Parshas Balak

This Shabbos we read Parshas Balak. In the Parsha we read of the story of Bilam, the evil prophet who had a power to curse people and have his curses fulfilled. Our Sages tell us that he was the only person whose level of prophecy was on the level of Moses. Nonetheless, in his personal life he lived a most immoral life. How is it that a person who was an immoral being could have such a strong power in his words?

Our Sages explain that Bilams power was that he knew how to identify the moment that his curse could be effective. They explain that Hashem gets “angry” every day, for a minute period of time. A curse made in this small window of time would be effective. Bilam knew how to find this window of time, and thereby was able to have his curses come true.

What does this mean that Hashem gets “angry”? Does Hashem have “emotions”? What does it mean that a curse uttered at this time is effective? Why should the words uttered by such a vile person have any affect whatsoever? In the same way we can ask, what is the concept of an “evil eye”? Why does one who speaks badly about someone (Lashon Hara) cause bad to both himself and to the person that he speaks about?

Maimonides explains that whenever the Torah uses an example such as the “hand of Hashem”, the “anger” of Hashem, the “jealousy” of Hashem, it is just trying to help us understand what Hashem is doing in terms that we can relate to. If we act in a certain way when we are angry, then the Torah is teaching us that Hashem acted in the way that we would ascribe to someone who is angry.

We are taught that Hashem has set up the way He judges the world in the same way that human beings operate courts in this world. Just as a court in this world can only try a case when there is a prosecutor bringing forth charges against a defendant, so too the heavenly court only convenes when a charge is brought forth against someone. An “evil eye” can arouse accusation (kitrug) against someone. Do they really deserve what they have? Lashon Hara – Bad mouthing someone, when it is true, can also cause the Heavenly court to examine the persons deeds. When we say that Hashem has that moment in the day that He is “angry”, this means that there is that moment of the day that He judges the world with strict judgment. At that moment if a curse is uttered, it can cause terrible damage to the person being cursed. This was the power of Bilam – to take advantage of that moment and to use his mouth for evil.

The power of those who oppose Bilam is to find positive, good things to say about Jews, especially when there are moments of stress, of anger, or when things are not easy. This can bring blessing and peace to the entire Jewish people and to the world.