Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Balak

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand noted that Parshas Balak contains the berachos/klallos that Bilam was hired to give the Jewish people. Chazal teach that Bilam was a prophet, and in fact was on the level of Moshe Rabbeinu based on his level of nevius. Rashi explains that the reason why Hashem gave Bilam superior powers of prophecy (without Bilam possessing the qualities which justify receipt of nevuah as listed in the Rambam) was to preempt the other nations' potential claim that if they had nevi'im they would have reached the level of the Jewish people. Therefore, Hashem gave them a navi, but they used Bilaam to allow them to be mafkir their women for znus to seduce the Jews.

The question that remains is - how is this a level playing field? Moshe was a tzaddik, so people listened. Bilam was not on the same level of demanding respect as Moshe as he was on a low moral level. How can Bilam = Moshe to make the situation equal?

R' Frand answered the question by quoting R' Ya'akov Galinsky who theorized that a navi is never greater than the people he preaches to. If there is a high level of society - they will get a high level prophet. However, if the society is depraved, they will get a depraved prophet like Bilam. This can be seen by the sin of the golden calf - Moshe is told to go down and see the Jews. But Rashi explains that this means that Moshe should go down from his high level - because when the people fall, the navi falls. Similarly, by the kohen it says in Vayikra that the one who is annointed will fall if the people fall.

R' Frand next brought a proof by citing to the story of the battle between the Jews and Amalek. The mishna in Rosh Hashana asked on the story - did the fact that Moshe's hands were raised cause the Jews to succeed in battle? The answer is that no, it was not Moshe's hands. Rather, when the Jews were doing Hashem's will, then Moshe was able to raise his hands and they would succeed in battle. When the Jews faltered, then Moshe lost some of his strength.

R' Frand then stated in the name of R Galinsky that Moshe and Bilam had the same potential. Bilam did not need to become a degenerate. Rather, Bilam became what he was as a reflection of the people.

R' Frand then quoted a medrash which states that Hashem showed Moshe all of the generations of the Jews. This included the tzadikim as well as the thieves and criminals of each generation. Why does Moshe need to know this? Because Moshe asked, why were there no prophets after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash? To this Hashem responded - look at this generation! The navi is dependent on his generation to achieve his potential. In the potential, Bilam could have been Moshe, but he was restrained by his audience.

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