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Parshat Balak: God’s Voice Fills the World

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25.06.2021

Bilaam said to Balak, “And now that I have come to you, do I have the power to speak freely? I can only speak the words that God puts into my mouth” (Bamidbar 22,38).

For those of us who are familiar with the story of Parshat Balak, the story of kings hiring a one-eyed sorcerer to curse their enemy nation might not seem so jarring. But if we step back and look at the text with fresh eyes, we can see that there’s been a significant shift in the storyline. No longer are we following Moshe and Am Yisrael through the desert; we’ve stepped into a new narrative, and really a whole new world. This new world is magical, and filled with witchcraft and sorcery and talking donkeys. One could wonder if we are reading the Torah, or if we’re reading, l’havdil, The Lord of the Rings!

Did this story really need to be included in the Torah? Or at least this story could have been recorded in shorthand, as opposed to nearly an entire parsha of fantastic stories with sword-bearing angels, a talking donkey, numerous attempted curses, and large amounts of animal sacrifices? What are we supposed to take from this story?

There is a single theme that I believe unites the disparate pieces of the parsha. It starts at the beginning of the story, when Balak’s messengers are returning to Moav with Bilaam, and Bilaam runs into a difficult and embarrassing incident with his donkey. First, the donkey swerves off the road and into the field. Bilaam beats the donkey until it returns to the path. It then swerves again, this time scraping........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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