Selected Sermon/Article
2000-07-15 Chukat-Balak by Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Balak as model for today
One of my children's favorite jokes is the story of two bees flying side-by-side. One bee noticed that the other was wearing a yarmulke. Surprised, the first bee asked, "Why are you wearing a yarmulke?"

"Because we're flying out of the neighborhood,? the second bee replied, ?and I don't want anyone to think that I'm a WASP."

A more serious presentation of anti-Semitism greets us at the beginning of Parshat Balak. "Balak, the son of Tzipor, saw all that Israel had done to Emori.? Two verses later, Balak is identified as the king of Moav. Why does the Torah identify him initially as ?the son of Tzipor? rather than with his more impressive title of king of Moav?

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt?l, explains that this introduction to Balak tells the chronology of his ascension to the throne of Moav. Balak was not yet king when he observed ?all that Israel had done to Emori.? Once he perceived the threat that Moav faced from Bnei Yisrael, Balak warned the Moavites, who rallied around him and made him king.

This places Balak as one of the earliest of the many demagogues throughout history who came to power by blaming the Jews for their nation?s woes, and uniting the people around their promise to destroy Bnei Yisrael.

Times change, but the approach of our enemies remain the same. A quote from the Hamas web site states: ?There has been nothing but destruction and war since 1948 when the Zionist cancer first appeared in the heart of the Muslim world. The Palestinian people are still suffering from the international racist conspiracy to destroy the Muslim world and rob its wealth.?

Complex problems often have complex solutions. Fortunately, the Torah provides us with an elementary approach in dealing with ?the Longest Hatred.? ?Behold it is a nation that dwells alone and is not counted among the other nations,? Bilam observed. Bilam realized, the Beit Halevi notes, that Klal Yisrael can only exist as a nation if it does not assimilate with the other nations.

?Behold it is a nation that dwells alone??only alone will it continue to dwell and exist. However, ?among the other nations??if it attempts to assimilate?it ?is not counted.?

When Jews attempt to become like everyone else, we don't gain their respect. To the contrary, we are looked down upon and reviled.

Living Torah-committed lives will only strengthen our connection to, and our blessings from, the Ribono Shel Olam.