2-½ minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9
Several months ago I was leaving a parking lot and got stuck behind a women who didn’t know how to use the credit card exit system. After about ten minutes I went to help her. As I walked up the parking lot attendant arrived and took charge of the situation. Returning to my car, the passenger in the car behind mine got out and ordered me to move on. I replied I was helping the lady. His response (read on) was like the one Balak chose in this week’s parsha, Balak:
And now, go please and curse this people for me, for it is too powerful for me… (Numbers/Bamidbar 22:6)
This Sabbath’s parsha tells the story of how Balak, the king of Moab, attempted to have Bilaam, one of the greatest prophets of all time, curse the Children of Israel. It includes my wife’s favorite story in Scripture, the talking donkey. The parsha ends with Pinchas spearing Prince Zimri and his Mindianite lover at the entrance to the Tenant of Meeting.
The Fundamental Biblical Concept
Several common themes can be seen throughout the Bible. Most prominent is G-d’s kingship. He gives instructions about how to live our lives. Another gets to the core of Balak’s appearance in the narrative. As you might recall, Moab was the child of Lot and his daughter. In spite of such a sordid beginning, he prospered and built a great nation. As king of the nation of Moab, Balak had wealth and power. He commanded the respect of his people and neighboring rulers.
Like any human being, Balak’s life was a series of choices. To what purpose would he put his wealth? How would he use his power? Each day he confronted these questions. The courses of action he took reveal his character.
So it is for every person. The choices you make each day tell people what kind of person you are. What you decide to say and do trumps any claims you make about integrity.
How to Feel You’re Improving
Balak felt threatened by the Israelites. He knew G-d treasured them. Perhaps he was jealous. He had two choices:
- Take action to improve himself.
- Denigrate the Israelites so he’d feel better by comparison.
Had Balak chosen option one he would be remembered as a great man. Sadly he chose to attack the Children of Israel. The origin of Balak’s name attests to G-d’s verdict. Had he pursued self-improvement he might have been remembered as the devastator of sin. Instead, balaq means to waste or lay waste.
At times you’ll feel threatened or jealous. Such emotions are common. Anytime they challenge you your choices are the same as Balak’s.
The passenger who ordered me to move must have felt intimidated by my trying to help the confused woman. He lashed out at me saying, “Old man you’re too weak to help yourself let alone anyone else.” I was tempted to ask him, “Do you feel you’re improving yourself?”
I doubt you’d voice such a harsh putdown. But vocal tone and facial expression can do the same thing without words. In an unguarded moment do you make yourself feel you’re improving at someone else’s expense? You may feel like you’re boosting your self-confidence. But such gains are illusory. You just FEEL better. You aren’t better.
Choose actual self-improvement. When someone makes you feel jealous make then an example to strive for. Genuine self-esteem is built from real accomplishments.
How do you guard against feeling like you’ve improved at others’ expense? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!