In this week's Parshah, we read about Balak, the king of Moab, who is deathly scared of the Jews who are camped just beyond his nation's border. The Jewish Nation had just effortlessly defeated and conquered the adjoining lands of the two mighty Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and Balak fears that his nation will be next. So he sends for Balaam, a non-Jewish necromancer and prophet, and contracts him to curse the impending invaders. The plan backfires, for G‑d transforms Balaam's curses into a cascade of eloquent blessings.

Balaam jumped at the opportunity to curse the Jews, though he knew that Balak's fear was groundlessInterestingly, however, Balak's fear was unfounded, and his efforts for naught. For, unbeknownst to him, G‑d had instructed the Jews not to "distress the Moabites or provoke them to war" (because Moab was promised as an inheritance to the descendants of Lot).1 Now, while Balak cannot be faulted for being unaware of this divine edict issued to the Jews, Balaam, a prophet who "heard G‑d's sayings and perceived the thoughts of the Most High,"2 was surely aware of the Jews' neutrality vis-à-vis the Moabites. Why then didn't he simply advise Balak: "My friend, your tranquility need not be spoiled; the Jews pose no threat to you whatsoever!"?

It is precisely this question which led the biblical commentator Rashi to conclude that "Balaam detested the Jews more than Balak."3 Balak hated the Jews—but for good reason; in his estimation, they presented a mortal threat to him and his citizens. Balaam, on the other hand, like so many anti-Semites throughout the ages, hated the Jews for no reason at all. It was an essential hate that defied rhyme or reason—a hate that was qualitatively greater than Balak's. And as such, he jumped at the opportunity to curse the Jews, though he knew well that Balak's fear was groundless.

G‑d did not prevent Balaam from addressing the Jews; He didn't even replace Balaam's planned curses with new blessings. Instead, He "transformed the curse into a blessing."4 As the Talmud explains,5 Balaam's blessings are actually the very curses he intended to pronounce—but slightly reworded as to render them blessings.

Transform logical hate (the Balak variety) into love, and the ensuing love will also be of the logical sort; a love based on – and measured according to – the qualities and worth of the beloved. But transform completely baseless and supra-logical hate into love, and the result will be Balaam's exquisite blessings: an effusion of boundless, essential and infinite love. A love that transcends all logic and reason, the love that G‑d harbors for each and every one of His children.

It is no surprise, then, that Balaam's blessings are the vehicle for the prophecy regarding the Messianic redemption: "I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star [the Messiah] has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel... and Israel shall triumph."6

For it is then, during the Messianic Era, that G‑d's essential and limitless love for His people – as expressed by Balaam's blessings – will finally be manifest.7