Weekly Reading Insights: Balak 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Balak

To be read on 9 Tamuz 5765 (July 16)

Torah: Numbers 22:2-25:9
Haftorah: Michah 5:6-6:8 (mentions Billam, Balak, and their plots)

Pirkei Avot Chapter 5

Balak is the 7th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 40th overall, and 35th out of 54 in overall length.

Balak opens with Balak, king of Moab, hiring Balaam, the gentile prophet, to curse the Jews. Despite Balaam's numerous sacrifices and attempts to curse the Jews, all he succeeds in doing is blessing the Jews! When Balaam and Balak realize the futility of trying to curse the Jews, they decide to try to cause the Jews to sin and thus arouse G-d's anger toward them. The parsha concludes telling how many of the Jews sinned with the Moabite women, worshipped their idolatry, and were punished subsequently with a plague. One of the tribal princes even sinned publicly, but was killed by Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, whose act of zealousness simultaneously staved the plague.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:40-65/Balak)

What is the difference between a fountain and a well? There is no similarity between the waters of abundance that flow of themselves like a fountain, and those which are required to be drawn out [by the Tzadik] to give water [to Israel].

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:40-65/Balak)

And since it is from the world of Beriya on down that the powers of evil begin to have dominion, [Balaam] therefore wanted to curse them from there.

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From the "Shlah". (S:40-65/Balak)

When he spoke about being privy to the Supernal Knowledge, the listener got the impression that Balaam claimed to be privy to G-d's range of knowledge, whereas in fact he was privy only to the "highest" of the forces of impurity that G-d has allowed to govern part of nature. Balaam, technically speaking, spoke truthfully, since he had access to a power that in its field was considered supreme. However, the listener did not know that this power had no independent authority at all. It was but an agent of G-d.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"You shall see but the utmost part of them, and shall not see them all." (23:13)
It is only if one looks at a "part" of a Jew, a small detail of his make-up, that one might notice any flaws; if he is considered as a whole, no defects will be visible.
(Ohel Torah)

"Balak the son of Tzipor saw all that the Jews did to the Emorites." (22:2)
He saw what the Jews did to the Emorites, but he did not see what the Emorites had done to the Jews. This is the way of the Nations of the World. They only see what the Jews are doing to the non-Jews, but the deeds of the non-Jews that led to the reactions of the Jews, these they do not see.
(Iturei Torah)



from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"A star steps out of Jacob and a scepter rises out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17)
Although one passage in the Jerusalem Talmud states that this verse refers to Mashiach, another interprets it as referring to every Jew. This seeming contradiction is resolved by the Baal Shem Tov, who said that every Jew contains within him a spark of the soul of Mashiach. Furthermore, this spark is more than just a latent aspect; every Jew is able to bring that spark out into the open, bringing about the actual manifestation of Mashiach by means of Torah and mitzvot, which effect a purification and refinement of the physical world. This will be achieved in macrocosm with the coming of Mashiach, who will reveal the world's goodness and holiness.
(Peninei HaGeula)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:40-65/Balak)

As Jews, what are the qualities that we look for in a leader? How do these values reflect upon our personal behavior? In connection with parashat Balak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe discussed what a Jewish leader is supposed to be. Last week's Torah reading ended with the victory over the kings, Sichon and Og; this week's opens with the apprehension of the King of Moab, Balak: "And Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Yisroel had done to the Emori…." (Num. 22:2) The verses continue, "…and Moab was afraid of Israel because of their numbers". (ibid. 22:3)

It is clear from the verses that the Moabite nation was not appraised of the full danger facing them. Rashi explains how Balak's fear became transmitted to his people: "If those two great kings who we depended on could not stand up against them [Israel], all the more so us!" There was some political intrigue here. Until the war with Sichon and Og, Balak was not worried. He had a secret agreement with Sichon and Og that they would protect him from Israel. Only the kings knew about this. If the Jews had known, they wouldn't have asked permission to pass through Sichon's land on their way to the Holy Land, precipitating a war. With his protection removed, Balak had a problem.

G-d commanded the Jews not to war with the people of Moab (Deut. 2:9), and only request passing through their country on their way to Israel. Balak wrongly assumed that the real reason the Jews did not attack Moab was because of the Jews' avoidance of war. Esau's descendents - not Jacob's (the Jews) - were the ones who were told to "live by the sword" (Gen. 27:4), so Balak was not afraid - until he saw the Jews' miraculous victory. When he realized that the adrenalin of victory over Sichon must be coursing through the Jews' veins, Balak lost his confidence. He had to do something drastic to protect himself and his people.

This is all fine and good, but why did Balak have to make the people afraid too, especially when he was not looking for a military solution? Isn't the function of leadership to strengthen the people? The Sages wrote, "Evil people are controlled by their hearts" (Bereishit Rabba 34:10). When an evil person is afraid, his or her heart rejects logic allowing the fear to take control and become apparent, and spread to everyone he or she influences. So has it been with demagogues throughout history.

Here we see the difference between Balak and Moses. During the war with Sichon and Og, Moses was also afraid. He knew that Og had once come to Abraham's aid, and maybe in that merit, Og and his nation would be granted the upper hand. Nevertheless, Moses kept it to himself. He did not share his fears with the people, nor did those apprehensions affect his actions. This quality exemplifies Jewish leadership throughout all generations. Even during times of danger, they work to strengthen the people, instilling them with confidence and faith. This is the secret of our success over our adversaries during this long exile and it is this confidence and faith that will eventually bring us the ultimate victory, the arrival of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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