The non-Jewish prophet Bilaam was hired by Balak the King of Moav to curse the Jews. At the onset, Bilaam told Balak that he was under G-d’s authority regarding what he can and cannot do. Obviously, it was a long-shot that G-d would empower Bilaam to curse His children the Jewish people.
Even so, with Balak’s insistence, Bilaam tried to manipulate G-d by offering Him a total of 42 sacrifices to allow him to curse the nation. Everything they tried to do failed; in fact, Bilaam’s own donkey spoke to him and he had an encounter with an angel.
The Torah relates that during the final attempt to curse the Jews, Bilaam finally saw the beautiful and sanctified Jewish encampment. He was so impressed that instead of cursing the Jews he gave them blessings!
During my conversations with our son Moshe’s father-in-law, Reb Reuvan Sternstein, he related to me that in his business dealings he had a few encounters with people who made anti-Semitic remarks to him. Each time he calmly asks them to clarify their statements. He found, that when they are confronted to explain themselves and the source of their hate they become flustered and apologetic. In fact other non-Jews present become annoyed at the outburst of hate.
What was it about the Jews that disturbed Balak? Although he claimed that it was due to the victory of the Jews over the nations of Sichon and Og which caused him to fear for his country, there was a deeper disdain towards the Jews. Balak and Bilaam knew the Jews became G-d’s Chosen Nation when they accepted the Torah and became a light to the nations through their spiritually guided conduct.
This prestige and influence that the Jews were invested with, conflicted with the decadent lifestyles of the nations of Balak and Bilaam and they wished to eliminate the Jews so they would not be around to give them a guilty complex.
This is the root of anti-Semitism which fueled Haman, Hitler, Hamas, terrorists and ordinary people.
But why when they are confronted regarding their anti-Semitic remarks do they often back down? I think it is because they shoot from the hip. They have heard so much false negativity about the Jews, through the news, their acquaintances and family and they don’t research it or try to understand who we are.
Bilaam never saw the Jewish people after they accepted the Torah. He had no clue of what they looked like. All he knew was to hate them due to their spiritual position. Based on this opinion, he tried to eliminate the Jews through a curse. When he was unsuccessful in doing so, the Torah tells us he was given the opportunity to see the Jews in their beautiful encampment and how they lived in modesty. He was blown away and began to bless them in a prophetic way.
When Bilaam was exposed to how G-d wished His nation to look, he couldn’t contain himself and blessed them!
It’s ironic, but Bilaam’s inspiration lasted only momentarily. After he was done blessing the nation, he gave Balak advice to have the Moavite women entice the Jews to sin. He told him the G-d of the Jews hates immoral behavior. But how was it possible to bring the Jews to sin? Balak came up with a plan. As the Jews were passing Moav he had the women go out and sell their wares, linens etc.
He positioned elderly women to sit outside where the goods were displayed. When the Jewish men looked at the goods, the women told them the better quality goods were inside. When the Jews came indoors young women caught them by surprise and were able to seduce them to sin. Once they were in a compromised state they even got them to serve idols.
As innocent as the Jews’ intentions were, the manipulation of the Moavite women caused the Jews to sin, leading to a terrible plague amongst the Jews. Thus Bilaam and Balak felt some type of accomplishment by bringing the Jews down from their spiritually heightened level.
Our Sages tell us that Bilaam possessed an evil eye and wished to use it to effect a curse upon the Jews.
However, when he saw the encampment of the Jews, especially how the openings of their tents faced away from the opening of the neighbors – no one looking into the private lives of others ― he saw complete modesty and holiness.
Being that the Jews did not look at and weren’t interested in what was happening in the homes of others, they possessed a good eye. Their good eye influenced Bilaam, turning his evil eye to see the good!
When one possesses a good eye – it can influence and impact positively onto others!!