Balak and the end of days

This week’s Parsha, בלק, is perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of our nation. A victory, nonetheless one in which we indeed did not fight. The narrative and characters of our Parsha are quite anomalous. The Parsha opens with Balak, son of Tzipor, seeing what Bnei Yisrael had done to the Amorites,

 וַיַּ֥רְא בָּלָ֖ק בֶּן־צִפּ֑וֹר אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לָֽאֱמֹרִֽי׃ וַיָּ֨גָר מוֹאָ֜ב מִפְּנֵ֥י הָעָ֛ם מְאֹ֖ד כִּ֣י רַב־ה֑וּא וַיָּ֣קָץ מוֹאָ֔ב מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ 

(במדבר כב:ב-ג)

Balak’s name, precisely son of Tzipor, son of a bird, is noted in Kabbalah as being a literal bird. The bird was a magical metal amalgamation of copper, silver, and gold, which spoke and prophesied to Balak. Only the most skilled craftsmanship and wizardry were able to fabricate such a fiend. Nevertheless, even Balak was perturbed by Bnei Yisrael and worried about what was to come with his people. As Balak’s superficial sorcery wouldn’t suffice, he called upon the “prophet of the nations,” Bilam. 

Bilam’s character often troubles many, as he was an actual prophet of the nations, he indeed spoke to Hashem. Why and how is a deeper matter, but too elucidate, Chazal equate Bilam and Moshe as being mirror characters. Moshe, being the greatest Navi represents the Kabbalistic sefirah and attribute of Daat. Daat, knowledge, is the third and last conscious power, it connects to the higher Binah and Chochmah. Moshe possessed the highest Daat el-yon /Daat hane’elam. and lower Daat tachton, all of which connected Intellect, knowledge and emotion, a skill necessary for the prophet and leader of Klal Yisrael. Bilam, on the contrary, possessed a blocked Daat, one with a Klipah. He had knowledge for the negative pole which disrupted Kedusha to shine forth, but still, he had some sort of power.  

So, Balak sent to Bilam to assist him in cursing Bnei Yisrael,

וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח מַלְאָכִ֜ים אֶל־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר פְּ֠תוֹרָה אֲשֶׁ֧ר עַל־הַנָּהָ֛ר אֶ֥רֶץ בְּנֵי־עַמּ֖וֹ לִקְרֹא־ל֑וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר הִ֠נֵּה עַ֣ם יָצָ֤א מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ הִנֵּ֤ה כִסָּה֙ אֶת־עֵ֣ין הָאָ֔רֶץ וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב מִמֻּלִֽי׃ וְעַתָּה֩ לְכָה־נָּ֨א אָֽרָה־לִּ֜י אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֗ה כִּֽי־עָצ֥וּם הוּא֙ מִמֶּ֔נִּי אוּלַ֤י אוּכַל֙ נַכֶּה־בּ֔וֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁ֖נּוּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּ֣י יָדַ֗עְתִּי אֵ֤ת אֲשֶׁר־תְּבָרֵךְ֙ מְבֹרָ֔ךְ וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּאֹ֖ר יוּאָֽר׃

“They sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor in Pethor…to invite him, saying, “There is a people that came out of Egypt… Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land…” (במדבר כב:ה-ו)

We all know what comes next. Bilam is warned by Hashem, through the incident with his donkey, and by directly speaking to him that he should not try and curse Bnei Yisrael, because we are blessed. Nonetheless, through trial and error Bilam attempts to curse Bnei Yisrael. With Balak by his side as he begins to speak, only blessings leave his mouth. Bilam exclaims through the three separate attempts to curse how great Klal Yisrael is, how we are separate from the nations and the blessed chosen people, 

לֹֽא־הִבִּ֥יט אָ֙וֶן֙ בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וְלֹא־רָאָ֥ה עָמָ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהָיו֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וּתְרוּעַ֥ת מֶ֖לֶךְ בּֽוֹ׃

No harm is in sight for Jacob, No woe in view for Israel. The LORD their God is with them, And their King’s acclaim in their midst. (במדבר כג:כא)

אֵ֚ל מוֹצִיא֣וֹ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם כְּתוֹעֲפֹ֥ת רְאֵ֖ם ל֑וֹ יֹאכַ֞ל גּוֹיִ֣ם צָרָ֗יו וְעַצְמֹתֵיהֶ֛ם יְגָרֵ֖ם וְחִצָּ֥יו יִמְחָֽץ׃

God who freed them from Egypt Is for them like the horns of the wild ox. They shall devour enemy nations, Crush their bones, And smash their arrows. ( במדבר כד:ח)

The Zohar, (ספר זוהר, ג,שה,א) quoted by the Slonimer Rebbe( נתיבות שלום על הפרשה, במדבר, קכט), says that Klal Yisrael didn’t need as much help from Hashem as the time Bilam attempted to curse them. However, wouldn’t we see other instances in the Torah as direr than here? What about יציאת מצרים and all the miracles performed there? This occurrence certainly might not be the first to come to mind! There must be a message deeper beyond the surface. 

