“My people, remember
what Balak king of Moab plotted
and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.” — Micah 6:5
The Torah portion for this week is Balak, after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2–25:9, and the Haftorah is from Micah 5:6–6:8.
In this week’s Haftorah taken from the book of Micah, God presented a case against Israel. The gist of it was that God had been kind, loving, and generous with the people and asked very little in return. Yet, in spite of this, the Israelites had gone astray. In this context, God reminded the people of a kindness that He had given to their ancestors, which is also the focal point of this week’s Torah reading. God said, “My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered.”
In our Torah portion we read about how the king of Moab had hired Balaam to curse the children of Israel in order to weaken them so he could defeat them. However, after several attempts to do so, Balaam was unsuccessful. The Jewish sages teach that Balaam, although evil, had been granted levels of prophecy and power known only to Moses. He was extremely capable of performing this task. Yet, when he wanted to curse God’s chosen people, Balaam couldn’t get the words out of his mouth. Instead, he was forced by God to praise Israel and bless them, furthering their prosperity.
What an amazing demonstration of how God fights our battles for us! It reminds me of the story of Esther when Haman, who wanted to destroy his archenemy Mordecai, was forced to parade him around town on the king’s horse while Mordecai was dressed in the king’s royal garments. Haman had intended to harm Mordecai – he had already built the gallows on which to hang Mordecai – but God arranged for Haman to promote Mordecai, and Haman was ultimately hung by the noose made with own hands.
So often we get caught up in worrying about what people say and think about us. We waste so much energy trying to predict what people might say or do to harm us. However, these verses inspire us to leave those things to God. That’s not our job – it’s His. What can we really do about what other people think or say about us anyway?
So what is our job? A few verses later we read: “ . . .what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Our job is to be honest, kind, humble, and God-centered.
Next time you catch yourself worrying about what others might say or think about you, let it go and cast your worries to God. He will fight our battles and ensure justice. Then we can focus on our job – and let God do His.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President