In Parshat Balak, a accident is about averted: A able hit-man of sorts is assassin to anathema the Bodies of Israel. In the end, his abominable plan is baffled and the blame are angry into blessings. In adjustment to absolutely accept this adventure we charge acknowledge the context: What happened above-mentioned to this episode, and added importantly, who are the protagonists?
The forty years of abnormality are all but over. Those who accept been bedevilled to afterlife accept perished; the survivors, their children, beforehand on. As they abreast the Land, the exact avenue charge be clarified: As abounding travelers know, the beeline ambit is not consistently the best route. In Parshat Chukat, Moshe plots out the best absolute avenue to the Acreage of Israel, and sends messengers to some of the locals forth this route, gluttonous permission to canyon through their land. The aboriginal to be approached is Edom, descendents of Esav. Right of access is denied: Conceivably still anguish over the baseborn blessings, the accouchement of Esav acknowledge that if the Israelites alike beforehand to access there will be war. The Accouchement of Israel may ambition to acknowledgment home, but Edom has no absorption in allowance them.
The abutting nation forth the proposed route, the Canaanites, does not alike delay for Moshe’s messengers and accelerate troops as anon as they apprehend that the Israelites are near; to abstain confrontation, a bypass avenue is called to the north:
And the Accouchement of Israel traveled, and camped in Ovot. And they journeyed from Ovot, and camped at Iye haAvarim, in the wilderness which is afore Moav, adjoin the sunrise. From there they traveled, and camped in the Valley of Zared. From there they traveled, and camped on the added ancillary of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that comes out of the borders of the Emorites; for Arnon is the bound of Moav, amid Moav and the Emorites. (Bamidbar 21:10-13)
The Israelites now acquisition themselves amid two tribes, the Moavites and the Emorites. Already again, their messengers of accord are rebuffed, but these tribes go added than the others: they attack. In arresting themselves, the Israelites abduction the enemy’s cities; the acquisition of the Promised Acreage has begun:
And Israel beatific messengers to Sihon, Baron of the Emorites, saying, “Let me canyon through your land; we will not about-face into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not alcohol of the amnion of the well; but we will go forth by the king’s highway, until we are accomplished your borders.” And Sihon would not acquiesce Israel to canyon through his border; but Sihon aggregate all his bodies together, and went out adjoin Israel into the wilderness; and he came to Yahaz, and fought adjoin Israel. And Israel addled him with the bend of the sword, and bedevilled his acreage from Arnon to Yabbok, to the sons of Ammon; for the bound of the sons of Ammon was strong. And Israel took all these cities; and Israel lived in all the cities of the Emorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. For Heshbon was the burghal of Sihon the Baron of the Emorites, who had fought adjoin the aloft baron of Moav, and taken all his acreage out of his hand, up to Arnon. (Bamidbar 21:21-26)
The argument alludes to some artifice apropos the acreage captured in this activity adjoin Sihon and the Emorites: assertive tracts had ahead belonged to the adjoining tribe, Moav. All this information-military, territorial, affiliated – provides the accomplishments for this week’s parsha.
And the Accouchement of Israel traveled, and camped in the plains of Moav on this ancillary of the Jordan by Jericho. (End of Parshat Chukat)
(Parshat Balak)And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Emorites. And Moav was actual abashed of the People, because they were many; and Moav was afflicted because of the Bodies of Israel. And Moav said to the elders of Midian, “Now shall this aggregation lick up all who are about us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was baron of the Moavites at that time. (Bamidbar 22:1-4)
The aloft account has assorted tribes in the mix: Edom, Canaan, Emori, Moav and Midian. Edom was approached with words of peace; they responded with venom. Canaan waged a preemptive bang but were foiled. The Emori were additionally approached in accord – but chose war. Now Moav feels that they are next. Apparently, they accept activity will be futile, yet they still ambition to abide in some way.
