Thursday, July 10, 2008

Balak: we quote Bilaam every day during davening

Parshat Balak
Sheva Brachot Drasha

The following is what I said last night when speaking at a 'Sheva Brachos' we were hosting for a cousin who got married.

מה טובו אהליך יעקב משכנותיך ישראך. Bilaam gave this bracha to the Jews, he had this insight about the Jews. I never really understood why we start of our day, every single day, saying, as one of the first things we say in the morning, this verse of Mah Tovu. Bilaam Ha'Rasha said this about the Jews. No matter how good it was, couldn't we find a better quote from someone a little less evil, and quote that everyday? Couldn't we find something that a tzaddik said that we could quote every day?
Why quote this from Bilaam, every day as we start the day?

How is it that Balak pressed on wqith his aim to curse the people. When he saw that his attempts were futile, why did he not give up, realizing that Hashem would not let him curse the Jews, and send BIlaam home - so they would not be cursed, but at least they would also not be blessed! Why did he not just give up and go home?

Truthfully I do not really have an answer to this question why Balak did not just give up. But I do think it provides us with an insight as to how the human mind works.

Balak and Bilaam were totally dedicated to their cause of cursng the Jews. They were focused, and they were determined to acheive their goal. Had they paused, taken a step back for a moment to re-evaluate the situation and look at it objectively, they might have said something like, "This is crazy - let's just go home, have a beer and watch the football game". but they did not. Because they were so focused and dedicated, they did not understand what was happening around them.

This type of devotion and dedication is what Bilaam saw in the Jews when he said Mah Tovu. He saw that despite their hardships - the slavery, the exodus, the travels in the desert, never having enough food and water (at least constantly complaining about it), the Golden Calf, the Spies, and more - they were dedicated to living their family lives in holiness with modesty. He recognized their determination to remain steadfast in their lifestyle of Tznius.

That si why, possibly, we quote Bilaam every day. Because he recognized that in us, and we want to start our day off, every day, reminding ourselves that as a nation our success comes, in part at least, because we are so careful with building our families modeled on tznius and living wih kedusha.

2 comments:

ben said...

Rafi, nice vort. The Maharshal in Teshuvos 64 writes that one should not begin davening with mah tovu because it ws said by Balaam.

tznius-lady said...

Tznijus got us out of Mitzrayim, and that's why we are still here. I welcome your comments on my http://www.simchawear.com/blog tznius topics.