Everyone asks how a villain like Balak merited having a weekly Torah portion named after him. And Korah also doesn’t seem very deserving of the honor.
A related enigma is why there is no Portion named for Adam, Abraham, Joseph, or Moses? Or, if wicked people qualify, why not Pharaoh?
Now, I’m sure there are many answers. This is my latest idea about it.
The six portions that mention a person could actually come in couples. And the first lesson this tells us is that we each can improve our moral level.
Balak, the evil Gentile prophet, is contrasted with the saintly Gentile priest Jethro. Balak saw, Jethro heard. Seeing is superficial, easy, can be completely mistaken. Like Eve saw that the tree was good food. But hearing is close to understanding the essence. Shama’ Yisrael, listen/understand Jews.
We read that Korah took. He took so much that he ended up with nothing, as the Mishnah warns: Grab a lot, you’ll end up empty-handed. Phinehas grabbed a spear to end evil. What a difference.
It says that Noah was 600 years old and still had to father kids to have his life amount to something. But it says that Sarah was 127 years and her life was perfect as it had been. Noah left leading humanity to Abraham, but Sarah actually worked with him. The question is not who’s holier, Noah or Abraham? Rather, ask who was more righteous, Noah or Sarah?
And then, we could also understand why there is no Portion titled Pharaoh. He was at a lonely height of evilness. There is no contrast with him.
How different Adam, Abraham, Joseph, or Moses at their lonely heights. There is no human contrast with Adam. (Even animals lack the wickedness that would be needed to contrast his holiness. Abraham was on one side, and the whole of humankind was on the other side. And who could match the saintly Joseph? Or the unparallel Moses? They didn’t adopt a Portion because they were incomparable.