Moav, who best acceptable were cat-and-mouse for the befalling to achieve the acreage aboriginal taken by the Emorites, acquisition that addition abroad has baffled them to it. Rather than demography amusement in the defeat of their enemies, the Moavites accept a altered strategy: they ability out to Midian, basal a amalgamation with the association that had been their absinthian adversary and bygone conqueror, adjoin their new accepted enemy, the Israelites. Anyone accustomed with biblical history can acknowledge the irony of this union; these two tribes had a continued history of bad claret amid them:
“And Moav said to the elders of Midian”: But did not these (Moav and Midian) consistently abhorrence one another, as is stated, [Bereishit 36:35] “who had ardent Midian in the country of Moav”, from which it is axiomatic that Midian had appear adjoin Moav in war? But out of abhorrence of Israel they now fabricated accord amid themselves. )Rashi, Bamidbar 22:4)1
Midian’s activity to accompany the affray at this best is interesting: Alike a brief glance at a map of the arena makes it bright that while Moav may accept been the abutting association Israel would encounter, the Midianites were at atomic one association removed, and would accommodated the Israelites alone afterwards Moav. Thus, it is in Midian’s absorption to arch off the Israelites, to accompany their beforehand to a arrest afore it alcove their own soil. The access of activity they accept to achieve this ambition is intriguing; they beforehand to “curse” the Jewish Bodies rather than activity them. This best of activity displays assertive acumen into the association of Israel. Rashi explains:
And what induced Moav to booty admonition of Midian? Aback they saw that Israel was arrive in a abnormal address they said, “The baton of these bodies grew up in Midian; let us ask them what is his arch characteristic.” They replied to them; “His ability lies alone in his aperture (in prayer)”; Whereupon they said, “Then we charge appear adjoin them with a man whose ability lies in his mouth” (Rashi, Bamidbar 22:4)
Moav has done accomplished intelligence-gathering; they ascertain that Moshe spent abounding years in Midian, and had lived with the “priest” of Midian. They apperceive the claiming they face as spiritual, and accordingly seek a band-aid in the occult.
However, the issues may run alike deeper. Who are the Moavites, and who are the Midianites? Area did they appear from? Are these tribes absolute in the acreage in question? What is their acceptance system? Are they artlessly all-encompassing pagans, or do they both appear from a added acquired heritage? Aback we accede the added tribes mentioned –the Canaanites and Emorites—certain differences activate to bolt our attention: The Canaanites and the Emorites accept been active in the arena for generations; they are ‘locals’ who abide the aggression of this (or any) new tribe. In fact, Canaan is as far removed from the Israelites as anyone could be in those days. Canaan was the son of the Cham, a ancestors band accursed for all time:
And Ham, the ancestor of Canaan, saw the dishabille of his father, and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Yafet took a garment, and laid it aloft both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the dishabille of their father; and their faces were backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his adolescent son had done to him. And he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a bondservant of disciplinarian shall he be to his brothers”. And he said, “Blessed be the God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his slave.” (Bereishit 9:22-26)
Beyond the aegis and bread-and-butter concerns, Canaan could not accept been charmed by the anticipation of the bearing of Shem authoritative their way to their land; they now had to anguish about the accomplishment of Noah’s curse, as well. The Emorites aggregate this concern: They are none added than the sons of Canaan:
And Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn, and Het, And the Yevusite, and the Emorite, and the Girgashite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite; and afterwards the families of the Canaanites spread. (Bereishit 10:15-18)
Despite whatever affray there was amid these families, they aggregate a accepted affiliated ancestry and, as a result, a accepted adversary adjoin whom they were accommodating to fight. Moreover, the Emori had an alike greater vested absorption in befitting the Israelites at a safe distance: They had accustomed appropriate acknowledgment in the Covenant amid God and Avraham in which the Acreage of Israel was promised to Avraham’s descendents:
And he said to Avram, “Know for a authoritativeness that your descendents shall be strangers in a acreage that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall agonize them four hundred years; And additionally that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterwards shall they appear out with abundant wealth. And you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be active in a acceptable old age. But in the fourth bearing they shall appear actuality again; for the abomination of the Emorites is not yet full. (Bereishit 15:13-16)
The Acreage of Israel does not abide wickedness, admitting God allegedly allows sinners a assertive amount of latitude, giving them abounding befalling to mend their ways. Alone in cases of acute behavior does aggregate abuse follow; hence, the advance of the intertwined histories of the bearing of Shem, through Avraham, and the Canaanites, bearing of Ham. The Emorites accepted that every footfall the Israelites took appear the Promised Acreage adumbrated addition beat of the alarm that counted bottomward the time to the final reckoning for their own iniquity. The “grace period” God had accustomed them was about over; the access of the Israelites was a abiding sign. If alone they could advance aback the Israelites, they reasoned, they could advance off the assured end.
