As Jews, what are the qualities that we look for in a leader? How do these values reflect upon our personal behavior? In connection with parashat Balak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe discussed what a Jewish leader is supposed to be. Last week's Torah reading ended with the victory over the kings, Sichon and Og; this week's opens with the apprehension of the King of Moab, Balak: "And Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Yisroel had done to the Emori…." (Num. 22:2) The verses continue, "…and Moab was afraid of Israel because of their numbers". (ibid. 22:3)

It is clear from the verses that the Moabite nation was not appraised of the full danger facing them. Rashi explains how Balak's fear became transmitted to his people: "If those two great kings who we depended on could not stand up against them [Israel], all the more so us!" There was some political intrigue here. Until the war with Sichon and Og, Balak was not worried. He had a secret agreement with Sichon and Og that they would protect him from Israel. Only the kings knew about this. If the Jews had known, they wouldn't have asked permission to pass through Sichon's land on their way to the Holy Land, precipitating a war. With his protection removed, Balak had a problem.

When an evil person is afraid, his or her heart rejects logic….

G‑d commanded the Jews not to war with the people of Moab (Deut. 2:9), and only request passing through their country on their way to Israel. Balak wrongly assumed that the real reason the Jews did not attack Moab was because of the Jews' avoidance of war. Esau's descendents - not Jacob's (the Jews) - were the ones who were told to "live by the sword", (Gen. 27:4) so Balak was not afraid - until he saw the Jews' miraculous victory. When he realized that the adrenalin of victory over Sichon must be coursing through the Jews' veins, Balak lost his confidence. He had to do something drastic to protect himself and his people.

This is all fine and good, but why did Balak have to make the people afraid too, especially when he was not looking for a military solution? Isn't the function of leadership to strengthen the people? The Sages wrote, "Evil people are controlled by their hearts" (Bereishit Rabba 34:10). When an evil person is afraid, his or her heart rejects logic allowing the fear to take control and become apparent, and spread to everyone he or she influences. So has it been with demagogues throughout history.

Here we see the difference between Balak and Moses. During the war with Sichon and Og, Moses was also afraid. He knew that Og had once come to Abraham's aid, and maybe in that merit, Og and his nation would be granted the upper hand. Nevertheless, Moses kept it to himself. He did not share his fears with the people, nor did those apprehensions affect his actions either. This quality exemplifies Jewish leadership throughout all generations. Even during times of danger, they work to strengthen the people, instilling them with confidence and faith. This is the secret of our success over our adversaries during this long exile and it is this confidence and faith that will eventually bring us the ultimate victory, the arrival of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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