Dvar Torah for Parshat (Chukat-) Balak
Based on The Book of Current Events 6:30
“I would have killed you and let her lived” (Numbers 22:33). Rashi
comments: But now that she [the donkey] bested you [Balaam] in debate, she will die, so that people won’t so, “Hey, this is [the donkey] that outsmarted Balaam!” The Ubiquitous One cares about the dignity of [even] the rabble.
Most of us don’t even realize and most that do don’t understand it, but if we would let God—the Blessed Creator, Who watches and takes care of everything with a kind and loving eye—arrange everyone’s financial circumstances without our illicit tampering with same, the universe would run much more smoothly. If we would freely choose to share and even give away our wealth, that would make life splendid.
But if we freely choose to take what is someone else’s, well, the one who says, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, is a villain”
(Avot 5:13). It’s not easy to not take what doesn’t belong to us.
Almost no one (schlemiels and shlemazels excluded) has Teflon hands.
Quite the opposite. Nearly everyone has some some stickum on his hands that picks up the other guy’s stuff.
So we can’t be too critical even of those who choose to be greedy, God spare us. Certainly ill-gotten gains need to be returned when possible. Certainly anyone who has violated the trust of others and caused them to suffer should feel deep remorse. And while it’s difficult, if not darn right impossible, to not wish harm and a slow, painful death on those who cruelly or unfairly made (or make) us suffer, we know that a correct Jewish attitude means recognizing that even our oppressors’ crimes are mitigated by any good that they may have done for us. (See Deuteronomy 23:8-9.)
Even Balaam, a poster child for greed and arrogance (Avot 5:22), benefits from God’s compassion. Before we sharpen our knives and words for thieves and Ponzi-schemers, let us remind ourselves that as reprehensible as they are, they are not worse than Balaam. Let us remember that as reprehensible as they are, they may have provided us (or others) with income and benefits that would not have been enjoyed otherwise.
Rightful punishments do have to be meted out, not to make our world worse, but to fix and improve it.
© Copyright 2009 Breslov Research Institute