In his book on the parshah, Rabbi Mordechai Katz explained why the Torah reading was named after Balak, the King of Moav, instead of Bilam, the prophet. Balak had one good attribute: honesty. “He made no attempt to conceal his hatred of the Israelites. At least everyone knew where he stood.” In contrast, Bilam “pretended to be a holy man and to aspire to fulfill only Hashem’s desires.” His conduct indicated otherwise.
This was the rationalization someone gave me for voting for Maya Wiley for mayor: that she is honest presenting her positions; you know what you are getting. The distinction is that Bilam’s actions indicated otherwise, while those moderates who were running against Wiley had a history of being supportive of the Jewish community and Israel.
For an animal to be kosher it needs to have split hoofs and chew its cud. There are many animals that are not kosher because they possess neither quality, yet they are not the animal that comes to mind as the most disgusting. That award goes to the pig, which at first glace is surprising, since the pig has split hoofs - one more characteristic of being kosher than the other non-kosher animals. In fact, it is the pig’s having the split hoofs that makes it worse. With the other animals, you can see just by looking at them that they are not kosher. They are honest. What you see is what you get. In contrast, the pig shows its hooves and says, “Look at me; I am kosher.” However, it’s what we don’t see that renders it not kosher. It presents a false veneer of being kosher.
The anarchists and those who espouse the ideas of Antifa and others on the far left are clear about their beliefs and goals. They hate this country and its political system, law enforcement and the military, and want to do whatever they can to destabilize it. They are honest in stating who they are.
There are those on the far right who wrap themselves in the American flag, call themselves patriots, support the police, and love the military. Yet their actions indicate otherwise.
The most extreme example is the attack on the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop the certification of the election for President Biden. Many of the rioters carried American flags and screamed “USA” while they attacked police officers who were trying to defend the Capitol. Some of them used the flags to beat the officers. The purpose of the storming of the Capitol was to use force to stop the legitimate legal certification of the election, which would destroy our democratic system.
This past week, General Mark Milley, who was appointed by former President Trump as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing defended the military’s allowing various points of view of current issues. He also said, “I want to understand white rage - and I’m white.” “What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building [Capitol] and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” He was viciously attacked and mocked by those on the right, such as Tucker Carlson, who ironically referred to General Milley as a “pig” and “stupid.” Tucker, Trump, and others who attacked General Milley claim they support the military.
General Milley is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council. Prior to becoming Chairman on October 1, 2019, General Milley served as the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. General Milley has had multiple command and staff positions in eight divisions and Special Forces throughout the last 39 years. General Milley’s operational deployments include the Multi-National Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt; Operation Just Cause, Panama; Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti; Operation Joint Endeavor, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq; and three tours during Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. He also deployed to Somalia and Colombia. Neither Carlson nor Trump have military experience.
This phenomenon is not limited to politics. There are atheists or others who may believe in G-d but mock organized religion. I might totally disagree with their beliefs but at least they are being upfront. Unfortunately, there are those who present themselves as being religious, but their actions indicate otherwise. The most damaging have been the priest-child molestation cases.
We must be careful in conducting ourselves in a manner such that people will see us as being honest by being consistent in our stated beliefs and actions. It should not be a choice between the wicked who are honest and the wicked who pretend that they are righteous. We must examine ourselves, especially during these three weeks, during which numerous tragic events in Jewish history have occurred.