July 14, 2011

The Jewish Family: Building Block of the Jewish Nation

After his fiascos in last week's Torah portion, Bilaam understands that his spiritual powers alone are not enough to "force" G-d to cooperate with him and curse Israel.

"And Bilaam saw that it was good in the eyes of G-d to bless Israel and he did not use sorcery as in the previous times and he turned his face to the desert." (Numbers 24:1).

Bilaam forgoes his dark-side sorcery and instead searches for Israel's weak spot. He realizes that he must sabotage the Jewish family; the building block from which the Jewish Nation is built.

Bilaam looks at the tents of Israel, convinced that in his wisdom he will find the breaches so prevalent in non-Jewish families. From those cracks that he was convinced that he would find in the families of the Children of Israel, Bilaam was sure that he would be able to destabilize the foundation of the nation and destroy it.

To his surprise, Bilaam found no such breach. As opposed to his previous attempts to curse Israel, when the Torah writes that G-d put the blessing into his mouth, this time, the blessing flows forth from Bilaam spontaneously. Bilaam was amazed; every tent was positioned so that nobody could see into the entrance of his neighbor's tent. "How lovely are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel," Bilaam blesses.

This brings us to the turn of events leading up to what is described in this week's Torah portion, Pinchas. Bilaam did not manage to curse Israel, but he did understand how a nation is built. "Let me give you some advice," says Bilaam to Balak, like a professional who did not manage to do the job correctly but whose dedication to the goal (the destruction of Israel) is greater than his professional pride.

Bilaam gives Balak a priceless tip: "The G-d of Israel hates lust," he advises. "Send your daughters to entice them, destabilize the family unit and all the rest will fall into place." This time, Bilaam actually does succeed - until Pinchas arrives on the scene, stops the plague and merits the covenant of peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Moshe Feiglin

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