Balak 5779. Are we Losing our Privacy?
Bilaam's final blessing to the Jewish people opens with the famous line:
מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob; Your dwellings, O Israel!
What did Bilaam see? What is it about the tents and dwellings of Israel that are so good?
Option 1: The Hebrew "Ohel" and "Mishkan" are epithets for the Tabernacle. In that case, what Bilaam might be praising is the sanctuary at the heart of the Israelite camp.
But here we have a problem. There is only a single Mishkan or sanctuary, but Bilaam speaks in the plural!
We might suggest two solutions:
1. It refers to Batei Midrash and Batei Knesset (Seforno, Talmud Sanhedrin 105b) and this may form the basis of the tradition (Mahzor Vitry) to recite this verse upon entry to the Beit Knesset.