Parsha – Balak

Once again it is Friday morning and it is time to write the Parsha discussion. This week is Parsha Balak which is in the Book of Numbers 22:2-25:9.

The last two weeks we have witnessed a great drop in the Children of Israels trust in Hashem. Many of those who left Egypt had died in the desert from a number of decrees. Korach and his wicked band were swallowed by the earth, there were plagues and some were killed. Despite this the core of the people were accepting the Torah and looking forward to moving into the land which Hashem had promised.

Then we read parsha Chukas, which told of Moshes mistake of hitting the rock instead of speaking to it. The people were complaining again and G-d sent snakes to punish them. Moshe was told, by Hashem, to create the image of snake on a staff and the people should gaze on it when bitten to cure them of the bite.

At the end of the story of Chukas we learn of Israels miraculous defeat of the Emorites and Bashan {King Sichon and King Og}. Now starts the story of Balak.

Balak was an evil king who feared Israel. He had a vision that Israel would spread out over the land and conquer all who stand in their way. He realized that the strength of Israel was in its closeness to Hashem. So in order to fight against the Israelites he must employ spirituality against them. Balak finds an evil gentile prophet by the name of Bilaam who is his only hope for destroying Hashems chosen people.

2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was terrified of the people, because they were many; and Moab was overcome with dread because of the children of Israel. 4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian: ‘Now will this multitude lick up all that is round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.’–And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time.– 5 And he sent messengers unto Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying: ‘Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me. 6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me; peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.’

It is said that Bilaam was a prophet almost on the level of Moshe. He spoke with Hashem and heard his voice. Bilaam should have known better than to go against the word of the almighty L-rd. But his ego and his drive for power got the better of him. As we seen in the next few verses:

7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spoke unto him the words of Balak. 8 And he said unto them: ‘Lodge here this night, and I will bring you back word, as the LORD may speak unto me’; and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. 9 And God came unto Balaam, and said: ‘What men are these with thee?’ 10 And Balaam said unto God: ‘Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me [saying]: 11 Behold the people that is come out of Egypt, it covereth the face of the earth; now, come curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to fight against them, and shall drive them out.’ 12 And God said unto Balaam: ‘Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed.’ 13 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak: ‘Get you into your land; for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.’ 14 And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said: ‘Balaam refuseth to come with us.’

Bilaam knew that he could not curse the people whom G-d himself was protecting, he needed Hashems permission. But G-d would not give him permission to curse Israel. Instead G-d was going to use Bilaam to prove a point. He let the evil wizards arrogance and his greed get the better of him. Although he sent the 1st delegation from Balak away, he left an opening that a different delegation would succeed in starting this mission. So Balak sent another delegation, this time with more dignitaries and more loot and treasure.

15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him: ‘Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor: Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me; 17 for I will promote thee unto very great honour, and whatsoever thou sayest unto me I will do; come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.’ 18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak: ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do any thing, small or great. 19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will speak unto me more.’

So now Bilaams juices are flowing. He speaks to the L-rd and the L-rd tells him he can go on the mission just so long as he only speaks the words which the L-rd tells him to speak. But Hashem had a different plan than that in Bilaams ego-addled mind. As we see:

20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him: ‘If the men are come to call thee, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do.’ 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

Now the Torah relates to us the event of Bilaams talking Donkey. This has confused many people because we all know that animals don’t talk. And one of the things which raises man from the animals is his power of speech. But the Donkey was only speaking the words that Hashem commanded. Hashem created a miracle in Bilaams donkey. When the L-rd sent an angel to block the path of Bilaam, the donkey could see the angel holding a sword in front of him and would not move. When Bilaam got impatient and started to beat the donkey the donkey spoke to him. As it is written:

22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the LORD placed himself in the way for an adversary against him.–Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.– 23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field; and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a hollow way between the vineyards, a fence being on this side, and a fence on that side. 25 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD, and she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; and he smote her again. 26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD, and she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with his staff. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam: ‘What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?’ 29 And Balaam said unto the ass: ‘Because thou hast mocked me; I would there were a sword in my hand, for now I had killed thee.’ 30 And the ass said unto Balaam: ‘Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden all thy life long unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee?’ And he said: ‘Nay.’ 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him: ‘Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I am come forth for an adversary, because thy way is contrary unto me; 33 and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times; unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I had even slain thee, and saved her alive.’

Hashem made the Donkey speak so as to tell Bilaam that despite him being a prophet and so very full of himself, that a lowly donkey could see the angel of Hashem and he couldn’t. Bilaam was trying to be like Abraham but he was more like Laban {the wicked father of Rachel and Leah, Yitzaks wives}. So Bilaam acts smartly with the angel and says “If you want, I’ll turn back…” But the angel tells him to continue on the journey, only he must say and do exactly what Hashem orders him to do.

34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD: ‘I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me; now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back.’ 35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam: ‘Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.‘ So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. 36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto Ir-moab, which is on the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost part of the border. 37 And Balak said unto Balaam: ‘Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?’ 38 And Balaam said unto Balak: ‘Lo, I am come unto thee; have I now any power at all to speak any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.’ 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kiriath-huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. 41 And it came to pass in the morning that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into Bamoth-baal, and he saw from thence the utmost part of the people.
1 And Balaam said unto Balak: ‘Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams.’ 2 And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. 3 And Balaam said unto Balak: ‘Stand by thy burnt-offering, and I will go; peradventure the LORD will come to meet me; and whatsoever He showeth me I will tell thee.’ And he went to a bare height. 4 And God met Balaam; and he said unto Him: ‘I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered up a bullock and a ram on every altar.’ 5 And the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said: ‘Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.’ 6 And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt-offering, he, and all the princes of Moab. 7 And he took up his parable, and said: From Aram Balak bringeth me, the king of Moab from the mountains of the East: ‘Come, curse me Jacob, and come, execrate Israel.’ 8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? And how shall I execrate, whom the LORD hath not execrated? 9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. 10 Who hath counted the dust of Jacob, or numbered the stock of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let mine end be like his!

