Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On Parshat Balak

Parshat Balak appeals to me for its multi-facetness and its extraordinary connection to modern times. Reading the parsha with Rashi's commentary, I had two questions: 1st: Balak and Bilam don't end up hurting or, for that matter, negatively affecting the Jewish People. Why are the stories of Balak's trying to pursuade Bilam to curse the Jewish People, then of the elders of Balak coming to Bilam and appealing to him for his help in staving off the Jews, then of Bilam and his infamous donkey, then Bilam's three "curses," and finally of Balak giving up on Bilam and their parting ways appear in the Text at all? How are they relevant to our national history?

And 2nd: How's the episode of the daughters of Mo'av and their attempt to tempt the Children of Israel towards promiscuity and idol worship related to Bilam's "curse"? I also had another question of "How can we tell Bilam is evil/anti-Semitic at all from the pshat", but I won't delve into this right now.

Rabbi Y.S. from the shul I learned in this evening, told me the following: "Bilam's "curse" and the attempt of the daughters of Mo'av to temp the Children of Israel is directly related (I should probably be quoting Rashi and not Rabbi Y.S. but hey, I'll give you the credit, Rabbi!). While Bilam failed in cursing the Jews, he ended up striking them where it "hurt most," where we, as Jews, and as human beings are most succeptible. Rashi relates that Bilam was behind the Moavite women enticing the Children of Israel.

How can we related this scenario to modern day? That's the question we should always try to answer when trying to disect the parsha.

We see the immense damage that assimilation and inter-marriage have caused our people--especially  in the Galut. This is one of the biggest reasons for living in Israel. Western culture, or Edom, attempted--and continue to try to take the "winds out of our sails" following the inferno of Nazi Germany. American society, with its unmistakable appeal towards diversity and pluralism, has, perhaps unintentionally, brought out the worst traits the Jewish People are known for. Intermarriage is perhaps at its peak in America and assimilation runs rampant in Western society.

Balak and Bilam, in their attempt to curse and then tempt the Jews towards promiscuity have all the bearings of Edom--modern-day America. Notice how they don't try to destroy us by fighting us head-on but rather, take a more cunning approach. And notice, how they end up succeeding in a big way. Until Pinchas has his say that is.

Who's the more dangerous enemey: the Islamofascists or Hollywood, the Internet and modern Western values? This, I believe, is one of the key issues in parshat Balak, or at least one of the issues we're faced with when trying to make sense of events from the Tanach.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home