What a generation! We can do almost anything with a click! We can buy tickets to parks and places; we can pay our electric bill or our social security bill on the web or a phone app! We can access our bank the same way! This is but a small number of things we can do with our phones or internet. But there are many less positive things that start off with innocent headlines on the web or cell phone and end up in the pit of depravity.
When we come to the weekly Torah portion of Balak, I ask myself what Balaam and Balak knew that we’re forgetting today?
This week I visited an office in central Israel. Upon entering the office building I met an old friend, an amazing woman that I would call ‘a woman of valor’ normally she’d be smiling and vivacious but today her the spark in her eyes looked extinguished. “Leora, how are you? I asked. She answered: “I’m hoping for salvations to come.” “What happened?” I asked her. She said “we’ll talk after the meeting”.
After the meeting I went into her room and closed the door. “Speak” I said, “what’s going on?” “I made a big mistake!” She said. “What was that mistake”? I asked. She explained: “At home we have filtered internet that my husband and I need for work. As you see I also have a cell phone which is a totally regular phone but it is not filtered or supervised for content but all I use it for is my daily work. Yesterday I came to work and my supervisor came over to me and asked: “Leora, what happened this month?” “What do you mean?” I asked her back. She answered: “here, take a look at this phone bill. Normally it’s 50 shekels a month and now it’s 1400. Who did you speak to?” I laughed and said: “It can’t be, it must be a mistake but let me look into this.” I checked it out and it comes out my 16 year old son Yoni used my phone and surfed to horrible sites”… Leora said as she burst into tears. “Where did I go wrong?” I tried calming her by saying “maybe he stumbled just once”… but that wasn’t true if he managed to spend 1,400 shekels. It must have been many times.
“Did you speak to Yoni?” I asked. “Yes, I did and I asked him from where he got the strength to take my personal phone without permission and to surf the web with it? And Yoni answered: I heard an advertisement on the radio with a number at the end of the advertisement and I saw your phone and out of curiosity I decided to call the number… I had no idea that a small innocent headline could be so dangerous!” I’m really sorry; I made a mistake,” that’s what Yoni told me” said Leora.
Yoni is just one of thousands. Though he’s only 16, the danger hovers over his and everyone else’s head’s no matter whom you are.
Balak hired Balaam to cure the nation of Israel. His 3 failed attempts taught him that he wouldn’t be able to curse them for they are a blessed nation. After these 3 attempts he told Balak the secret of the Jewish nation’s existence: “How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!” Balaam saw the entrances of each tent faced away from each other, something that testified to the modesty of the Jewish nation. So he inferred that the opposite must be true, that “the G-d of Israel hates licentiousness.”
What Balaam couldn’t do with curses he succeeded with curiosity that led to licentiousness and he managed to get 24,000 Jewish men killed in a plague for not maintaining their level of holiness in the Jewish encampment when they fell into Balaam’s trap of the evil inclination. The Jewish men walked around the markets and an old woman would sit outside the tent and say “there is better merchandise inside.” However it was a trap offering a different type of merchandise that made them stumble on grave sins including idol worship.
Now let’s get back to Yoni who says: “I had no idea such an innocent headline can be so dangerous, I’m sorry, I made a mistake.” And I say we all made a mistake in our generation where everything is open, available and dangerous!
We must be extra careful and have extra safeguards even if it means less personal convenience for us.
A small innocent headline could become great big headlines and an indescribable stain. This was Balaam and Balak’s intention. We must maintain that “Goodly tent of Jacob” full of modesty and we will merit “your dwelling place Israel” where the divine presence will dwell in the holy temple.