S.A.L.T. - Friday
Parashat Balak begins by telling of the fear which gripped the nation of Moav in the wake of Benei Yisrael’s stunning military victory over the neighboring Emorite kingdoms. The government of Moav consulted with the leaders of Midyan in an effort to devise a strategy, and Balak, the king of Moav, decided to summon Bilam to place a curse upon Benei Yisrael.
Rashi (22:4), citing the Midrash Tanchuma, comments that the nations of Moav and Midyan were actually arch enemies, and had waged fierce wars against one another. However, their shared fear of Benei Yisrael prompted them to abandon their hatred and cooperate in order to confront the perceived threat.
Rav Kalonymus Kalman Epstein, in Ma’or Va-shemesh, suggests a deeper explanation of the Midrash’s comments. He notes that in Moav’s message delivered to Midyan expressing its fear of Benei Yisrael, Moav says, “Now this assembly will lick up all our surroundings like an ox licks all the vegetation in the field” (22:4) – referring to Benei Yisrael with the term “kahal” (“assembly”). This word, the Ma’or Va-shemesh writes, denotes a sense of unity and togetherness. He explains that Moav and Midyan realized that Benei Yisrael’s supernatural victory over the powerful Emorite kingdoms was achieved in the merit of their unity, the peace and harmony that prevailed among the nation. In response, these two enemy nations decided to work together, following Benei Yisrael’s example, in the hope that they could thereby access the great merit of unity and peace. However, the Ma’or Va-shemesh writes, this alliance was not sincere, and amounted to nothing more than a mere external resemblance to the actual, real peace and harmony that existed among Benei Yisrael.
The Ma’or Va-shemesh’s comments teach that peace and unity require more than mere lip service and outward, ceremonial expressions of friendship. Achieving true unity means genuine care and concern for one another, and respecting one another despite significant differences. A union formed out of purely practical interests, or simply in the name of “unity,” does not suffice. We become a “kahal” worthy of God’s special protection and assistance when we bond together out of a true sense of kinship, with a willingness to give of ourselves for one another, and with the understanding that even those from whom we differ and with whom we disagree can be deserving of our affection and admiration.
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