July 14, 2022 / 15 Tammuz, 5782 • Parshat Balak
Issue 726
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Balak, the king of Moab, heard how the Jewish people miraculously overcame the two powerful Amorite kings, Sichon and Og. He became terrified that the Jews would now attack his country. Even though it was common knowledge that G-d had not promised the Jews the territory of Moab, Balak feared that their recent victories over these kings would embolden them to exact revenge from the Moabites for not having allowed them to pass through their country on the way to the Land of Israel.

Due to Balak’s predictions, Moab became terrified of the Jewish people:

Numbers 22:3

Balak had nothing to gain by making the Moabites afraid of the Jewish people. As the Torah will recount, he did not ask them to do anything to counter the supposed threat posed by the Jews. But inasmuch as “the wicked are ruled by their hearts,” he could not contain himself, and needlessly spread fear among his people.

In contrast, although Moses was afraid of King Og, he did not disclose his fear to the Jewish people. Moses realized that he must refrain from doing anything that would weaken the people’s morale, and instead bolstered his own inner morale. Because of his positive attitude and steadfast trust in G-d, he successfully preserved the Jewish people’s self-image and pride in their Divine mission.

Moses knew that we earn G-d’s helpful intervention in our lives by trusting Him to provide it. Moses set the standard of fearless behavior for all Jewish leaders who would succeed him.

We are all leaders, to one degree or another, whether in the context of our jobs, our families, or our circle of friends. We should learn from Moses’ example, taking care to foster others’ optimism and confidence in their Divine mission, rather than the opposite, as did Balak.

—from Daily Wisdom