Friday, July 7, 2017
Balak and Bilaam, Abbas and the UN
On Shabbat, July 8, 2017, Jews around the world will read a section of Torah called, Balak (Bamidbar 22:2-25:9). In this Parsha (Torah portion), we learn how king Balak of the nation of Moav sought help from a 'higher authority' to destroy the Jewish nation. It's a story that teaches us something about how Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas uses the United Nations in his own attempt to destroy the Jewish nation.
The Biblical nation of Moav was situated close to the southwestern corner of what is today Jordan. Moav's far-west border was the eastern shore of today's Dead Sea. By the time the nation of Israel (the Biblical 'children of Israel') approached Moav on its way to the land of Canaan, Moav had been conquered by the Amorite King Sichon, and had become a satellite territory of the Amorite Sichon (Rabbi Mattityahu Clark, "Sichon conquers Moav", yeshiva.co, 2014).
In his commentary on the Torah, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) sets the scene for the opening of the story of Balak in his Hirsch commentary on the Torah (translated into English by Isaac Levy, Judaica Press, 1966, volume 5 , Bamidbar, pp. 389-95). Hirsch writes that, as the Torah story of Balak opens, Moav was terrified by the Jews' approach (ibid). They had good reason to be terrified. The Jews had conquered the powerful Sichon, the powerful leader who had conquered Moav. Now , this mighty Jew-nation was coming towards them (ibid).
Balak hated the Jews. He wanted to destroy them. But he was powerless. Alone, he knew he couldn't win a fight against them.
So he went to the nation of Midian, looking for help. Together, Balak and the Midianites came up with a plan. They would fight the Jews by looking for one who had 'higher powers'--the sorcerer, Bilaam. It was believed Bilaam had the power to work 'magic' for Balak (ibid).
Balak would hire Bilaam for his unique talents. Bilaam would curse the Jews. Those curses would weaken the Jews sufficiently that Moav and Midian could conquer them.
That was the plan. Since Bilaam's reputation was, shall we say, world-class, it looked like an excellent plan.
Balak hired Bilaam . He instructed the man to curse the Jews.
Today, we live through our own Balak-Bilaam story. This time, however, it's not Moav--or Jordan--and a world-class sorcerer (Bilaam) trying to destroy the Jewish nation. This time, it's Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) seeking out its own 'higher authority'--the United Nations--to curse Israel sufficiently to make Israel weak enough to be destroyed by Abbas and his allies.
Bilaam's attempts to curse the Jews failed. HaShem, the G-d of Israel, changed the words coming out of Bilaam's mouth from curses to blessings. These blessings infuriated Balak, who tried again and again to get curses to come from Bilaam. Each time, however, Bilaam failed.
The same thing happens today to Israel at the UN. For example, Abbas got his Arab-Muslim friends at the UN to curse the Jews by voting to declare the Temple Mount has never been Jewish, but Islamic. That curse failed.
As soon as the successful vote took place, nothing changed. Israel still holds onto the Temple Mount--and more Jews now ascend the Mount than before that vote.
Abbas got the UN to create a report that declared Israel an Apartheid state. That curse failed.
As soon as the report was published, the Secretary-General of the UN ordered it removed from the UN webpage. The report disappeared as if it never existed.
Abbas got the UN to curse the Jewish state by declaring the Jews have no sovereignty over major parts of Jerusalem. That curse failed.
As soon as the curse occurred (a successful vote against Israel sovereignty), nothing changed. Israel denounced the UN declaration and stated it will continue to hold sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.
Abbas got the UN to sever all Jewish ties to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron. The UN has now declared that this site is no longer Jewish ("UNESCO declares Tomb of Jewish Patriarchs a 'Palestinian World Heritage site", jewishpress, July 7, 2017).
This last curse happened just today, July 7, 2017. It's too early to report a fallout from this UN vote.
Nevertheless, we see a pattern here: as happened with Balak, Abbas and his UN cronies have completely failed to move Israel one centimeter out of Israel. The curses fall on Israel with no effect.
All of this is a modern replay of our Torah story of Balak and Bilaam. A man comes to curse the Jews in order to help destroy what is Jewish. But HaShem, the G-d of Israel, protects his beloved. The man who seeks to destroy the Jewish nation fails.
But in today's world, these curses still have an impact. As HaShem told our Patriarch Avraham, those who curse you will be cursed themselves.
That's exactly what has happened. Look at the Jewish Israel. It thrives as a modern and successful nation in a sea of misery. It is truly blessed.
Look at the Palestinian Authority. It lives right next door to Israel. It shares the same drought and the same harsh sun. It doesn't thrive. It withers. It wallows in poverty and Olympian-like corruption. It is cursed.
Abbas asks the UN to help him curse Israel. He pays a Biblical price for his Jew-hate.
Will he never learn?