This past Shabbos, while reviewing the portion of Balak I came across a subtle but striking comment of Rashi that captures a defense mechanism which people use when they wish to disregard G-d or take G-dliness out of the picture.

The Torah relates that Balak hired the non-Jewish prophet, Bilaam, to curse the Jews. G-d communicated with Bilaam instructing him not to go along with Balak. Bilaam insisted on going and G-d told him he can go but only if he does as told. Bilaam instructed Balak to build altars and offer sacrifices while Bilaam meditated with the hope of being allowed to curse the Jews.

At one point the Torah relates that when Bilaam came back to Balak, Balak asked him, “What did G-d say?” Rashi explains that Balak was saying this in a mocking manner, “Okay, what did G-d tell you? I see that you have no power on your own.”

Bilaam responds to Balak and tells him to stand up. Rashi explains that in response to Balak’s mockery of him, Bilaam tells Balak who had not been respectfully standing, “Get up stand on your feet; it is inappropriate to stay like this, when I am communicating a message from G-d.”

As bad and as decadent as Bilaam was in his personal life, he respected that he was in communication with G-d. So when he saw Balak talking and acting disparagingly, he immediately demanded respect. And Balak obeyed.

In this week’s Parsha, G-d lauded and gifted Pinchas for virtuously and zealously killing a Jewish tribal prince for being intimate with a Midyanite princess. Pinchas’ act halted a plague that destroyed the lives of 24,000 Jews as a punishment for this sin.

When the Torah introduces Pinchas who acted heroically, it mentions his father Elozar, as well as his grandfather Aaron the High Priest.

Why is it necessary for the Torah to mention his grandfather Aaron?

Our Sages tell us that even though Pinchas stopped the plague from continuing and taking additional lives, he did it through killing. People began poking fun at him saying, “Who is this person to act as he did? We question his sincerity since his maternal grandmother descended from Yisro – who had been an idolater.”

To put an end to any questions regarding Pinchas’ sincerity, G-d linked him to his paternal grandfather Aaron the High Priest who was known to bring Shalom – peace – between feuding and disgruntled people through his sincere efforts. So too, Pinchas’ act brought Shalom between G-d and the Jewish people.

Pinchas who had not been previously installed as a Kohain was duly rewarded by becoming a Kohain like his father and grandfather.

Even though it was clear as day that Pinchas’ act saved the day, still, human nature causes people to find fault in one’s character, Yichus – heredity, or intent.

Our Sages tell us that, “One wisecrack can dispel the impact of the most inspirational and rousing discourse.” Frivolous comments that dismiss the validity of a message or of a person often stymies one’s growth in spiritual matters. Offhand comments like, “it’s ridiculous,” “it’s a Bubbah Maasah”, “it makes no sense”, “it never happened”, or “it is false,” in response to one discussing G-d’s existence, the validity of Torah, Jewish history and law have been a root cause for many not to consider checking into their legitimacy. Thus people lose out on the opportunity to pursue, study and nurture our most sacred, valuable and eternal heritage.

People scrutinized Pinchas’ action because he was the only one that recalled the law that permitted him to kill the prince while he was intimate with the non-Jewish princess. This law requires one’s intentions to be purely for the sake of Heaven without any personal agenda.

Our Sages tell us that even Moshe had forgotten this law, and when Pinchas mentioned it to Moshe, Moshe told him, “Since you remembered it, you should act on it.” Moshe perceived Pinchas’ sincerity, yet others doubted his sincerity. G-d’s approval settled the argument by awarding Pinchas with the priesthood and with His covenant of Peace.

When we return the Sefer Torah to the Ark after it is read, we recite a verse from the Book of Proverbs where King Solomon, referring to the Torah, says, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and its paths are peace.” We conclude with our personal hope, “Bring us back to you, G-d, and we shall return, renew our days as of old!”