What explains the contrast? The Talmud in Berachos makes an incredible statement. The suggestion is offered that the story of Bila’am attempting to curse the Jewish people that we read this Shabbat, be an obligation to recite twice daily like Shema. Ultimately, the suggestion is rejected, but one is pressed to imagine what the consideration was in the first place.
Shema contains two fundamental axioms of the Torah – unity of God, and acceptance of His Mitzvos. What ties the two together, what binds them, is the Jewish people. The themes of Shema are only meaningful through the recognition of the eternal nature of the Jewish people as well.
Bila’am declares that the Jewish people lie down like a lion. We are the strongest in the Kingdom and confidently close our eyes to sleep because we know we are eternal and immortal. Our Rabbis considered that we read the story of Bila’am and Shema together to remember that in a world of variables, there are two constants – God and the Jewish people.
It is prudent to be concerned and to act against the enemies and forces that threaten Israel. But, we should draw inspiration from the people of Israel who nevertheless seems to live with profound faith and deep confidence in our people’s future.
Shabbat Shalom from the Land of Israel