Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab became terrified of the people, for they were numerous, and Moab became disgusted because of the children of Israel. Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this assembly will eat up everything around us, as the ox eats up the greens of the field. Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, “A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the ‘eye’ of the land, and they are stationed opposite me. So now, please come and curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will be able to wage war against them and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.” (Numbers 22: 2-5)
The Torah portion of Balak is seemingly a simple story of Balak, a fear-stricken king of Moab, calling on a sorcerer Balaam to curse Jewish people, and G‑d turning curses into blessings. As always, there is more here than meets the eye. The Zohar notes that Balak was no slouch himself. In fact, he was a master magician and an adept of occult arts on par with Balaam. Why then did he need the help of Balaam? Why did G‑d allow Balaam to go to Balak if he didn’t want Balaam to curse the Jewish nation? How is it possible that the biggest blessing and the only prophecy about the coming of Mashiach (Messiah) in Tanach come from the mouth of Balaam, a pagan prophet?
According to the Arizal, as recorded by his principal student Rabbi Chaim Vital in Sharei HaGilgulim (the Gates of Reincarnation), both Balak and Balaam were reincarnations of two sons of Adam – Cain and Abel (Havel) – their evil sides, to be sure. Thus, Balak and Balaam were soulmates.
Before the primordial sin, Adam and Eve (Havah) were pure and holly – there was no evil inside them. The evil existed only outside, channeled by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and personified by the serpent. As the Sages teach us, by eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve mixed good and evil in the world so that, now, there is no good without some admixture of evil, and there is no evil without some good in it.
If we can say metaphorically that the Tree of Good and Evil was in a state of superposition of good and evil (as it is clearly indicated by the name of the Tree), by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve entangled themselves with the Tree of Good and Evil bringing the world and themselves into a state of superposition of good and evil. Consequently, their children, Cain and Abel, had both good and evil sides to them. The good side was their G‑dly soul (nefesh Eloki), and the evil side was their animal soul (nefesh habahamit).
As taught by the Arizal, Balak was primarily a reincarnation of the evil side of the soul of Cain, although he also received an aspect of the evil side of the soul of Abel. Balaam, on the other hand, was primarily a reincarnation of the evil side of Abel’s soul although he also received an aspect of the evil side of Cain’s soul. Thus, besides being soulmates, Balak and Abel, complemented each other. They were, as it were, each in a state of superposition of being a reincarnation of Cain and a reincarnation of Abel, although, in different proportions.
On a more granular level, there is even a deeper reason for Balak requiring Balaam’s assistance. The good side of Abel, his G‑dly soul, reincarnated into Seth (Sheit) – a later-born son of Adam and Eve. Subsequently, it reincarnated into Jacob (Yaakov), and then into Moses (Mosheh). Thus Moses, being the incarnation of the holy side of Able, was the nemesis of Balak, the reincarnation of the evil side of Cain. Cain killed his brother, Abel. It was bad karma for Balak. Perhaps, he thought, it was time for revenge. That is why he was terrified of the Jewish nation.
But still, why calling on Balaam for help? Then there was another question nagging at me. Why in his blessings, Balaam used the same refrain referring to the Jewish nation by both names of its patriarch – Jacob and Israel? Let us look at the verses:
Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, from the mountains of the east [saying], “Come, curse Jacob for me and come invoke wrath against Israel.” (Num. 23:7)
Who counted the dust of Jacob or the number of the seed of Israel? (Num. 23:10)
He does not look at evil in Jacob, and has seen no perversity in Israel; (Num. 23:21)
For there is no divination in Jacob and no soothsaying in Israel. In time it will be said to Jacob and Israel, “What has G‑d wrought?” (Num. 23:21)
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! (Num. 24:5)
A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel… (Num. 24:17)
While Jacob, according to the Arizal, was the reincarnation (gilgul) of the G‑dly soul of Abel, his brother Esau (Eisav) was the reincarnation of the evil soul of Cain. What role does the name Israel play here? I thought, perhaps, we can say that Jacob himself possessed both souls – of Abel and Cain. While he was mainly a reincarnation of the G‑dly soul of Able, he also possessed the holy aspect of the soul of Cain. If this were to be true, that would be really neat, as it would answer both questions. I checked in the Sefer HaGilgulim (the Book of Reincarnations by R. Chaim Vital) and, lo and behold, it was indeed so. On his good side, Cain represented the partzuf Aba or sefirah of Chochma (Wisdom). The holy side of Abel personified the partzuf of Zeer Anpin or the sefirah of Tiferet (Beauty). So was with our patriarch, Jacob – His name Jacob represented partzuf of Zeer Anpin and, therefore, was a reincarnation of the holy soul of Abel. His name Israel represented Chochmah (or partzuf Aba) and, therefore, was a reincarnation of the holy soul of Cain. Now everything fits together. Balak needed Balaam who was mainly reincarnation of the evil soul of Abel also possessing the evils aspect of Cain – a mirror reflection of our patriarch, Jacob-Israel. As the Kabbalah teaches, G‑d created the world ze, l’umaze – this opposite of that, i.e., the side of holiness and the side of unholy, spiritual “matter” and “antimatter.” Balaam was the mirror reflection of Jacob-Israel on the side of the unholy.
Let us now recall from high school physics the concept of interference. If you throw two pebbles into a pond, each will cause concentric waves to percolate throughout the pond. Where the waves meet, one can see a characteristic picture of interference. Interference is a process whereby two waves of the same frequency combine to reinforce or cancel each other. The amplitude of the resulting wave is the sum of amplitudes of the two waves interfering with each other.
What happens is that when two sine waves overlap, there are two possibilities: where the waves are in phase with each other, their amplitude doubles – constructive interference; and where they are in counter-phase with each other, they will cancel out – distractive interference. You can clearly see it in the following diagrams:
It seems to me, this is precisely what Balak was trying to accomplish. He was so terrified of the Jewish nation that he felt the need to double the power of his curses – double the “amplitude.” He needed to cause constructive interference with the soul of his soul-mate Balaam – so he called for him.
But why waves, you may ask? In spiritual worlds, nothing is ever static. A soul is in a perpetual state of oscillation – ratzo vashov – running (to its source) and returning, as the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision “The Work of the Chariot” (Maaseh Merkava). Moreover, the personalities of Balak and Balaam being reincarnations of two souls – one of Cain and one of Abel – were in a perpetual state of oscillation between the two. This is what a wave is – an oscillation of energy, such as an electromagnetic wave. Recall, however, that a wave has both picks and throws. G‑d arranged it so that the energies of Balak and Balaam combined so that their curses turned into blessings. And, because they doubled in “amplitude,” we got the biggest blessings and the prophecy of the messianic redemption.
The primordial schism between the soul of Abel and the soul of Cain has been playing out through the history of the Jewish nation culminating with two messiahs – Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben Dovid in fulfillment of the biblical prophecy:
A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel… (Num. 24:17)
A “star” is a hint at Mashiach ben Yosef; and a “staff“ is a hint at Mashiach ben Dovid.