In Parshat Balak, the Torah recounts Balak’s hateful fear of Israel and his unsuccessful attempts to curse Israel through the prophet Bilaam. His claim that the ‘multitudes of Israelites will take over everything if we don’t stop them’ (BaMidbar 22:5,6) records perhaps the first anti-Semitic sentiment expressed and acted upon. The constant accusations and attacks of anti-Semitism that the children of Israel have experienced historically and are continuing to experience are rooted and foreshadowed in this Torah account.
Balak’s four separate attempts to curse Israel do not succeed as Israel’s ultimate triumph is described in detail by Bilaam. His remarkable prophetic statements describe the true nature and history of Israel.
Among his praises: “It is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations…God does not look at evil in Jacob, and has seen no perversity in Israel; the Lord, his God, is with him, and he has the King’s friendship….Behold, a people that rises like a lioness and raises itself like a lion. …How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!…They extend like streams, like gardens by the river, like aloes which the Lord planted, like cedars by the water….Water will flow from his wells, and his seed shall have abundant water….Behold, a people that rises like a lioness and raises itself like a lion. …How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!…They extend like streams, like gardens by the river, like aloes which the Lord planted, like cedars by the water…Water will flow from his wells, and his seed shall have abundant water.”
The unique circle around Rav Kook felt he was experiencing prophetic insight. We can see this clearly if we review Rav Kook’s prophetic expansions of two of Bilaam’s central utterances.
Both statements were written during World War One. Rav Kook was in London from 1916-1919. Around 1917-as the Balfour Declaration was coming into being- he explained that Israel will soon experience this Bilaam uttered prophecy coming true:
“וְכַאֲרִ֖י יִתְנַשָּׂ֑א”הֶן־עָם֙ כְּלָבִ֣יא יָק֔וּם”
“The nation will rise up like the king of beasts, and it will lift itself like a lion.” (BaMidbar 23:24)
“Our nation will be built and established. It will return to its strength, to all its foundations of life through its faithfulness and reverence. [Israel’s] exalted Divine sanctification will expand, become courageous, perfect and grow strong.
All the builders of our nation will come to the deep truth of this principle. And then, with a voice full of strength and might- they will call to themselves and their nation: “Let us go forth and return to HaShem.” (Hoshea 6:1)
And this will be a true return. The return will create a foundation of strength, and it will give power and might to all its physical and spiritual branches; to all the activities and paths that are necessary to build and perfect the nation; to awaken it to renewal; to support its establishment.
Eyes will open, the soul will be purified, its light will shine and its reach will grow. A created nation will awaken; a great nation, powerful and abounding. The light of Elohim is upon it and it has greatness of nation …“It will rise up like the king of beasts, and will lift itself like a lion.” (BaMidbar 23:24) -Notebook 8:126
We can certainly see the prophetic accuracy of this clear statement describing the rebirth of the powerful Israel.
And what will be the nature of this nation that is rooted in Divinity?
Bilaam described it in his next vision:
מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
“How good are your tents Jacob, your tabernacles Israel.” (Ibid, 24:5)
In Switzerland in 1915, Rav Kook expands this pasook as he describes the future influence of Israel:
“ ‘How good are your tents Jacob, your tabernacles Israel.‘ The radiance of the world will be fully revealed through the strength of Israel as it sprouts and rises. The hidden secret will become clear to all the nations and kingdoms, ‘in all four corners of the world to where I scattered you’(Zecharia 2:10) that [the world’s future] depends on the revival of the community of Israel. It’s complete revival- natural and miraculous, spiritual and material, ethical and practical, internal and external.
[It will be] ‘a glorious crown in the hand of HaShem, a royal diadem in the palm of the God of Israel.’ (Isaiah 62:3). ‘He will be called the God of all the earth’ (Ibid, 54:5). “And all flesh, as one, will see that HaShem Himself has spoken.(Ibid, 40:5) ” -Notebook 7:36
Rav Kook integrates Bilaam’s and Isaiah’s prophecies are as he describes the birth of Israel and the positive world wide influence that Israel will have in the world.
In a remarkable prophetic entry in Notebook 1, written in Yaffo around 1910, Rav Kook defines that influence and in what form Israel will offer it. It begins with a discussion on nationalism:
The nation is not the highest level of happiness for humankind. This can certainly be said about most regular countries whose value is not more than a large mutual insurance pact. Ideals, which are the crown of human life, are irrelevant and beyond their purview.
This is not the case with a nation whose foundation is idealistic. A nation in which the highest content is embedded into its very being. This type of nation offers the highest happiness for the individual and it is the highest level in the ladder of satisfaction.
ומדינה זו היא מדינתנו, מדינת ישראל-And this nation is our nation, MEDINAT ISRAEL-The State of Israel.
It is the foundation of G-d’s Throne in the world, and all its desire is that HaShem will be one and His Name one-this is truly the highest happiness.” (Notebook 1:186)
This was the first time in history that the words MEDINAT ISRAEL were ever written. The committee that named Israel -Medinat Israel- in the May 1948 Declaration of Independence did not know of this entry in Rav Kook’s writings.
May we in Medinat Israel and the whole world merit to experience the full manifestation of these visionary statements. May the powerful rebirth of Israel illuminate the whole world with Divine light, goodness and blessing.
BeMhera Be Yamenu- Immediately In Our Days.
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.haorot.com