Weekly Reading Insights: Balak 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Balak (in Israel)
Chukat /Balak outside Israel

To be read on 12 Tamuz 5766 (July 8)

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

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 6 in Israel (Chapter 5 outside of Israel)

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:4066/Balak)

But when He finally did create Adam, Adam sinned and was expelled from His Presence. Aza and Azael spoke up before the Holy One: "Our original claim has been justified. Behold, the Man that You made has sinned before You." He replied to them: "Do you think you could have done better in his situation?" What did the Holy One do? He cast them down from their level of holiness.


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

* * * * *

From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:4066/Balak)

There were two types of [people that made up] Israel [in that generation]. The first was the Jews themselves who lived in that generation, the source of whose souls were sparks of Moses' [soul], who in turn derived from Abel. (This is explained in our exposition on the generation of the desert, on the verse, "And a new king arose over Egypt.")

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

* * * * *

From Rebbeinu Bachya (O:4066/Balak)

As soon as Bilaam had concluded singing the praises of the Jewish people, i.e. their moral superiority over the other nations, G-d removed this spirit of prophecy from him. He reverted to relying on charms and that is why he wound up being killed by the sword instead of securing for himself the death of the righteous he had wished for himself.

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


"A star steps out of Jacob and a scepter rises out of Israel." (24:17)

Although one passage in the Jerusalem Talmud states that this verse refers to Moshiach, 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 Moshiach. 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 Moshiach 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 Moshiach, who will reveal the world's goodness and holiness.

(Peninei HaGeula)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"What this people will do to your people in the end of days." (Numbers 24:14)

In the end of days, before the arrival of Moshiach, an attempt will be made to turn "this people" into "your people," i.e., to transform the Jewish people into a nation like any other, indistinguishable from non-Jews in custom and habit.

(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa) (From L'Chaim #376)


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:4066/Balak)

"Balak", the name of this week's Torah portion, was the name of a non-Jewish king who attempted to destroy the Jewish people. How can the Torah name a portion after such an evil person? The Talmud points out that Balak, the king of Moab, was the ancestor of Ruth the Moabite, who was the ancestor of King David, and from whom eventually will come the Mashiach. (Sotah 47:1)

Thus, this lineage reveals that from a destroyer of the Jewish people will come our final redeemer, Mashiach. Balak represents the transformation of darkness to light - the turning over of the idolatrous kingdom of Moab to the sacred kingdom of David and the King Mashiach. Just as Balak was transformed from evil to good, darkness to light, so too are we reminded by his name as the Torah portion's title that if we make the effort, every obstacle can be overcome and the light revealed.


This Shabbat is the 12th of Tammuz, the date the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, was released from prison in 1927, having been jailed for encouraging his disciples to teach Judaism. The following is an adapted excerpt from what our generation's Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said about his predecessor, father-in-law, and spiritual master. The emphasis is on how a Jew serves G-d, a task that is assisted by the guidance of a rebbe, or spiritual mentor:

There is great pleasure in using some experience or knowledge you have, especially Jewish wisdom, to illuminate and even eradicate the darkness in someone else's life. Indeed, it is not just wonderful; sometimes, to retain our perspective we need to do it…

Similarly, we sometimes must make a spiritual journey beyond ourselves. It is so easy to become sedentary, guiding our lives by old premises that may no longer apply. More than just temporarily stopping the momentum of our lives to examine where we are and where we are going, sometimes we need to totally break out of the trance, to completely escape our confines. The habits and stigmas that fill our lives are put on hold, to be re-analyzed afterwards.

The route of this journey is not one that we choose ourselves. Rather it must be on the King's Highway, the path of G-d, the King of the world. The directions are right there, revealed to us by the Torah we study, by the rabbis in our lives, and particularly by the spiritual guide that each person must choose for him or herself.

And even when you travel on the King's Highway, be careful not to become a tourist, only seeing the sights, becoming absorbed in the scenery, standing in the middle, passive. It is crucial to push ahead, to reach our goal, to complete the journey. The purpose of the King's Highway is to lead us the capitol of the King - and eventually to the King's palace. Once in the palace, we proceed to enter the chamber of the King, and then to meet the King Himself, the Holy One, blessed be He. This is the goal of every Jew, to become one with the King. And this is the meaning of the words "The Jewish People, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He are all one".

When we are willing and ready to totally devote our lives to G-d even for a short while, we transcend our finitude and commit ourselves to reaching the ultimate goal. Pick a mitzvah. Make it yours. Slow down and concentrate on the words you pray. Lend a helping hand and act cheerful, even when you'd rather not. By making a concerted commitment, we unify ourselves with G-d. Our day-to-day lives reach a new level of reality, and we ourselves are transformed for the better. So, who's waiting? Start the journey! Now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

For all our insights for this parsha:

from last year

from two years ago

from three years ago

from four years ago

Back to Top


Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION