11 Tamuz 5767 /June 27th 2007
At first glance at the opening of parashat Balak it seems that the fear of the Moabites towards Am Yisrael is a result of the Jewish nation winning the war against the Amorites. (See Numbers, chapter 21, verses 21-35.) This always bothered me because if you read the verses carefully there shouldn’t really be any reason for this fear. The Jewish approach from the beginning towards the Amorites was one of tremendous humility; they showed no aggressiveness whatsoever. All they did was request permission to pass over the Amorite territory, and they even declared that they would not enter their fields or vineyards or drink their water. Only when the Moabites attacked, Am Yisrael was forced to take up arms in self defense.
What other nation of the world behaves this way? Why then were the Moabites terrified? If we look in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 2, verse 9, we see that Moshe is commanded not to make war on the Moabites. This strengthens our premise that there was no reason for the Moabites to fear a physical attack from the Jewish nation. Interestingly, there is only one other time in the bible that the Hebrew word “Vayagur,” used here for fear, is mentioned in this form. This is in the book of Samuel 1, chapter 18, verse 15, “Vayaar Shaul asher hu maskil meod Vayagur mipanav.” When Saul saw that David was so successful, he was afraid of him. Obviously Saul wasn’t afraid that David would kill him. David had had quite a few opportunities to harm Saul, and never did so. Nonetheless, after David killed Goliyat the Philistine and earned the praise of the Jewish women, King Saul could not hold back his jealous rage. Deep down he knew that he was going to loose his throne to David and there would be no future royalty for his son Yonatan. This is clearly outlined in that same chapter, verse 10, where it says that “It came to pass the next day and an evil spirit of G-d came upon Saul and he prophesized in his house.” Instead of connecting himself with the source of holiness, Saul was drawing upon evil spiritual forces which damaged his prophecy and resulted in a jealous rage. With this in mind let us return to our Torah portion. It must be that the Moabite’s fear originated some kind of jealousy. What could this jealousy possibly stem from? Why be jealous of a nation of former slaves that have not yet settled on a piece of land?
This issue can be illuminated by an important concept that is brought down in Talmudic and Medrashic literature – “Af Al Gav Di-eenhu Lo Chaziu Mazalayhu Chazu.” This is an Aramaic expression meaning that although they did not see, their Mazal (fate) saw. In other words there are times when a person has an inner feeling that can guide, motivate, or disturb him. This feeling is coming from the upper worlds and is connected to the individual’s spiritual world.
A classic example is brought down in the Shla , written by Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz (born in Prague 1558 and died in Tzfat in 1628). In parashat Lech Lecha, chapter 14, the Torah tells us about the great war of the four kings against the five kings and the kidnapping of Lot. The Shlah Hakodesh asks , Why was Lot taken captive? Nine nations are busy in battle; how did they find the time to pay attention to Lot! In truth Lot was the real reason that the four kings went to war. Here I have to briefly introduce another important concept in Judaism – “Arba Malchuyot” – the four kingdoms. The goal of the four kingdoms is to turn the world away from G-d. Just as a central point has four basic directions that lead away from it–east, west, north, and south– the aim of the four nations is to nullify the kingdom of G-d, the central point of the cosmos, thus preventing the redemption from taking place. (See Maharal Mi’ Prague in his book Ner Mitzva , Rabbi Yehuda Leva Ben Betzalel, born in 1515 and died in Prague in 1609.) With this in mind we can now understand why it was so important for the four kings to kidnap Lot. The four nations were being led by the evil force of the four kings. Their mission was to prevent the redemption from taking place, the seeds of which were planted in Lot. The Mazal of the kings knew, just as we know now, that king David is a direct descendent of Lot. (See Genesis 19:30-37.) In the same vein, we can now answer the question I began with – what were the Moabites afraid of. The goal of the Jewish nation is to honor G-d by building His throne. “This nation I created for me to declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21) Building the throne of G-d is a long process that can come about only after the Jewish nation returns to the Promised Land, restores the house of David, and builds the temple. Then prophecy will return to the land and the entire world will know that there is a G-d! The Moabites were also guided by this same evil force that wants to prevent the house of David and the Mashiach from coming about, thus preventing the throne of G-d from being actualized.
This same evil force is still trying to prevent Israel’s redemption. In the last decade we have been fighting a growing battle to hold on to our precious holy land. There are evil forces trying their best to prevent the Jewish nation from fulfilling its mission. Those of you who are supporting communities like Itamar are literally a major factor in winning the battle against the four kings.
Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith