In Parshat Balak, Bilaam is hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people, which he tries to do three times, and fails. Instead, Bilaam ends up blessing the people, which angers Balak. As a parting gift, Bilaam offers Balak some advice on how to defeat the Jewish people, suggesting that Balak entice them with improper relationships with Midianite women (24:14, 31:16). In the very next Perek (chapter), we see that his plan immediately works, causing the death of 24,000 people (25:1-9). How did Bilaam know his plan would work, and why did it work?
Rabbi Dov Weinberger submits that Bilaam’s plan worked because his blessings for the Jewish people were sinister, intended to engender a sense of security and confidence among the people. This complacency let the people’s guard down such that they thought they were immune to temptations and thus faltered.
While it’s important to feel pride and satisfaction with our moral achievements, it’s equally vital that we protect our moral integrity from outside influences and internal complacency. If morality makes us virtuous, moral integrity will make us stay that way.