Monday, July 1, 2013

Jonathan Eaton, TP101, Make Up Assignment, Balak Numbers 22:2-25:9

Parsha Balak

Jonathan Eaton, TP101, Make Up Assignment,  Balak Numbers 22:2-25:9

Torah Reading for Week of Jun 16-22, 2013 - Tammuz 8-14, 5773

Surely Parsha Balak must hold significance for the modern world.  After all, why would it have three chapters dedicated to the story of Balaam?  It is interesting to note that there are less chapters about creation.   And let’s not forget that we can refer to this week’s Haftarah which  begins with, “O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD" (Micah 6:5).

A commandment to “remember”, so that we may know HIS righteous acts.  There must be some serious lessons for us learn.

Balaam, a descendant of Laban continued the devious nature of his forefather.  It appears that King Balak, a sorcerer himself in the art of ‘kishuf’ saw the potential in Balaam and enlisted his services most likely to join ‘powers’.  According to the Talmud (Berachot 7a), Balaam somehow knew when the Lord was angry with the world and if he could curse someone at just the right time (even Israel) then the chances of God agreeing were higher.

The story unfolds and includes a very famous incident concerning a talking donkey.   Preachers have used this story in many ways to abstractly restore and comfort the down hearted with such words as, “If God can use a donkey, then He can use you!”  What if there is more to this passage than a talking donkey?  

Certainly in the New Testament, Balaam is mentioned three times:
 1) the "way of Balaam" (2 Pet. 2:15-16);  leaving the straight path and wondering after the riches of wickedness .
2) the "error of Balaam" (Jude 1:11); rushing against God for profit.
3) the "doctrine of Balaam." (Revelation 2:14). Teaching that entices us to sin and committed sexual immorality

So the story of Balaam continues throughout scripture right until the very last book , ‘that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD’.   Otherwise, the Sages consider that Balaam was of no use, just a hornet of whom neither honey nor sting was wanted...

The phrase "from Shittim unto Gilgal" in Micah 6:5 can be emphasised to mean from the place where the sin of Baal Pe'or occurred, when Israel sinned with the women of Moab, until all Israel finds REST after the crossing of the Jordan. 

 God's righteousness here refers to his mercy to deliver the people and bring them into a place a rest, despite the terrible sin at Baal Peor with the Midianite women – thanks also to Phinehas who ran certain individuals through with a spear.  

Whilst we are to remember the story of Balak and Balaam, we are to refuse to indulge in their sin.

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