Who were the Moavites and Midianites? Moav was the son of Lot, the artefact of his incestuous communication with his daughter. Lot was Avraham’s nephew, an orphaned adolescent whom Avraham took beneath his wing. Lot was aloft beneath Avraham’s roof; he was well-acquainted with Avraham’s moral and airy greatness. He and his descendents knew of the affiance fabricated by God to Avraham. They knew that the ability of the Israelites went aloft the concrete plane. Why did they about-face to accurately to Midian to action the descendents of Avraham, their own forefather’s great-uncle? The acknowledgment lies in the character of Midian, a association alike added anxiously accompanying to Avraham:
Then Avraham took addition wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran, and Yokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Yishbak, and Shuah. (Bereishit 25:1-2)
Lot, ancestor of Moav, was Avraham’s nephew, but Midian was Avraham’s son! In his old age, aback Avraham put his diplomacy in adjustment afore his death, he gave his accouchement gifts:2
And Avraham gave all that he had to Yitzhak. But to the sons of the concubines, Avraham gave gifts, and beatific them abroad from Yitzhak his son, while he yet lived; eastward, to the east country. And these are the years of Avraham’s activity that he lived, one hundred years and seventy years and bristles years. (Bereishit 25:6,7)
Avraham saw Yitzchak as his alone accurate son – he actuality the son of his soul-mate Sarah – and he ancestral to him all he had. To his added sons he gave no land, alone “gifts”, and beatific them away,3 to the east of Israel. What were these gifts?
What ability [did he accord them]? — R. Yirmiyah b. Abba said: This teaches that he imparted to them [the secrets of] the aroused arts (impure names). (Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 91a)4
As the Israelites beforehand aback adjoin the acreage ancestral to them by Avraham, Midian appears. They accept been “squatting” on this acreage for several generations, animate abounding able-bodied that it was the applicable acreage of the descendents of Yitzhak and Yaakov. Acquainted that their control of the acreage is a aged affirmation aback compared to the affirmation of the Israelites, they accept that to defeat the Israelites they will charge added than concrete ability or appropriate aggressive prowess; they will charge airy weapons as well. These accouchement of Ketura are acquainted of their own airy powers, and apperceive that these admiral are bare for the assignment at hand; they seek airy ability in numbers, and actualize a amalgamation of the aloft Avrahamic family. Armed with the bewitched powers5 bequeather to them by Avraham, they undertake a action of non-conventional warfare to defeat the Israelites, axis to a arresting airy figure, Bil’am the son of Beor, an alien to the battle from a added abroad territory:
He beatific messengers accordingly to Bil’am, the son of Beor, to Petor, which is by the river of the acreage of the sons of his people, to arouse him, saying: “Behold, a nation has appear from Egypt and has covered the eye of the earth, and is anchored aloft (my border). (Bamidbar 22:5)
The bounded advertence is obscure: Area is Petor? Which river is this? From the context, the river in catechism seems well-known. The Ibn Ezra6 takes this absolute advertence to be none added than Aram Naharaim, the Aramite “city amid the rivers” (i.e., in the basin formed by the affair of the Tigris and Euphrates: Mesopotamia). The Ibn Ezra utilizes addition ballad to accomplish this identification:
An Ammonite or Moavite shall not access into the aggregation of God; to their tenth bearing shall they not access into the aggregation of God forever; Because they did not accommodated you with aliment and with baptize on the way, aback you came out of Egypt; and because they assassin adjoin you Bil’am the son of Beor of Petor of Aram Naharaim, to anathema you. (Dvarim 23:4,5)
Bil’am’s abode of agent is declared as Aram Naharaim, which is additionally Avraham’s birthplace. Aback allurement his assistant to accompany aback a wife for his son from his hometown, Avraham sends his assistant to this aforementioned place, Aram Naharaim:7
And I will accomplish you affirm by the Almighty, the God of Heaven and Earth, that you shall not booty a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, amid whom I live; But you shall go to my country, and to my family, and booty a wife for my son Yitzhak.”…And the assistant took ten of his master’s band and departed, with the best of his master’s appurtenances in his hand; and he arose, and went to Aram Naharaim, to the burghal of Nahor. (Bereishit 24:3-10)
In fact, the river that appears in the description of Bil’am’s home is absolutely an important aspect of Avraham’s identity, a defining characteristic: Avraham is declared as accepting appear from “the added ancillary of the river”: he is “Avraham “haIvri” (Latinized, this appellation has become a accustomed name for Avraham and his Israelite descendents – “Hebrew”).8 This description has consistently been accepted as added than a geographic quirk; it describes a actual basal and capital aspect of Avraham’s faith.
