Fear of a Changing Path by Simcha Wagner


In Parashat Balak, the Torah mentions Balak’s fears that the Jews will invade his kingdom, Moav. Upon a careful reading, something unusual about the words he uses to describe what he fears becomes evident. He says first and foremost that the Jews have “covered” those who used to dwell there, and only then does he mention his fear that they will destroy him. He states, “Hinei Am Yatza MiMitzrayim, Hinei Chisah Et Ein HaAretz, VeHu Yosheiv Mimuli,” “Behold, there is a nation that came out of Egypt, and behold they cover the face of the earth, and they encamp opposite me” (BeMidbar 22:5). One would expect someone in Balak’s circumstances to fear destruction, and perhaps he should mention in passing that they had taken over another nation. Here we note another anomaly. Why does he use the word “Chisah,” covered? Would it not have been more accurate to say destroyed, or conquered?

Balak wasn’t primarily afraid of a military defeat. He lived under the powerful nations of Sichon and Og, upon whom he relied for protection. He had no problem with foreign rule, but what he did have a problem with was change. The Jews hadn’t just defeated Shichon and Og, they had supplanted their culture. The entire Moavi way of life, the lack of morals, principles, and restraints, had been exchanged for the Jewish way of life. Balak was terrified of this above all. He was not able to come to terms with the lack of “freedom” that he would suffer, the fact that his culture would be “covered up,” so to speak. In short, he was afraid of change.

In life, most of us have our routines, our habits, our rituals and our styles. We are attached to what we do, and often fear and resent change, which we see as intrusions into our fine and ordered life. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” we tell ourselves, and using such a rational, we fortify ourselves against change of any kind. However, sometimes change is good. We are so caught up in our fear of the unknown, that we reject change without even attempting to see its benefits. Let us learn a lesson from Balak. He despised change, and gained our eternal enmity for it. Let us endeavor not to be the same, rejecting change out of hand. Let us carefully examine it, and see what it worth. Who knows? It might just be for the better.

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