This one or all of them?

Should we develop an army to protect ourselves? Definitely. We should not rely upon miracles, yet be very appreciative when we get them.

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Phil Chernofsky,

Jewish man prays (file)
Jewish man prays (file)
Isaac Harari/Flash 90

Parshat Balak has none of the 613 mitzvot in it. It is pure story. And that is how we must see the sedra... and learn from it. The sedra is 104 p'sukim long, divid- ing unevenly into a very long, 95-pasuk parsha and a 9-pasuk parsha following.

The first part is the well-known story of Balak and Bil'am and their repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to curse the people of Israel.

It reads almost like a comical farce, with Balak's invitation to Bil'am, Bil'am's refusal to go, then a 'well maybe', then a fancier invatation, another refusal, maybe, and acceptance - with a warning that he (Bil'am) cannot say anything that G-d will not allow. Then comes the donkey scene - oops, should I go back? No, here's some rope to hang yourself, go and remember that G-d will tell you what to say. Then Balak and Bil'am seem to ignore or pretend it isn't so about Bil'am's not being able to say any- thing on his own. But it is so, and it is proven three times. Mission failure!

Let it not escape us that we, the Jewish People, were totally oblivious to the episodes related in these first 95 p'sukim of the sedra. Unlike just about all the rest of the Torah to which the people were witness, the Balak-Bil'am episode would not be known to us had G-d not included it in the Torah. Ande since He did, we must pay attention.

If G-d is on our side, no one can hurt us. Sometimes, we fight along side G-d, so to speak, and sometimes He takes care of everything.

Should we develop an army to protect ourselves? Definitely. We should not rely upon miracles, yet be very appreciative when we get them.

From both Balak and Bil'am we see that the quality and greatness of the Jewish People is recognized by out- siders, when we sometimes cannot see ourselves for what we are.

Then come that last 9 p'sukim of the sedra. Our enemies figured out how to fight us without raising a sword. Just get G-d angry with us enough for Him to smite us. And so it was with the orgiastic worship of Pe'or. Limited to only 24,000 casualties because of Pinchas's zealous act to preserve G-d's honor.
If we turn our backs to G-d, if we betray Him, if we don't keep His Torah and Mitzvot - we are lost. (And if we are not lost under those conditions, it is only thanks to Chasdei HaShem, G-d's kindness to His people.)

Even when things are bad for the Jewish People, the act of a single person can sometimes turn things around - just one person!

The sedra might not have any mitzvot to teach us, but it is packed with lessons from G-d.



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