“…and told Avram ha’Ivri…” R. Yehudah said: [ha’Ivri signifies that] the accomplished apple was on one ancillary (’ever) while he was on the added ancillary (’ever)… The Rabbis said: It agency that he came from aloft the river. (Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 42:8)
The accouchement of Lot and the accouchement of Keturah knew of the airy ability of the Bodies of Israel; they knew that a accepted beforehand would be futile. They accepted that the alone way to defeat those who bore the absolution of Avraham would be to annex a new “Avraham”, to supplant Avraham, and appropriately breach the affiliation amid the Jewish Bodies and the Acreage of Israel. To this end, they acknowledgment to the aforementioned ancestry ground, Avraham’s hometown aloft the river, and seek out the allegorical Bil’am, accepted for his airy prowess, in the achievement that he ability be able of accident the blessings and arete accrued by Avraham.
Unfortunately for them and auspiciously for us – Bil’am was alone an “Avraham wannabe”9. He was a counterfeit. The accurate clairvoyant will agenda abundant arcane references to Avraham in Bil’am’s soliloquies, as able-bodied as anecdotal parallels amid the Torah’s altercation of Avraham and the adventure of Bil’am. These are not accidental: they are allotment of the angel Bil’am anxiously able as the “second coming”10 of Avraham.
And I will absolve those who absolve you, and he that blame you I will curse; and in you shall all the families of the apple be blessed.’ (Bereishit 12:3)
Come now therefore, amuse anathema this Bodies for me; for they are too boss for me; conceivably (thus) I shall prevail, that we may agonize them, and that I may drive them out of the land; for I apperceive that he whom you absolve is blessed, and he whom you anathema is cursed.’ (Bamidbar 22:6)
And Avraham rose aboriginal in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his adolescent men with him, and Yitzhak his son; and he broken the copse for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went to the abode of which God had told him. (Bereishit 22:3)
And Bil’am rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moav. (Bamidbar 22:21)
Bil’am, like Avraham, rises aboriginal in the morning and mounts his donkey, admitting while Avraham prayed for his enemies,11 Bil’am hopes to anathema his enemies. The plan hatched by Moav and Midian did not work, could never work: There was alone one Avraham, admitting all of flesh are arrive to chase his agency and teachings. Bil’am was a fake, admitting his efforts in cultivating an Avraham-like persona and mystique; those who assassin him were taken in by his reputation, and were hardly aghast aback there was annihilation abaft his self-made facade. The irony is that aback he had the befalling to anathema the bodies he was not accustomed to do so, and in the end he adored them – aloof as Avraham would accept wanted. This cessation is appropriately fitting: God armament Bil’am to absolve the Israelites, abrogation him (and us) with some important lessons: If you ambition to be like Avraham, be a being of substance, not of alveolate reputation. See the Bodies of Israel through Avraham’s eyes, and absolve them – as he would have.
Avraham’s ability lay in his aspect as a absolution to the Jews and to all of humanity, the antecedent of airy broad-mindedness that cannot be askance or perverted. The accuracy Avraham approved and found, the absolute and connected accord with God he established, will consistently flash through the black advance by airy pretenders, apocryphal messiahs, broke philosophies. This truth, and the airy ability that accredit and empower those who adhere to it, are the bequeathal affiliated by Avraham’s son Yitzchak, and his grandson Ya’akov, and their descendents. It is a bequeathal accessible to any of the descendents of Shem, Cham and Yefet who seek it in earnest.
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