The Medrash states that the elders of Moav asked the elders of Midian to describe to them the nature of the Jewish People’s leader. The Midian items elders responded, “his strength is in his mouth. The Moabite elders declared,” then we will also bring someone whose strength is with his mouth.” The Moabites them summoned Balaam, and the rest is history.
For those familiar with superheroes, Superman and the like were always the strongest and fastest, until the villain would come with krypton or some other tactic to subdue the superhero. Is that what happened here with Moshe and Balaam? Was Balaam really more powerful with his mouth than Moshe?
The answer to this question is that if we study the Torah chronologically, we see that the incident of Balaam was preceded by the events of Mei Merivah, where HaShem informed Moshe that because he hit the rock and didn’t speak to the rock, he would not be granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. On some level Moshe was deficient in the use of his speech. To counter this deficiency, the Moabites brought in Balaam to “work his magic” and curse the Jewish People. Ultimately, however, HaShem rendered Balaam powerless, and he had to resort to underhanded moves of counseling Balak to entice the Jewish People to act immorally. The Jewish People committed a heinous sin with the daughters of Moav and they were severely punished. Nonetheless, the Medrash (Tosfos Sota 14a) states that every year Peor, the Moabite idol which was the catalyst for the Jews’ sin, rises up from the ground to inflict damage on the Jewish People. Yet, HaShem prepared “the healing before the blow” and purposely had Moshe buried opposite Peor. When Peor sees the burial place of Moshe, he is defeated.
This lesson of Moshe vs. Balaam teaches us the power of our speech, not only for the moment, but for eternity. Perhaps we can suggest that although Moshe failed at Mei Merivah, the rest of his life was spent perfecting his power of speech and defending the Jewish People from enemies and all foreign influences.
As we enter the sad days of the Three Weeks of mourning and reflection over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, let us pray to HaShem that He grant us the power of speech for the good, and then He will return to Yerushalayim, His Holy City, as He spoke, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days.
Have a Powerful Speech Shabbos