Kabbalists believe that this week’s Parsha contains within it prophecies to the end of days. Interested, I researched through Kabbalistic sources to find these, I debated writing about them as they are dense, however, I summarized, including and excluding certain articles. I believe a message can be taken from here. 

The Zohar on Parshat Balak quotes the following Pasuk, 

אֶרְאֶ֙נּוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א עַתָּ֔ה אֲשׁוּרֶ֖נּוּ וְלֹ֣א קָר֑וֹב דָּרַ֨ךְ כּוֹכָ֜ב מִֽיַּעֲקֹ֗ב וְקָ֥ם שֵׁ֙בֶט֙ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמָחַץ֙ פַּאֲתֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב וְקַרְקַ֖ר כָּל־בְּנֵי־שֵֽׁת׃

What I see for them is not yet, What I behold will not be soon: A star rises from Jacob, A scepter comes forth from Israel; It smashes the brow of Moab, The foundation of all children of Seth. 

The Zohar text is then transliterated as follows—ירושלים (Jerusalem) will be rebuilt— a star from Jacob will spark 70 pillars of fire receiving light from the middle of the sky. The other 70 stars will be engulfed, it will give off light and blaze for 70 days, at the beginning of the 25th day of the 6th month— at the end of the 6th day it will become visible, in the city of Rome [on that day at the end of 70 complete days] three walls will fall, a great hall will fall, and the power of the city will die. 

The message is not precisely clear and rather peculiar. Some Jewish Kabbalists believe that this prophecy is a reference to the 2001 September 11th attacks. Others note the “star of Jacob” as being Shimon Bar Kochva/ Kosiba, leader of the Bar Kochva revolt against the Romans in 132 CE. However, Most deduce that the star emanating forth is Mashiach. The Zohar continues, On the day that the star will be hidden, the Holy Land will tremble forty-five miles around the Holy Temple, revealing an underground cave. From this cave will come out a blazing fire to burn the world… and a great branch will grow out, and it will rule over the whole world… indeed, this prophecy has not yet been actualized, we haven’t seen these full circumstances unfold. 

 As I read this, I wondered what we can learn from here. I returned to the beginning of our Parsha and the earlier events which we learned. Balak came to Bilam asking him to curse Bnei Yisrael. With his reverse/negative Daat, he then attempts to curse them. The curses incidentally become blessings. Behind these blessings, the Zohar then explicates those prophecies. Bilam and Balak were unable to curse Bnei Yisrael no matter how much they tried. The old Yiddish saying rings in my ears, “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht”, Man plans and God laughs. Ultimately, in moments of collapse, when we lose control, we turn to God. When we plummet to the depths of the unknown, when the greatest terror attack befalls a nation, in times of tragedy, uncertainty, and failure, we turn to God. 

The Slonimer Rebbe writes “כל זמן שישראל דבוקים בה׳ אין כל אומה ולשון יכולים לשלוט בהםת ואיש אינו יכול לפגוע בהם” As long as we stay clinging to Hashem, we won’t be hurt as a nation. If there’s one message to take from here, it should be this. In contemporary times, the unity of our nation is of the utmost importance. We have overcome mounds of trial and tribulations. But what kept us bonded was is our unification. In our world’s advancement and the polarizing gap between people, sides, identity, and identification, in what seems to be a perpetual debate of our ethics and morals, we still stayed a people. Unity is most important for Bnei Yisrael and the state of Israel’s survival. We should look back and remember the greatness Hashem did for us in the narrative of Balak and Bilam. But, the narrative and its eminence extend to today. We have our homeland, our self-determination, our Eretz Hakadosh. We walk the same land Balak and Bilam attempted to curse. The prophecies we read about are happening around us. With our effort and the help of Hashem, may we experience them to their fullest extent with the arrival of the Star of Jacob, so we can fully cleave to Hashem collectively and individually once-more. May we see this day, במהרה בימינו.

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