Parashas Balak

In this week’s parashah, Bilaam declares (Bamidbar 23:23): “For there is no divination with Yaakov and no sorcery with Yisrael – now it is told to Yaakov and to Yisrael what God has wrought.” The Maggid explains this statement with a parable. A nobleman heard that someone in a distant province had invented a salve with a special power – whoever applied the salve to his body would be immune to harm from arrows and similar projectiles. Upon hearing this news, the nobleman decided to travel to see this man and get the salve. He went to great expense to make the trip, and he bought the salve at the high price that the inventor named. He had the inventor apply the salve to his body, and then he headed back home. While he was on the road he was attacked by a gang of marauders. They shot arrows at him and hit him squarely, but he remained unharmed.
When the marauders saw that the nobleman was still alive, they started to flee. He called to them gently and asked them to come over to him. When they reached him, he took out a bottle of liquor and invited them to a toast. The marauders were dumbfounded, and they asked the nobleman: “What is the meaning of this? After we attacked you, you are treating us well.” The nobleman explained: “I went to huge expense to make this trip and get myself smeared with this special salve that is supposed to protect against arrows and stones. I paid the inventor a high price for the salve. And then, as I started on my way home, I got so upset that I felt I wanted to die. I thought to myself: ‘What have I done? I just spent a fortune, and I have no idea what I got for it.’ But I couldn’t test the salve by having someone shoot at me, for I was afraid that the salve wouldn’t work and I’d be killed. So I just sat in my carriage overcome with depression. But now that you shot at me and I was unharmed, I know that I have done really well; I can now stand up to any ammunition without fear of harm. So you have done me a great favor; because of what you did I found out that it was not for naught that I spent all this money.
The parallel is as follows. The Jewish People had a tradition that they were immune from sorcery. They knew that when their forefather Yaakov lived in Lavan’s house, Lavan tried to subdue him with sorcery but did not succeed. And they were aware that this protection was supposed to have been passed down to them, but they were unsure whether it really worked. Yet they could not test its efficacy, for they did not want to put themselves in danger. But then Balak sent Bilaam to attack them with his sorcery, and it had no effect on them. Bilaam then told Balak: “See what you have done now. You meant to do them harm, but instead you did them a great favor. Now they know clearly that they really are immune against sorcery, for I cast my sorcery at them but did not harm them.” Bilaam said: “‘There is no divination with Yaakov and no sorcery with Yisrael’ – this the Jews knew from days of yore. But ‘now it is said to Yaakov and to Yisrael what God has wrought’ – now they know what wondrous protection God granted them.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.