I love the Netziv and his writings. In fact, I have to say that if I'd had the zechus to be a talmid in Volozhin, I'd have attended the sahiurim of both. When the controversies broke out between his talmidim and those of the Bais HaLevi and Reb Hayyim, I would have stayed out of it, for love of both. I am proud that my copy of the Ha'ameq She'elah is falling apart, again like some of my volumes of Brisker Torah. There is almost no Shabbat that goes by without a Dvar Torah from his Humash commentary, Ha'ameq Davar (my oldest son has become an afficionado, as well). Anyway, hidden away in a long series of pearls in this week's sedra (we only read Balaq, remember?) is this observation that could have been an Op-Ed in the Israeli or American-Jewish Press.
Balaam, in his first blessing, says (Num. 23, 9):
הֶן-עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן, וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב.
This is translated as:
Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
The Netziv, however, has a different take. He interprets the word ישכון as meaning "He will in-dwell" meaning that God will cause His Shekhina to dwell among them. Based upon this, he writes that there are two parts of Balaam's observation on the nature of the Jews and of Jewish History.
הֶן-עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן
When it is a people that dwells alone and maintains its uniqueness, He will dwell among them.
וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב
However, if they seek to become indistinguishable from the nations, they will never be considered or accepted by the nations.
Truer words were never said.
(Thanks to my friend and neighbor, Rabbi Yaakov Greenwald, for showing this to me.)