Judaism: Dvar Torah for Balak
HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"lRevered rabbi, author and gifted lecturer in USA who studied at YU and Slobodka, mashgiach ruchani (spiritual advisor) of Rabbi Chaim Berlin Yeshiva and later head of Beit YIsrael Yeshiva. Aug. 28, 1908 - Apr. 20, 2001. Rabbi Avigdor Miller Sent by Simchas Hachaim Foundation, based on the works of Rabbi Avigdor Miller (1908-2001). Discover more at SimchasHachaim.com.
The first of nations was Amalek... And he saw the Keni. (24:20-1)
An additional explanation: Amalek could have become the first and most excellent of the nations of the gentiles.
The tradition of Esav's birthright and how it was gained by Jacob was preserved most clearly in Amalek, and they therefore harbored most resentment against Jacob's posterity.
But the quality of Envy was intended by the Creator to serve as a stimulus to the pursuit of excellence, and especially of perfection of mind and character; had Amalek utilised this stimulus of envy of Israel, they could have sought to outdo the Israelites in virtue and in the attempt to find favor in the sight of Hashem.
Instead, this emotion was misused for the purpose of hostility toward Israel; it was this powerful misused emotion that caused them to perform an act of the greatest effrontery.
When all the other nations had been paralyzed into inaction by Hashem's open succor to Israel, Amalek's envy carried him off his feet and he made an open demonstration against Hashem's will to protect Israel. Therefore now, the one that could have become the first of the nations in excellence, became the first to be marked for destruction.
The subsequent statement, in contrary, displays Hashem's highest approval of the decision of the progeny of Yithro to join the nation of Israel. The sons of Keni dwelt on the outskirts of the nation, because the Israelites were arranged according to their families in their journeys (Bamidbar 10) and in their permanent settlement in the land of Israel.
They finally settled near Amalek (I Samuel 15:6), for Amalek was hostile solely against Israel, the sons of their father Esav's brother Jacob.
The Keni and Amalek are mentioned one after the other by Bileam for two reasons:
1) because they dwelt near each other,
2) and because of the infinite difference between their choice and their future.
Amalek chose especial hostility to Israel, and his end is for destruction (24:20); and the Keni chose the Torah of Israel, and his end was for greatness. Some of Yithro's progeny were seated in the Great Sanhedrin (Sanhedrin 106A). (Journey Into Greatness)