Balak: Changing Minds One Person at a Time

Every day I receive reports from various Jewish and Israel oriented organizations; detailing another act of anti-Semitism throughout the world. Often, the culprit is the United Nations; with its disgraceful Human Rights Council. At times, the culprits are people, who protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians; as if there are no other(and often more egregious) human rights abuses throughout the world. These reports by now have become second nature. Although Israel is far from perfect (what nation is?!); reality suggests that people continue to hold Jews as scapegoats. All we can do is to best educate ourselves so that we (and our children) remain confident about who we are as Jews. Perhaps, along the way we might change an ignorant mind or two…

The portion of Balak introduces us to Balaam; a well known diviner in the ancient world. He is sent on a mission by Balak; king of Moab. As Balak is frightened by reports of Israel’s power (how ironic a twist here?), he commissions Balaam to go and curse the Israelites. Along the way Balaam hears the voice of God; calling him to reject the assignment. Eventually, when Balaam eye witnesses the tranquility of the Israelite camp; he offers a blessing rather than a curse.

It is evident that Balaam bore no prior hatred toward the Israelites. He was simply carrying out an assignment and getting well paid for the task. When he finally encountered Israelites, they made a positive impression on him. To his mind, why would anyone wish harm against this peaceful nation?
Thus, Balaam became a philo-Semite…

When it comes to anti-Semitic ignorance, we are not going to change the world. The UN will continue to be extremely biased against Israel and protesters throughout the world will condemn Israel as the globe’s central villain. My hope is that there are people out there like Balaam; who will eventually recognize the vast contributions of the Jewish people to the world. I also hope that some will even begin to appreciate the accomplishments of a still young Jewish nation; which-unlike most countries anywhere- has embraced people from throughout the world. Perhaps some individuals will acknowledge how in times of international disaster, Israel is among the first responders?

Balaam was just an individual; yet his sudden and surprising actions on behalf of Israel had a deep impact in the ancient world. Let us hope that Balaam types still exist among us…

Shabbat Shalom.