This week a speech was given, and it was no ordinary speech.
The speech was long-anticipated, and watched around the globe.
It was a speech that was intended to shake up the world.
The speaker was paid top dollar, for what was supposed to be completely original. “Original,” that was the key to the value of the speech.
When the moment arrived, the speaker spoke gracefully and with eloquence. But there was one big catch—the words were not original, and the person who hired the speaker was furious!
This was the largest case of plagiarism in the history of the world!
Who was the speaker?
None other than the prophet Bila'am.
Bila'am, who we read about in this week's Torah portion, was the most sought after speaker in the world at that time. He was hired and paid an exorbitant sum of money to give a monumental speech, cursing out the Jews. Balak, the anti-Semitic king, hired the prophet Bila'am—whose words usually came to fruition—to curse the Jews and wipe them off the earth.
But his plans were thwarted. G-d rewrote the speech, and Bila'am found himself speaking about the beauty of the Jewish nation. He was forced to stick to the text that G-d provided him.
He praised them: "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!" He spoke glowingly of their modesty, humility, strength and virtue. He spoke about the future Redemption and the coming of Moshiach at the end of days.
As Jews, our strength lies with our words. This is the message we need to internalize in 2016.
It's so easy to get into negative speech patterns. To find fault with others and to discuss their shortcomings among ourselves. It's tempting to criticize and poke fun and argue. Of course, there are so many things we disagree about and people we disagree with, but let's make an effort to use our mouths to highlight the things that unite us. Let's focus on finding the good in others and speaking only positively about one another. The power of speech is inestimable.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Uriel Vigler