|Table Talk: Balak|
The Power of Acknowledgement: Balak hired Balaam to curse the Children of Israel. He offered sacrifices in order to win God’s favor and earn Divine help in his mission, and yet, despite his intentions, earns great merit: Balak’s sacrifices earned him the merit to have Ruth, the Mother of the King, as a granddaughter! My father zt”l explained that the acknowledgement that God listens and responds to us, and has the power to grant our requests is a great accomplishment. It was enough of an accomplishment to earn Balak such great merit. Our prayers must be based on those acknowledgements: God listens, God cares, God responds, and God has the power to grant our requests.
“”Behold, the people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself as a lion.” (Numbers 23:24) Balaam foretold that Israel would begin its conquest of the land and, like a lion, grow increasingly powerful. The Sages felt that this verse was so fundamental to Judaism that they wanted to include it as part of the Shema! They felt that, since we do not quote a verse without its entire paragraph, and this verse is part of a lengthy section, that it would be a “burden for the congregation” to include it in Shema. Rav Kook (Ein Iyah, Berachot) explains that the “burden” considered by the Sages was not actually the length of the quote, but the emotional pain it would cause Jews who were politically and militarily weak, such as the Jews living in ghettoes. They would not be able to recite a description of Israel as a mighty and powerful nation while living in such a weakened state. Rav Kook’s powerful idea raises an interesting question: Now, when we have shown that we can and will fight as lions, shall we add this idea to Shema?