Balak – Numbers 22:2 – 25:9, The Parashat Ha Shavua for Shabbat, Saturday, July 20, 2019

Disruption and making reality conform to our vision of how things can be is one of the hallmarks of entrepreneurs and the high tech industry. An individual imagines how something could be, or how an industry or a process could serve people more simply and cheaply. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, spectacularly.  For example, the blood testing company Theranos, which evolved from a vision of changing medicine into a fraud perpetrated on investors and the public.

Vision (hazon in Hebrew) is a powerful quality. Some of our greatest entrepreneurs have had it and changed the world. But, sometimes people think they have it and what they really have is an inability to see reality.

This is the case of King Balak, after whom this week’s Torah portion is named. He fears the Israelites and hires Bila’am, a mercenary prophet, to curse the Israelites so he can defeat them in battle. Twice Balaam tries and twice Balaam is visited by God and prevented from doing so. Each time he informs Balak and Balak orders him to do it again. Finally, Balaam blesses the Israelites and Balak’s plan is foiled.

We often see this behavior in business or among our political leaders. They envision a result they want. They come up with a strategy. The strategy fails, but they keep trying, and they continue to fail–just like Balak, who may have had vision, but he could not see reality.

Perhaps vision is not enough; motive matters as well. Balak was driven by fear; that is why his plan failed. Whether as individuals or a society, when we are driven by our fear we fail. When we are motivated by love, we succeed.