Commentary: 'the Israelites of the Mondial'

Can Argentina's balam (back) defeat German captain Ballack at the World Cup?

jose pekerman 88 (photo credit: )
jose pekerman 88
(photo credit: )
At the outset of the World Cup, Brazil was hot favorites for the title. But since its unconvincing performance in its two opening games, many fans are looking elsewhere for their dream team. The hosts, Germany, are certainly fancied by many, even beyond the German borders, to take the title. However the two teams that have displayed the dazzle of champions are Spain and Argentina. Personally, though, I would look no further than the Book of Numbers for guidance. The World Cup final is scheduled to be played on Sunday, July 9. The Torah portion for that week is named "Balak" - the same name, albeit a different spelling, as that of the German captain, Michael Ballack. "Balak" is one of the very few Torah portions named after somebody. Is it not coincidental that the captain of the host team has the same name as the main character of the World Cup Final week's Torah portion? Balak was king of the Moabites during the time that the Israelites wandered the Sinai Desert. In the Book of Numbers, Chapter 22, we read how Balak approaches the Prophet Balaam and asks him to curse the Israelites. Balaam agrees, but is thwarted by God in Chapters 23 and 24. Each time he tries to curse the Israelites, he ends up blessing them. How does all this point to Argentina taking the title? Doesn't the "Balak" coincidence suggest a German triumph? Not if we take note of Numbers 24:10: "And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together; and Balak said unto Balaam, 'I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.'" From this we must surely understand that Ballack and his German squad will succumb to "Israelite" opponents who will be blessed three times - doubtless, a three-goal cup final victory. And who might these victorious opponents be? Although Israel did not qualify for the World Cup, the Israelites are represented: One team has both a Jewish coach (Jose Pekerman) and a Jewish captain (Juan Pablo Sorin) - Argentina, the Israelites of the Mondial. (The team has won its first two games, and plays its final group game, against the Netherlands, on Wednesday.) Furthermore, the Hebrew term for the soccer position of "defender" or "back" is balam - essentially the same name as that of the prophet who ultimately defends and blesses the Israelites. Argentina's Jewish captain just happens to be a defender. Balaam blesses the Israelites three times before Balak desists; Sorin just happens to wear the number three on his jersey. Still not convinced? Then observe that Argentina's shirts, not to mention its national flag, are blue and white. All that's missing is the Star of David. Put all that together, and there can be no other outcome: Argentina to win the World Cup, with a blessed three goals, defeating Germany somewhere along the way.