(This Torah Teaching is for Shabbat of July 4th, 2020)
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Balak (בָּלָק) — The name of a king of Moab. It is the second word in hebrew in the parasha), and is the 40th weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings and the seventh in the Book of Numbers. In the parasha, Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, tries to hire Balaam to curse the migrating Israelite community, Balaam’s donkey speaks to Balaam, and Balaam blesses Israel instead. The parashah covers Numbers 22:2–25:9
Parsha Balak Summary
Balak, the king of Moab, summons the prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel. On the way, Balaam is berated by his donkey, who sees, before Balaam does, the angel that G‑d sends to block their way. Three times, from three different vantage points, Balaam attempts to pronounce his curses; each time, blessings issue forth instead. Balaam also prophesies on the end of the days and the coming of Moshiach.
The people fall prey to the charms of the daughters of Moab, and are enticed to worship the idol Peor. When a high-ranking Israelite official publicly takes a Midianite princess into a tent, Pinchas kills them both, stopping the plague raging among the people.
This week’s haftorah makes mention of the incident of Balak the king of Moab hiring the sorcerer Balaam to curse the Jewish people — the main topic of this week’s Torah reading.
The prophet Micah prophesies about what will occur after the war of Gog and Magog, the war which precedes the coming of the Messiah and the Final Redemption.
“And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples — like dew sent by God, like torrents of rain upon vegetation that does not hope for any man and does not wait for the sons of men.” The prophet describes how God will remove the idols and sorcerers and how He will destroy Israel’s enemies.
The prophet Micah then goes on to rebuke the Jewish people for not observing God’s commandments, calling as witness the “mountains and hills” — a reference to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs — and reminding them of the great things God had done for them. He took them out of Egypt and replaced the curses that Balaam son of Beor wanted to utter against them with blessings.
The Jewish people respond by saying that they do not know how to serve God and ask for guidance. The prophet reminds them of the Torah, and that all they need to do is contained within it:
“He has told you, O man, what is good, and what God demands of you: but to do justice, love kindness, and walk discreetly with your God.”
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2020 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.