It appears that Bilaam did something which Hashem did not request. I dont believe that Hashem requested that Bilaam make the offerings of sheep and oxen. I have read that he did this to appeal to Hashem like Abraham made his offerings. But Bilaam, in his attempt to out-do Abraham, built seven altars and made seven offerings. But since this was not what Hashem wanted it was for naught. In the end the words which come out of Bilaams mouth are not a curse, but a blessing… He says that Israel is a people who dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations {so very true}. Of course this is not satisfactory to Balak, who hired Bilaam to curse the people, not bless them… So Balak wants to try again.


11 And Balak said unto Balaam: ‘What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.’ 12 And he answered and said: ‘Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD putteth in my mouth?’ 13 And Balak said unto him: ‘Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them; thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all; and curse me them from thence.’ 14 And he took him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered up a bullock and a ram on every altar. 15 And he said unto Balak: ‘Stand here by thy burnt-offering, while I go toward a meeting yonder.’ 16 And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said: ‘Return unto Balak, and thus shalt thou speak.’ 17 And he came to him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt-offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him: ‘What hath the LORD spoken?’ 18 And he took up his parable, and said: Arise, Balak, and hear; give ear unto me, thou son of Zippor: 19 God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: when He hath said, will He not do it? or when He hath spoken, will He not make it good? 20 Behold, I am bidden to bless; and when He hath blessed, I cannot call it back. 21 None hath beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath one seen perverseness in Israel; the LORD his God is with him, and the shouting for the King is among them. 22 God who brought them forth out of Egypt is for them like the lofty horns of the wild-ox. 23 For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel; now is it said of Jacob and of Israel: ‘What hath God wrought!’ 24 Behold a people that riseth up as a lioness, and as a lion doth he lift himself up; he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

STRIKE 2 for Bilaam… He was unable to curse the nation of Israel because he saw that they were a nation being sheltered under Hashems wings. We also learn from this that G-d is not corporeal, he has no body, because it is written “GOD IS NOT A MAN, THAT HE SHOULD LIE, NEITHER THE SON OF MAN, THAT HE SHOULD REPENT”. There is no way that G-d could ever be a man because Bilaam was speaking the word of Hashem.

Now Balak is furious because his well-paid prophet is not succeeding. He has tried to curse them twice and has only accomplished blessing the people. Balak wants him to try one more time…


25 And Balak said unto Balaam: ‘Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.’ 26 But Balaam answered and said unto Balak: ‘Told not I thee, saying: All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?’ 27 And Balak said unto Balaam: ‘Come now, I will take thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.’ 28 And Balak took Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh down upon the desert. 29 And Balaam said unto Balak: ‘Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams.’ 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered up a bullock and a ram on every altar.
24:1 And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling tribe by tribe; and the spirit of God came upon him. 3 And he took up his parable, and said: The saying of Balaam the son of Beor, and the saying of the man whose eye is opened; 4 The saying of him who heareth the words of God, who seeth the vision of the Almighty, fallen down, yet with opened eyes: 5 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel! 6 As valleys stretched out, as gardens by the river-side; as aloes planted of the LORD, as cedars beside the waters; 7 Water shall flow from his branches, and his seed shall be in many waters; and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 8 God who brought him forth out of Egypt is for him like the lofty horns of the wild-ox; he shall eat up the nations that are his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them through with his arrows. 9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up? Blessed be every one that blesseth thee, and cursed be every one that curseth thee.

One of Bilaams blessings has been made into a blessing which is recited each morning before davening. “Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yakov” is a beautiful song which is the line “How goodly are your tents O Jacob..”. Another very important quote of Bilaams is “Blessed be everyone that blesseth thee, and cursed be every one that curseth thee.”. So now Bilaam has accumulated THREE STRIKES and he is out. Balak will not have any more of this…


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. 11 Therefore now flee thou to thy place; I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour.’ 12 And Balaam said unto Balak: ‘Spoke I not also to thy messengers that thou didst send unto me, saying: 13 If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; what the LORD speaketh, that will I speak?

So Bilaam struck out and Balak is upset. Bilaam goes on to prophesy about the end of days. But all is not well in the camp of Israel. The people were lured into sexual immorality by the peoples who surrounded them. They also indulged in the perversity of worshiping the idol baal peor.


25:1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joined himself unto the Baal of Peor; and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up unto the LORD in face of the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.’ 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel: ‘Slay ye every one his men that have joined themselves unto the Baal of Peor.’ 6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the tent of meeting. 7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand. 8 And he went after the man of Israel into the chamber, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9 And those that died by the plague were twenty and four thousand.

Once again the people are profaning themselves before the L-rd. Here the beginning of the story of Pinchas, whom next weeks Parsha is named after. Pinchas was one of Aarons grandchildren, but he was not a Kohen, who saw an Israelite fornicating with a Midianite woman right in front of the tent of meeting, before the eyes of Moshe and Aaron. This was way too much for Pinchas to bear and in his zealousness he ran a spear through both the man and the woman, killing them instantly. This started the execution of all those involved in the idol worship.

Well, this is a very interesting parsha. For more information go to:

Chabad Page : http://www.chabad.org/parshah/default_cdo/aid/45614/jewish/Balak.htm
Die Like a Jew : http://www.torah.org/learning/tabletalk/5767/balak.html
It Can Happen to Any Of Us : http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5765/balak.html

RECENTLY ADDED:

Prophecy of Moshiach in Balak : http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/mashiach/09.htm#t10

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