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Friday, June 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This Shabbos is the Yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 
This Sunday is the Yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.
Tuesday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the Yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.
The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

At the beginning of this week's parsha, we find that Moav is frightened of Bnei Yisroel because of what they did to Sichon. I was once asked a very intriguing question concerning Balak's entire approach to B'nei Yisroel. Sichon met his demise only because he started up with Bnei Yisroel. B'nei Yisroel clearly had no intentions of war with Sichon and he was the one who came out and attcked. As long as Balak avoids a confrontation, what does he have to be afraid of? If he simply leaves B'nei Yisroel alone, his country is in no danger whatsoever.

Perhaps what frightened Moav was that they observed that as soon as B'nei Yisroel requested a passage through Sichon's land, that is when everything started to go sour. Sure, Sichon started the war, but what was he supposed to do? How is a country supposed to see such a request as a friendly gesture? The way Balak saw it, as soon as B'nei Yisroel asks for permission to go through the land, it means trouble. Now in the parsha we are not told that any such request was sent to Moav. However, in the haftara of Chukas (Shoftim 11:17) we find that messengers were sent to Moav as well with the same request. Perhaps the episode of Balak happened after these messengers were sent and that is why he became frightened. When Balak saw his nation following the same course of events as that of Sichon, he felt threatened and saw fit to take pre-emptive action.

However, there is a much simpler approach to Balak's actions which teaches a great lesson. Perhaps Balak was simply misinformed and misguided. B'nei Yisroel's trouncing of Sichon's army had them looking like the aggressors at the end of the day. B'nei Yisroel began to be looked upon as a force of terror ripping through the region. Balak was not aware, or did not allow himself to be aware that B'nei Yisroel had no intentions of any involvement with him whatsoever. This whole parsha is therefore a glaring example of "ma'aseh avos siman labanim," a harbinger of events to follow for many generations. Throughout history, Jews have always been vilified on false pretenses. But in our days it is most glaringly evident. After the Holocaust there was an atmosphere of pity for the Jewish people and the State of Israel was a direct outgrowth thereof. Israel has been blessed by HaShem with the strongest and most successful of armies. With the Divine gift of power and might, they have crushed their enemies to bitter defeat. But suddenly, we are looked upon as aggressors. Each war was a defensive battle but yet, we are looked upon as instigators and subsequently, occupiers. In sweeping, defensive attacks against terrorists, we are seen as terrorists ourselves. And of course, the most recent events involving the flotilla are just another glaring example of how the world is constantly misjudging us.  As we see in our parsha, this is old news. As the generations pass it seems evident that the Jews will always be misunderstood and misjudged in the public eye. It is something we will just have to live with.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: The Dead of the Plague
AstroTorah: The Usage of Solar Dates in Talmudic Literature by R' Ari Storch

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