Balak: Resources For Parshat Balak
In the Torah there are only two examples of animals talking with humans, the snake in the Garden of Eden and in our parshah, Balaam's donkey. These two animals and their words represent the voices of opportunism (the snake) and rational philosophy (the donkey) and are the symbolic archetypes of the ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures. These voices exist in each of us, continually trying to sway us from our path in life. Click here to read more.
The sages teach us that Balaam could capture the one instant in the day when God is wrathful. When Balaam succeeded in cursing a nation at that instant, he could successfully bring about their downfall. Unlike our regular sixty-minute hour, the Torah divides an hour into 1,080 parts and every part of an hour into seventy-six instants. Thus, each instant is approximately one twenty-third of a second.
Let’s take a look at the concept of peace as it appears in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom (שָׁלוֹם). Its shoresh (three-letter root) is shin-lamed-mem (ש-ל-ם), which is also the shoresh of the word shelemut(שְׁלֵמוּת), which means “wholeness.”
In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, King of Moab, hired Balaam, an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.