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Thursday, July 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

Yesterday was the Yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 
Today is the Yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.
Shabbos, Shiv'ah Asar B'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 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 Yisroel. 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 Yisroel!" 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 Yisroel. "The reason why you are revered by kings is because you tell them what they want to hear. Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel 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 thought is also very apropos as we enter this year's elections season where so much of any candidate's popularity seems to be based so much less on actual truths and more on what he says that the people want to hear.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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