FMT – Balak – The Power of Modesty

Balak then took Balaam to a third location, thinking that perhaps it would be easier for Balaam to curse the Jewish people from there. Balaam was about to curse them, but then he saw how the Jewish people were camped: First, they were organized by tribes, which was possible only because they had been faithful in their marriages. Second, they set up camp in such a way that no one could accidentally look into another family’s tent. The Jewish people’s attention to detail in their modest conduct so impressed Balaam that he decided on his own to bless them rather than curse them.
The Power of Modesty
מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל: (במדבר כד:ה)
[Balaam said,] “How good are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel.” Numbers 24:5

The lesson for us here is that we must never think that it is important to be concerned only about the “larger” issues of modesty and intimacy, but that we can be lax about the “smaller,” “innocent” details. Even the smaller details are important – important enough to be able to transform a curse into a blessing (or an accursed situation into a blessed one).

Lest we think that this alertness to the details of modesty is only required in our day-to-day behavior but not in temporary situations (such as when we are on vacation), we see here that the tremendous power of even the minor details of modest conduct was demonstrated when our forefathers lived in tents, their temporary homes in the desert.1

Translated and Adapted by Moshe Wisnefsky

1. Likutei Sichot, vol. 13, p. 84.
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