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Balak-Better an honest enemy (Balak) than a false friend(Bilaam).

Better an honest enemy (Balak) than a false friend(Bilaam).

Of the 54 Torah portions, only five are named after individuals: Noah, Yitro, Korah, Balak, and Pinhas. Why did these five individuals deserve to have Torah portions named after them? Even our three forefathers did not achieve this honor. Nor did Moses, our greatest prophet, the receiver of the Torah and leader of the people, have a Torah portion named after him.  The commentators suggest various reasons for the naming of the Parshiot. The naming of an entire portion after Balak, a well know Israel hater is most remarkable!

 

This question is even greater when we consider that Balak’s partner in crime was Bilaam who ultimately blessed Israel: so, if one of the two was deserving of having a Parsha named after him (the only Parsha in the Torah not told from the perspective of the people of Israel), why not name the ParshaBilaam” who, along with Balak is the topic of most of the Parsha and who at least communicated with G-d and who, ultimately albeit unwittingly, blessed Israel.

 

The truth is that Bilaam along with Balak hated Israel (the Halacha states, “Esau hates Yaakov“). Yet most of Israel haters shroud their hate with rhetoric of nice words. Chazal teach that for all of Balak’s wickedness, he possessed at least one good attribute –honesty. Everyone knew where he stood with Balak. His intentions and actions were clear-cut.  He disclosed his hate towards the Children of Israel to everyone’s ears. He made no attempt to conceal his hatred of the Israelites. Such an “honest” adversary indeed deserves a Parasha of his own, for we can appreciate an honest enemy.

 

Throughout history we have been plagued by many who have claimed to be righteous and to act in our best interests but hidden behind a smile, a mask of friendship, or a hug and handshake only to try to stab us in the back.  Bilaam pretended to be a holy man and to aspire to fulfill only G-d’s desires. Yet, his actions proved how hypocritical he was.

 

When Balak’s messengers came and offered him wealth and honors in exchange for his cursing the Israelites, he didn’t flatly refuse them. Rather, he told them to lodge with him overnight to await G-d’s verdict, hoping that G-d would give him permission to comply. The permission was denied, but when the messengers returned with offers of even greater wealth and honors, Bilaam again welcomed them into his house. He removed his mask of holiness and his greed came through.  Unfortunately, there are many who have adopted Bilaam’s tactics of pretending to have high moral values and then throwing them aside at the first chance it suits them. Bilaam, was supposedly a follower of G-d but even if he was forced to bless Israel it was the blessing of a false friend and by naming the Parsha after Balak, the Torah demonstrates that… Better an honest enemy (Balak) than a false friend(Bilaam).

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