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Back Where We Started

By: Mrs. Bracha Krohn

When studying this week's Parsha, Parashat Balak, we see that Chazal have a few statements directing our attention to connections between Avraham and Bilaam. The most famous might be a mishna in Pirkei Avot Chapter 5 which tells us:

"Those who have a good eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul (ayin tova, ruach nemucha, nefesh shefalah) are among the disciples of our forefather Avraham. Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit and a greedy soul (ayin ra'ah, ruach gevoha, nefesh rechava) are among the disciples of the wicked Bilaam"

Why are Chazal contrasting Bilaam and Avraham? What could these two men possibly have in common that one would seek to find the differences between them?

In this week's parsha, we see another difference Chazal highlight when they say that although both woke up early and saddled their own donkey (although they had many servants who did those tasks for them), Avraham did it out of extreme love and Bilaam was driven by hate. Also, they say that Hashem's response to Bilaam was basically: "Oh big deal! Avraham woke up early and showed that trait of zrizut (alacrity) long before you"

Something is clear to Chazal about this connection/contrast between Avraham and Bilaam. What do they see?

Notice there are actually a lot of language parallels between these two characters. Both come from the land of Aram Naharayim, receive G-d's instruction to "go" (lech) and "see" G-d's angel.

And the most striking parallel might be that Avraham is promised that "those who bless him will be blessed and those who curse him will be cursed" while Bilaam is described by Balak as someone who has the power to bless and curse and those whom he blesses will be blessed and those whom he curses will be cursed. Sounds so similar, right?

What is the deeper connection here? What might the Torah be trying to tell us?

Rav Chanoch Waxman suggests that at the very beginning of our nation Avraham was chosen and promised that his children and grandchildren will grow and continue to multiply into a nation which will always be guarded and blessed by G-d. And now, Bnei Yisrael reach Arvot Moav - the last stop along their journey towards Eretz Yisrael. Although, we have many parshiot to read before Moshe's death at the end of Devarim, in this week's parsha, we reach the last stop along that journey. And right before we enter Eretz Yisrael someone comes along and tries to curse us and bring us down. Hashem does not let that happen and never will! 

As we stood there in Arvot Moav facing the curses of Bilaam, we were reassured that Hashem's promises to Avraham were still in effect, four generations later! And today, we are still seeing that same protection and blessing. May we continue to merit that protection as we continue to emulate Avraham with his humility, chesed and faithful service of G-d.

Shabbat Shalom.





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