Shabbat Balak: We’re Alone Out Here

We are usually distracted enough by the talking ass in our parashat hashavua to fail to notice some of the other more sobering moments of the story of the mercenary prophet Balaam and King Balak of Moab. The very idea of a talking animal might lead us to miss the fact that she is theContinue reading “Shabbat Balak: We’re Alone Out Here”

Shabbat Balak: Fear and Loathing, and a Talking Ass

This week, parashat Balak allows us to appreciate the importance of parables to communicate difficult truths concisely and memorably. As our story opens, one King Balak of Moab hears his people talking about the immigrants – the Israelites – nearing their border:   “This horde will consume everything around us like cows eat all theContinue reading “Shabbat Balak: Fear and Loathing, and a Talking Ass”

Shabbat Balak: the Holy and the Idolatrous

Mah tovu ohalekha Ya’akov, mishk’notekha Yisrael, “how beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel” – these words, which appear in the siddur at the very beginning of morning Tefilah, are part of our parashat hashavua, called Balak. The words are those of a mercenary prophet, Bil’am, hired to curse the people Israel byContinue reading “Shabbat Balak: the Holy and the Idolatrous”

Shabbat Balak: Not Just a Funny Story

This week the Torah abruptly turns away from stories of Israelite society in terrifying disarray to what seems at first glance to be an absurd parable: a frightened king, a greedy hired mercenary, and a talking ass – and none of them are Jewish. Perhaps this week might offer some comic relief? Let the cameraContinue reading “Shabbat Balak: Not Just a Funny Story”

parashat hashavua Balak: Jewish camping

This week’s parashah is once again curiously, albeit appropriately, named, this time for a king who is hostile to the Jewish people and suspicious of them; or so it seems. King Balak of Moab is concerned about the Israelites approaching his kingdom and camping nearby. His response is to act to defend his borders, notContinue reading “parashat hashavua Balak: Jewish camping”