Balak – Respecting Other’s ‘Humble Abode’

The Daas Zekeinim raises what he calls a world famous question, and which is definitely a pretty blatant question! It says in this week’s Torah portion of Balak that Hashem visited Bilaam to speak with him after he offered up seven sacrifices (Bamidbar 23:4). Why did Hashem go to Bilaam but did not go to Moshe Rabbeinu, and rather he called him over to speak with him at the Tent of Meeting, as it says in the beginning of the third book of the Torah: “And Hashem called to Moshe…?”
The Daas Zekeinim answers this question with a parable of a king who is sitting in his palace and a leper comes to the gate(s), demanding to speak with the king. They tell the king about the request, and the king replies saying: don’t let him enter my palace lest he sully it, rather I will go to speak with him outside. However, when a loved one wants to speak with the king, he is welcomed into the throne room . (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The question, however, still remains: why would Hashem go down to visit a lowlife, who wants to destroy His precious children, hence demeaning the honor of His Heavenly Royalty (Kavod Malchus Shamayim) – but to speak with someone who was the closest person ever in the history of the world to Hashem, i.e. Moshe Rabbeinu, Hashem requests of him to step forward and have a conversation, instead of going to personally meet him? If anything it should logically be the opposite; for his loved ones Hashem will personally go out and talk with them, and for His enemies He should make them go through the trouble of meeting at a designated place to converse?

The answer given by the Daas Zeheinim is therefore a bit troubling; what is the big deal if the palace gets defiled, dirtied or spoiled by this “lowly leper?” The servants or janitor can  simply clean up the mess. It is just a building; it is not  as if he  wrecked or damaged the place. There is only a concern of defilement, and when compared to the utter lack of respect needed for a king to leave his throne and palace to speak with  a lowlife,  one would think it would be less of a diminishment of respect to have the “leper” come into the palace, if he must, to speak with the king, rather than to have the king degrade himself by going out to converse with the the “leper”?

We are not talking about the feelings of a human being; this is Hashem teaching us proper respect and honor. It would therefore seem that the dwelling place should be treated with more respect than the individual himself, and it t would seem the reason why is because “the palace” enhances the respect and honor of the individual. That is precisely why the king wanted his loved ones to visit him when conversing, in this case that being Hashem telling Moshe to come to the Tent of Meeting. But on the flip side, any spoilage to the “home” or “palace” is more of a severe degradation to the honor and respect of the individual, like in the case of the leper going into the king’s palace, which is why Hashem went out to speak with Bilaam.

Practically, there are a couple of lessons  that can be learned from here. One is the sensitivity a guest  must have when going into someone else’s home, to treat it with the utmost respect and dignity. Secondly, Hashem’s dwelling places today are the beis medrish and shul; so we  must certainly treat them with the utmost honor and respect when inside them.

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