Devar Torah for Parshas Balak 5781

Standing Up For G-d

At the very end of this week’s parsha, Balak, the gentile prophet Bilaam failed to curse the Jews, but came up with another plan: To seduce them. King Balak even volunteered his gentile daughter, who then successfully seduced Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Shimon. (FYI: The Code of Jewish Law rules that having sexual relations with a gentile is punishable by karet – being cut off from the Jewish people).

Unfortunately, the Jews just watched this action, but did not do or say anything!

But one man did stand up. Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon the Kohen. He got his spear and stabbed it through Zimri and his seducer while they were in the act, thereby saving G-d’s honor. We’ll learn in next week’s parsha that G-d praised Pinchas for this act.

What can we learn from this act?

First, Pinchas was not a “Guardian Angel” or “Rambo” type, walking around with his machine gun ready to take action. He had to get his spear – he didn’t carry it with him.

We also need to be “normal” and not walk around in public trying to provoke a fight. I have seen people first-hand who have taken a gun and walked in dangerous areas (when they didn’t need to go in these areas) with the gun clearly visible, in order to provoke a wicked person to do a wicked action so that the gun holder could respond. That is not what Pinchas did, and it is not what we should do.

But in the crazy world in which we live, there are more times when we see our fellow Jew sinning. No, we don’t take a spear and stab him in the heart. But we need to stand up for what is right and try to get this Jew to return to the path of Torah.

The Gemora brings down that Pharaoh asked three advisors what to do with the Jews. One said to kill them. One ran away. And the third said nothing.

The one who ran away was rewarded. We can assume that in his situation he was unable to convince Pharaoh to act properly. The one who said to kill them was eventually punished.

But the one who said nothing was also punished severely. Saying nothing gives a “stamp of approval” to the wicked ideas that these people spew.

When we put this idea together with the first idea, we should try to convince our fellow Jew to do the right thing. But if it is not possible or practical to get him to change, and we are silent in his presence while he blatantly sins, then we are also guilty and will be punished. So with no other options, get out of that situation so as to not appear as a sinner.

Wishing you all a good Shabbos!


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