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Friday, July 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This past Thursday, 15 Tammuz, was the yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.

The previous day was the yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 

Shabbos, 17 Tammuz, is the yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel.

The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.


When inquired as to the identity of his visitors, Bilam responds (22:10) "Balak ben Tzipor, the king of Moav sent them to me." Rashi delves into the motivation behind Bilam's statement. His intent was, "even though I am not dignified in Your eyes, I am dignified in the eyes of kings." R' Ruderman, zt"l, points out that is a perplexingly ridiculous statement for Bilam to make. Why should it matter one bit to HaShem what the kings think of Bilam? What could he possibly have intended to accomplish with this?


The Rosh HaYeshivah answers that Bilam's intention was to incriminate Bnei Yisrael. His claim was as follows: "HaShem, You know that I am really not significant whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am significant in the eyes of kings. However, even though Moshe is held so highly in Your eyes, he is so gravely mistreated by Bnei Yisrael!" Therefore, when HaShem finally lets Bilam go along to Moav, he instructs Bilam (22:20) "go with them, but only do that which I tell you to do". This is meant as a rebuttal of his charge against B'nei Yisrael. "The reason why you are revered by kings is because you tell them what they want to hear. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael what I tell him to say. That is why his popularity is not always so high. Now you go to the kings and tell them what I tell you, and see how they treat you now." Sure enough, this proved to be quite a lesson for Bilam.


This theme sees particularly apropos as we are now in the thick of this year's elections season (here in the US) where so much of any candidate's popularity seems to be based so much less on actual truths and more on what he or she says that the people want to hear.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

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