"Balak the son
of Tzipor saw all that the Jews did to the Emorites." (22:2)
saw what the Jews did to the Emorites, but he did not see what the Emorites had
done to the Jews. This is the way of the Nations of the World. They only see what
the Jews are doing to the non-Jews, but the deeds of the non-Jews that led to
the reactions of the Jews, these they do not see.
opened the mouth of the donkey." (22:28)
"Don't think too highly
of yourself for being a prophet," G-d was rebuking Bilaam. "Look, even
a donkey can speak if I so decree. Like the donkey, the only reason you have been
granted prophecy is that it will ultimately bring benefit to the Jewish people."
"May my soul die the death of the righteous,
and may my end be like him." (23:10)
A Jew once came to the tzadik
Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, and while speaking to him expressed the desire that "at
least I should die like a Jew." The Rebbe interrupted him and said, "That
is what the non-Jew Bilaam requested when he said, 'May my soul die the death
of the righteous.' He wanted to die as a Jew but to live as a non-Jew. We must
ask G-d to grant us to live as Jews."
" Yaakov is like the
dust, who can count his hordes?..." (Num. 23:10)
Why are Jews being
compared to dust? Explained the Baal Shem Tov:
In the earth are hidden incredible
treasures (indeed, even today we have not yet discovered all that the earth contains).
But in order to acquire these treasures, one has to dig very deep in order to
bring them out. In the same way, inside every Jew without exception are hidden
treasures of belief in G-d and love and fear of Him. Just, sometimes there is
need for great effort to reveal them.
(Keter Shem Tov, Appendix -translated
from Sichat HaShavuah 81)
"You shall see but the utmost part
of them, and shall not see them all." (23:13)
It is only if one
looks at a "part" of a Jew, a small detail of his make-up, that one
might notice any flaws; if he is considered as a whole, no defects will be visible.
"He has not beheld any wrong in Jacob, nor has
he seen evil in Israel: The L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the king
dwells among him." (23:21)
It states in the holy Zohar that "The
Holy One, Blessed Be He, the Torah and Israel are one." The same way one
cannot pick G-d or His Torah apart by saying, "This particular verse of the
Torah doesn't appeal to me," so too, should we approach our fellow Jew, treating
him with respect and acknowledging his importance to the Jewish People as a whole."
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
When the word "Jacob" is used for
the Jewish people, it alludes to the inner struggle of the G-dly soul against
the animal soul. Yet, even on this level, the Torah states that the Jew is without
wrong. Where does the Jew derive the strength to prevail? From his unique Jewish
soul, of which it states, "the L-rd his G-d is with him." The Jewish
soul, a "veritable part of G-d Above," is endowed with the power to
transform even the animal soul into holiness.
one who "sees no wrong in Jacob" or "evil in Israel," who
does not try to find fault with his fellow Jew and always judges him favorably,
will merit that "the L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the King
dwells with him."
(Rabbi Chaim of Sanz)
When a Jew seeks constantly
to attribute merit to each and every Jew and to all Jews collectively, so that
"He has not seen wickedness in Yaakov, nor has he seen perverseness in Yisrael,"
that in itself is a sign that "G-d his L-rd is with him," for the fear
of G-d is in his heart.
(Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev - translated from
Sichat HaShavuah #444)
Even a Jew that is a sinner, as distant as possible
from Torah observance, there is still a G-dly spark in his soul and a drop of
light in his heart of love of G-d and desire to return to Him.
of Rhyzin - translated from Sichat HaShavuah #495)
does not look at evil in Jacob, and sees no perversity in Israel: G-d, their G-d,
is with them." (23:21)
"Jacob" refers to the Jew as he
is involved in the mundane reality of the workweek, while "Israel" refers
to the Jew in his transcendent state on Sabbath. When we attempt to pray during
the week, we much strive to overcome the many confusing and distracting thoughts
that intrude from our involvement in worldly affairs. We are only able to succeed
in this struggle because, "G-D, their G-d is with them." On Shabbat,
however, we do not have to expend any effort to rise above the distractions of
the mundane world [This is alluded to by the fact that the word for "perversity"
(amal) in this verse also means "effort," rendering the phrase: "
sees no effort [on the Sabbath, when the Jew is] Israel."]; all we need to
do is cultivate sensitivity to the special illumination of our soul that is revealed
on Shabbat. This is the meaning of the phrase "G-d, their G-d is with them"
that applies to Shabbat .
