The Moabites were a nation whose family root originated from an incestuous relationship between Lot and his elder daughter. She and her younger sister were concerned that after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, their family lineage would be decimated, so they made their father drunk and lay with him. When the first daughter gave birth, she named their son Moav (מוֹאָב = of his father) and thus the Moabite nation was born.
Balak (בָּלָק = devastator) was a king of Moab who called Bilam (בִּלְעָם = not of the people) to come and curse the Hebrew people who had been brought up out of Egypt.
While reading this week’s Parasha, it almost seemed as if the G-d of Israel threw down a gauntlet before the enemy. First He sent the Angel of the L-rd to stand in the way of Bilam as an adversary (סטן = satan) – can you imagine Elohim comparing Himself to the enemy of our souls?! Why did He use that word – satan – to describe the angel who blocked Bilam’s reckless route? And besides G-d gave him permission to go to Balak! Of course it was with a warning to speak only what he was told.
When Bilam viewed the Jewish people whom G-d has blessed, he uttered this oracle in Numbers 23:23, “For there is no omen against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel!”
Could this be why the enemy is continually trying to bring devastation to us? Just as the G-d of Israel made a public spectacle and a mockery of the powerless “gods” of Egypt, after He brought us out of bondage there, the enemy launched a crusade to curse and destroy us and he hasn’t given up to this day! Sometimes I wonder why not. Can’t the enemy figure out that he’s never going to defeat G-d?! It’s almost as if that kind of spirit doesn’t know how to give up until he himself is thrown into the lake of fire.
We are entering into the season of the Bein HaMetzarim, the dire straits, which culminates in Tisha b’Av, the 9th of the month of Av. This time of year has seen the worst tragedies in Jewish history, including the destruction of the first and second Beit Mikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem plus the beginning of wars. Even now as we enter into the Bein HaMetzarim, we mourn the tragic loss of life from Miami’s Surfside community. The building that collapsed housed mostly Jewish residents, many of whom are missing in the rubble and feared dead.
So we enter into this season fasting and praying for the mercy of G-d to fall upon us.