This week’s Torah portion (in Israel) is Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9), and it we read about the evil plot of Balak, the King of Moav, and Bilaam, the evil prophet, to destroy the Jewish people through witchcraft.
There is an interesting story in circulation about the colorful Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein of Bnei Brak, Israel, in relation to this week’s Torah portion.
Rabbi Zilberstein was once a guest at the home of a newly married couple. In the couple’s home was an elaborate and beautiful gold armchair located at the head of the dining room table. The chair was simply magnificent and spectacular. It resembled a throne. Rabbi Zilberstein asked the couple what such a fancy chair was doing in their home. The young man responded, “I learned that the husband and wife in a marriage are similar to a king and a queen. As such, I figured that if my wife is supposed to view me as her king, then a throne-like chair, resembling the property of a king, is certainly in order!”
Rabbi Zilberstein was not impressed with the young man’s thinking and his response, to say the least. He quoted this week’s Torah portion as follows:
“Balak, the son of Zippor, saw all that the Israelites had done to the Emorites. [The people of] Moav were very frightened of the Israelites because they were powerful, and Moav was disgusted by the Children of Israel. Moav said to the elders of Midian, ‘The Israelites will chew up our entire surroundings as an ox chews up the greenery of the field.”
The narration continues: “And Balak son of Zippor was king of Moav at that time.” [Num 22:2-4]
Rabbi Zilberstein pointed out that this seems to be a very odd way to narrate this exchange. It would have made more sense to begin the narration by letting us know that Balak was the king of Moav. Instead, it is the last piece of information provided.
The Evil Balak was a Good King
The rabbi explained that the number one task of a king is to take care of his people. That’s it. Not to hold fancy dinners, not to ride around in fancy cars, nor to ensure that his servants are answering his every beck and call. The role of a king is to ensure the welfare of his people and see to their interests.
The Torah is bringing it to our attention that no matter how bad Balak was, he was a very good king. He cared about his people. He wanted to “protect” them from the Israelites. He was looking after his people’s interests. His people came first and that he would do whatever he could to protect them. He was the role model of a good king.
That’s why the Torah worded the narration as it did, in order to make us realize that Balak earned his position of king.
Rabbi Zilberstein then told his young host, “So, too, if you want to be the king in your home, the first thing you need to do is act like a king. Your palace is your home and your ‘subjects’ are your wife and your family. After you demonstrate your worry and concern for their needs and problems, then you may claim the title of ‘King’ and sit on your throne.
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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