First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/balak-beware-the-curse/
Netziv Numbers: Balak
Beware the Curse
“An orphan’s curse would drag to hell, a spirit from on high; but oh! more horrible than that, is a curse in a dead man’s eye!” -Samuel Taylor Coleridge
An enemy with a slightly greater understanding of God’s relationship to the Jewish people rises up against us. Balak the King of Moab, fears the Israelite approach to his kingdom. Though Israel merely wants to pass by peacefully and God has ordered Moses not to fight the Moabites, Balak nonetheless hires a powerful man to help with his struggle against Israel.
Balak understands that physical force cannot prevail against the Jewish nation. Therefore, he hires the sorcerer Bilaam, who is reputed to have the power to effectively curse whom he wants. What follows is an ironic, comical and embarrassing tale of Bilaam attempting to curse Israel and in three successive attempts, with God’s direct involvement – blessings come out of Bilaam’s mouth to the great chagrin of Balak.
The Netziv on Numbers 22:11 explains that the plan of this diabolical duo was faulty in its spiritual understanding. The Netziv states that curses only work where there is sin. At that moment in the desert when Bilaam set out to curse Israel, he could not see or find any sin. His attempts to curse would prove ineffective because there was no negative spiritual act for it to take a hold off.
To the memory of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali for whom we mourn deeply.