As a result of the defeat of the Amorites led by Sihon and Og, king of Bashan, the people of Moab become afraid of the People of Israel. In an effort to stop the Israelites, their king, Balak, sends for the prophet Balaam to curse them. Hashem, however, has a different idea and puts a blessing into Balaam’s mouth instead of his intended curses. This verse highlights Balaam’s typically prejudicial attitude, in his description of the Israelites as a nation that covers the entire earth. Even today, the Jewish people comprise less than 0.2% of the world population, yet they are often thought of as a nuisance that threatens the world. This story, however, also underscores the fact that anti-Semitism will not prevail. Hashem tells Balaam that the Jewish people “are blessed,” and that those who try to curse them will not succeed, just as Hashem had promised Avraham long before, “I will bless those who bless you and curse him that curses you” (Genesis 12:3). The Jewish nation is indeed blessed, and has made enormous contributions to the world, as evidenced by the fact that despite their small number, between 1901 and 2015 over 20% of all Nobel laureates have either been Jewish, or of Jewish descent.
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