What’s in a name? Plenty, especially if it is the name of a parsha like Balak. Two questions immediately present themselves over here. Number one, why is Balak chosen as the name of the parsha when Billam was the main character and whose curses turned into berachos? Number two, how does a name of a rasha become the tag name of the parsha when Shlomo Hamelech teaches that the name of a rasha should rot (Mishlei 10,7)? And merely to give the answer that the name of Balak is found at the very beginning of the parsha is insufficient. For then the parsha could have been called Vayar which is the first word of the parsha. This parsha calling with a generic word would be justified as it would parallel to what we find in Sefer Bereishis, parshiyos Vayeirah and Vayeitze, which are named by their first words. Vayar would have been more appropriate than calling it Balak after a man of such evil?
The answer to our first question is given in the sefer Hamaor Shebetorah. The passuk in the Haftorah (Michah 6,5) relates that Balak gave the advice while Billam strove to fulfill it מה יעץ בלק מלך מואב ומה ענה אותו בלעם בן בעור. The primary character is the one who gives premeditated advice for evil doing. He is a far worse culprit than the one who executes the advice. From the name of the parsha we deduce that the major responsibility of evil lies on the advisor rather than those who fulfilled it.
Concerning our second question we will answer the following. The beginning passuk of the parsha says וירא בלק בן צפור את כל אשר עשה ישראל לאמורי. Why does it not say בני ישראל as usual? Secondly, the Medrash comments that Baalak’s fear of Yisrael was not because of their vast army but rather because of their mouths as it says הקול קול יעקב. This is the reason why he sought out Billam who could also curse with his mouth. However, this is difficult to understand because the passuk clearly says כי רב הוא (22,3) that they were many (as an army)?
In Breishis (48,22) the passuk saysואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי בחרבי ובקשתי מן האמורי. Yaakov says to Yosef that he gives him to inherit an extra portion over his brothers which he conquered by his sword and bow from the Emori. Rashi explains that חרבי means chachma (Torah) and קשתי means Tefillah. The Rashi and the Baalei Hatosfos explains that after Shimon and Levi killed all the males in the city of Shechem, the surrounding nations gathered against Yaakov to kill him, yet he wiped them out with his kol Torah and Tefillah.
Balak was aware of the nature of their victory over the Emori and that is why he was afraid. This answers why the passuk did not say בני ישראל because it is referring to Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov demonstrated that Am Yisrael makes war and battle with their mouths spouting Torah and Tefillah and then they are victorious. As the Yalkut (Bereishis 27) says בשעה שיעקב מצפצף בקולו אין ידי עשו שולטות. לא עמדו פילוסופים באומות העולם כבלעם בן בעור וכאבנימוס הגרדי. אבנימוס הגרדי נתכנסו כל אומות העולם אצלו אמרו לו תאמר שאנו יכולים להזדווג באומה זו אמר להן לכו וחזרו על בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות שלהן אם [מצאתם] שם תינוקות מצפצפים בקולם אי אתם יכולים להן ואם לאו אתם יכולים להם שכך הבטיחן אביהם ואמר להם הקול קול יעקב בזמן שקולו של יעקב מצוי בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות אין הידים ידי עשו.
Even the nations of the world realize that the Jewish Nation’s security and trust is our Torah and Tefillah, especially those that come from our children. This is the advice that they receive from their own advisors given to those who seek our destruction. How much more so should this be the advice that is incumbent for us to follow which was given to us by Hashem and our chachamim, from those who constantly seek our benefit and preservation!
Let us look at the name בלק and we will see a remarkable thing. He symbolizes Torah and Tefillah. The first letter of the Torah is ב and the last is ל. The letter ק in his name represents the 100 berachos that one is required to say every day which corresponds to Tefillah. Also very interestingly, the letters of his name spell בקל with the voice. These allusions convey to us the message that Balak was afraid of our incredible weapon of the mouth which could easily defeat his great trained warriors. He was evil because of his advice to counteract this power of ours with the aid of Billam’s. At the same time he is unintentionally advising Am Yisrael to continue learning and davening for in them lay our strength and weapons to overcome our enemies. For this reason his name is the tag of this parsha because of this very important advice he has given to Klal Yisrael.
Now we can understand why the fear of Balak was expressed with the word רב which at first glance seems to be referring to a massive army, even though according to the Medrash it is referring to the words of Torah and Tefillah. The explanation is that when one attains madraigos in Torah and Tefillah he fulfills what it says in Avos עשה לך רב. For the word רב relates to both Tefillah and Torah. In Bereishis (21,20) an archer is called רובה קשת and קשת refers to Tefillah as we mentioned above. A Talmid Chacham and Rebbi of Torah is called a רב.
Another hint that the word רב infers Torah and Tefillah is in the gematriah. One who learns Torah is called a לומד which is gematriah 81 (including the word). One who davens is called an עומד being that the Shemoneh Esrai is called the Amidah, gematriah 121 (including the word). Together they equal 202 which is the same of רב. Balak’s real fear was from the Torah and Tefillah that comes from our mouths. They are our massive unconquerable army.
Bllam declared (Bamidbar 24,25) מה טובו אוהלך יעקב How wonderful are the tents of Yaakov. Here he used a plural form of tents in order to convey the referral to two tents one where they learn and where they daven. This declaration is a beracha which was originally intended by Bilam to be a curse. It is because they know that these are our weapons. אהליך יעקב is gematriah 248 which spellsרמח a spear. It also means to say that our tefillos and learning serve as our spear against those that seek to harm us. It also is hinting that davening and learning should be with all one’s 248 limbs – כל עצמותי תאמרנה for in this fashion it results with bringing טוב into one’s life and surroundings.
משכנותיך ישראל the dwelling place of the Shechinah. This word can also be read as Mashkon which means collateral. The tents of Torah and Tefillah are our collaterals that are placed against our evil decrees which stops their collection from us.
In parshas והיה אם שמוע Hashem warns ואבדתם that if you stray away from me you will be lost and destroyed chas veshalom. The repair for this isהקול קל יעקב . The double usage of קול is hinting to the two voices, one of increased Torah learning and the other A more heartfelt quality tefillos. They both share the same gematriah of 453.
In our present state of world upheaval and meltdown, let us not forget nor weaken our tenacious grasp on our specialty weapons, the only two that work for us, and promises us 248 the gematriah of מחר a future and a geulah.