wanted to bless them? Hashem's the one who put words in my mouth!"

Balak decides that they must try a different mountain. So they go to Mount Nevo where Moshe is destined to die. They set up the altars, they start sacrificing the bulls and rams again, and once again, Bilam climbs a little higher to meditate.

But again Hashem commands Bilam to bless the Bnei Yisroel. When Bilam returns to Balak, the king has already figured out that Bilam has no control over his speech. Balak starts to make fun of him. In response, Bilam spews out words in the name of G-d:

"Don't make fun of me, Balak. The words you hear are the words of G-d!" Bilam goes on to repeat Hashem's promise to give Canaan (Eretz Yisroel) to the Bnei Yisroel. Additionally, he tells Balak that even when the Bnei Yisroel sin, Hashem knows their innermost hearts and forgives them. Bilam informs Balak that the Bnei Yisroel will conquer Canaan and will kill its kings. Moshe will die before they enter the land of Eretz Yisroel but not before he destroys the princes of Midyan!

Bilam blesses the Jews two more times. . Bilam has noticed that the tents of Bnei Yisroel are carefully arranged so no two entrances or windows face each other. No one can look in the tent of another. In honor of this modesty, Bilam blesses Bnei Yisroel with a famous prayer we say each day:

"Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov Mishkenotecha Yisroel."

How good are your tents, Yaakov; your dwellings, Yisroel."

In the fourth and final blessing of Bilam, he mentions a star shooting out of Yaakov. This is King David, who will destroy Moav. In addition, much further into the future, Moshiach will destroy Aisav's descendants, Edom and Amalek.

After this accursed fiasco, Bilam leaves Moav quietly. He is partially blinded. He is limping. The great Bilam is left just an ordinary magician with no power of prophecy anymore. Needless to say, Balak looks like a real fool and loses his throne.


BILAM'S
NEW
ADVICE

Of all Bilam's evil advice, one idea remains true: the one way to destroy Bnei Yisroel is to get them to sin. And one way to get them to sin is to have them mingle with a bunch of non-Jewish women!

Hashem forbids the Jews to marry or live with non-Jewish women. So Moav and Midyan join forces and send their young women to Shittim where the Bnei Yisroel are camped. These women bring bread and wine and want to have a party. The Eirev Rav and Jews who are not righteous put on their party hats.

When the shindig is hopping, the daughters of Moav and Midyan introduce a party game called "bow to the Ba'al Peor idol." Lots of Jews join in.

As Bilam predicted, Hashem gets angry. He commands Moshe to assemble the judges. Anyone who serves the Ba'al Peor must be put to death! The judges find that many members of Shevet (tribe) Shimon are involved in this idol worship. Even though other tribes are also involved, when these members of Shevet Shimon are put to death, the Nassi (Prince) of Shimon, named Zimri, cries foul!


ZIMRI
MAKES
A POINT

Zimri decides to challenge Moshe. He asks Kozbi, the daughter of Tzur (Balak) to come back to camp with him. He takes her to Moshe and declares his intention to live with her. Moshe replies that Zimri cannot live with a non-Jew. Zimri shoots back at Moshe, reminding him that Yitro's daughter is not a Jew either.

Of course, Zimri is wrong on two counts. Firstly, Moshe married Tziporah before the Torah was given. There was no law against marrying a non-Jew then. Secondly, Tziporah is a Giyoret, a convert. But Moshe stays silent. Meanwhile, Zimri announced that he is taking this woman to his tent.

Moshe and the judges hesitate in dealing with this matter. Meanwhile Hashem sets off a plague in the camp of Israel. 24,000 people will die because of it. The judges are crying. Moshe is spellbound by Zimri's audacity. He forgets the halacha (law). He doesn't remember what he is supposed to do - do they kill Zimri or does Hashem kill him?


PINCHAS
MAKES A
SHARPER
POINT

Pinchas makes a point Suddenly, a new super hero arrives on the scene... Pinchas, son of Elazar, and grandson of Aharon. He reminds Moshe that Zimri deserves death for his sin. Moshe agrees and gives Pinchas the job of executioner.

Pinchas is a Levi and he's not used to handling weapons. But Pinchas knows a Mitzvah when he sees one and this Mitzvah has to be handled in a swift, just manner. Pinchas grabs a spear and pierces the bodies of both Zimri and the girl, killing them both. The plague stops as quickly as it started.

When members of Shevet Shimon find out that Pinchas murdered their prince, they threaten to kill him. But a Malach holds them back. Pinchas is a great hero because he has taken decisive action to defend Hashem's honor.

But the adventures of Pinchas are not over.

Tune in next week when Pinchas gets a promotion in our next exciting episode of:

Parsha on Parade

Midrash Maven
See the Midrash Maven on Balak


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