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Friday, June 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

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

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.

This week's parsha follows in great detail the escapades of Balak and Bil'am. The pesukim (22:2-4) that introduce us to Balak are quite intriguing. We are told about Balak's observation of the war with Sichon and the subsequent fear instilled in the Moavites. Seemingly as an afterthought, we are then informed that Balak was the king of Moav at the time. Why not simply introduce him in the very first pasuk as Balak, the king of Moav?

This oddity is addressed by a number of commentaries. Ramban and Seforno suggest that the pesukim are suggesting that Balak was in fact a great warrior and was therefore significant to the story regardless of his being king. That's why his title was only mentioned secondarily. And this puts even greater focus on the fear that gripped the region as even their great warrior to whom they turned to lead them was petrified of what fate he might meet at the hands of B'nei Yisrael.

Shaarei Aharon explains based on Rashi and his accompanying elucidators that Balak was not really fit to be king. In fact, as the midrash points out, Balak was Tzur, one of the 5 princes of Midyan. Sichon's demise created a void and Balak was chosen, perhaps only temporarily. This explains why he is not introduced as the king of Moav because when all of this began, he wasn't. Sichon's defeat caused Moav and Midyan to join forces and through that, Balak became king. The words "ba'eis hahi," in that time, also indicate that not only was he not king before this episode, he wasn't king after either as he was completely shamed by the interaction with Bil'am.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

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