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad)
goodly are thy tents Jacob - thy dwelling places, Israel." (24:5)
It is a good for Jacob to build tents - synagogues and houses of learning. But
only on the condition that they become "thy dwelling places, Israel"
- that Jews should actually be in them. A synagogue should not be built solely
for its beauty, standing empty a whole week and only with difficulty finding a
minyan on Sabbaths and Festivals.
(Rabbi Yaacov Yosef of Polonye)
good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel." (24:5)
The names "Jacob" and "Israel" also refer to the ways
different kinds of Jews fulfill the commandment to study the Torah. "Jacob"
refers to those of us who are principally involved in worldly matters; for these
people, learning is a part-time venture, just as a tent is a part-time structure.
"Israel," in contrast, refers to those of us for whom study is a full-time
occupation, their full-time dwelling place. The Torah informs us here that both
the "tents of Jacob" and the "swelling places of Israel" are
"good" and beloved by G-d. But this is only true when our learning is
imbued with selfless devotion. [This being alluded to by the fact that the word
for How "mah" that begins this verse indicates selflessness (cf. exodus
16:7; Tanya, ch. 19 [24b]).]
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneersohn of Lubavitch)
"It is a nations
dwelling alone secure, not being counted among the nations." (23:9)
during exile, this prophecy continues to be fulfilled. For the identity of the
Jews has remains intact; they have not assimilated among the nations.Indeed, the
exile lifts the Jews to a higher level, as indicated by the interpretation of
this verse by the Targum as foreshadowing the Era of the Redemtion when: "in
the future, this nation will take possession of the earth," with the coming
of the true and ultimate Redemption, led by Mashiach; may it take place in the
[The Lubavitcher Rebbe]
"What this people
will do to your people in the end of days." (24:14)
In the end of
days, before the arrival of Moshiach, an attempt will be made to turn "this
people" into "your people," i.e., to transform the Jewish people
into a nation like any other, indistinguishable from non-Jews in custom and habit.
(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa -From L'Chaim #376)
will shoot forth from Yaakov and a staff will arise from Israel"
One source, cited in the Jerusalem Talmud, Targum and Midrashim,
states that this verse refers to Mashiach. Another passage in the Jerusalem Talmud
interprets that it refers to every Jew. This apparent disagreement can be resolved
by a teaching of the Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, who said that every Jew contains
within himself a spark or part of the soul of Mashiach. Both interpretations thus
converge, for ultimately they state one and the same thing.
'A star will
shoot forth from Yaakov' -- refers to David; 'And a staff will arise from Israel'
-- refers to King Mashiach. (Rambam). Here the Torah refers to Mashiach's
role as a leader over the Jewish people ("Israel"). His direct, powerful
leadership is represented by a "staff", in contrast to David, who is
represented by a somewhat aloof "star," symbolizing a weaker form of
(Likutei Sichos Chumash, compiled and adapted by Rabbi Chaim
"And destroy the remnant of the city" (Num. 24:19)
Rashi explains that this verse refers to Melech HaMashiach: 'Regarding
Melech HaMashiach does it say this, of whom it is said, "And he shall
reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the land" (Psalm
The simple meaning is that Melech HaMoshiach will reign and
rule over the whole world, as in the commentary of Ibn Ezra, "from the southern
sea, called the Red Sea to the northern sea, which is the ocean, and from the
river going out from Eden, which is the beginning of the east, until the ends
of the land at the end of the west."
The lesson to be drawn is that it
is forbidden for a person to close himself into his own four cubits and not think
anything about the world around him, saying, "I've saved my soul," and
he's in "Eden" (the place of G-dly revelation). Rather, he must be involved
in the avoda (Divine service) with the "river," refining and
purifying the whole world, "to the ends of the land." It is this avoda
that will lead to the culmination of Mashiach's sovereignty.
Rebbe, translated by Michoel Lieb Dobry)
Every Jew is able to bring out
the spark of Mashiach within himself into the open and to help bring about the
actual manifestation of Mashiach by means of Torah and mitzvot. For Torah and
mitzvot effect a purification and refinement of the physical world. Impurity is
reduced and nullified, to the point of "I shall remove the spirit of impurity
from the earth" (Zechariah 13:2). This will be achieved with the coming of
Mashiach who shall reveal goodness and holiness in the world, culminating in "The
earth shall be full with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea"
(Adapted from Discover Mashiach in the Weekly
Torah Portion (by Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary
of Montreal), as published on www.mashiach.org)