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Parashat Balak - 5777

Dear friends,

As the Children of Israel approach the Promised Land, neighbors to the East of the Jordan worry that Israel will also conquer their land. Balak, the King of Moab, shares his concerns with his advisors. Knowing that they cannot defeat Israel militarily, they decide to use curses, magic and sorcery to defeat Israel.

Balaam, a prophet from Midian, was known throughout the area as one who had the power to bless or curse, and whatever he spoke would come to pass. Balak sends a delegation to invite Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. G-d appears to Balaam and tells him that He does not permit him to go and curse Israel because Israel is blessed.

Balak sends another delegation, this one being made up of important dignitaries, and promises much honor and reward if Balaam would only come and see for himself. Maybe he would be inclined to curse the people. G-d finally allows Balaam to go, but on condition that he would only say whatever words G-d puts in his mouth. Balaam cannot refuse the opportunity to become rich and famous, even though several road blocks are placed in his way on the way to Moab.

Balaam makes Balak build seven altars and sacrifices an ox and a ram on each one. He still cannot curse the people. When he opens his mouth, a blessing comes out. Balak takes him to two more locations where he can have a better view of Israel's camp. Seven altars are again built and more animals are sacrificed at each location, but Balaam is unable to utter curses.

On all three occasions when he tried to curse Israel so he can get his reward, blessings come out instead of curses.

Balaam in Rabbinic literature is known as 'Balaam Harasha' - 'Balaam the wicked'. Since he was unable to curse but was forced to bless, why do we call him 'the wicked'? In his pursuit of wealth and fame, he was blinded, and became a collaborator of Balak, against G-d's will, by agreeing to try different locations from where he could curse Israel.

Israel's history repeats itself. Unable to defeat Israel militarily, the Palestinians and their collaborators have tried at different forums and at different locations to condemn (curse) Israel, and isolate it from the family of nations. We have also heard much of the shameful BDS efforts and the United Nations' numerous resolutions against Israel. And just today, the Palestinians - today's Balak/Balaam - have done it again. They convinced UNESCO to declare the Cave of Machpela in the City of Hebron as a Palestinian heritage.

The story of the Cave of Machpelah in the City of Hebron goes back all the way to the Book of Genesis, where it is related in detail how Abraham acquired this place for a full price, in front of the entire community, as a burying place for his family. Our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are buried there. The names of our founding parents are uttered in our prayers three times a day.

But this UN body blindly follows the wishes of the modern day Balak and Balaam and distorts Jewish history by denying a three thousand-year legacy of the Jewish people.

I liked what Israel's ambassador to UNESCO said during this vote. His phone rang several times which he answered, explaining to the UNESCO delegates that it was more important for him to take this call from his plumber regarding a clogged toilet than to listen to the nonsense of these deliberations which are a total distortion of the truth.

Just like Balaam's curses turned to blessings, let's hope that all the UN resolutions and UNESCO's classifications against Israel will amount to nothing.

Shabbat Shalom,