Balak: A Summary of the Parashah

Cursing and Blessing the Israelites

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The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Miriam and Aaron die and Moses and the Israelites must fight against the Edomites, Canaanites, Emorites and Amorites to continue toward God’s Promised land.  Each time God helps the children of Israel win.   Now, Balak, the King of Moab, saw how the Hebrews had won these wars. 

Balak sends messengers to Balaam, and son of Beor, to tell him about the powerful Hebrews,  “Come with us Balaam to curse these Hebrews.  We know that whomever you bless Balaam is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”  Balaam answered.  “Spend the night here.  God will speak to me and then I will give you an answer.”  Later God said to Balaam, “Who are these people?”  Balaam answered “Balak has sent messengers to ask me to curse the Hebrews and drive them out.”  God says to Balaam.  “No. Do not go with them! You will not curse the Hebrew people for they are blessed.” Balaam's Donkey

So Balaam told the messengers no.  When Balak heard Balaam’s answer he sent more important messengers to ask Balaam to curse the Hebrews.  But Balaam would not saying, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go against God’s word.  And now, stay, and I will find out what else God says.”  This time God tells Balaam, “You may go but do only what I say to do.

In the morning Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Balak’s officers.  God’s anger flares as Balaam goes so an angel of God stands in the path to stop him. Balaam’s female donkey sees the angel of God standing with a sword in his hand and turns the other way.  Balaam hits the donkey to get her back on the path.  Three times this angel leads the donkey away from the path and three times Balaam hits his donkey in anger. 

Then God opens the mouth of the female donkey and she says to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you hit me three times?”  Balaam answers, “Because you act against me. If I had a sword in my hand I would kill you.” The donkey then says, “Am I not your faithful donkey whom you always ride?  Have I ever done this to you before?” 

When Balaam answers no God suddenly opens his eyes so he could see the angel of God standing in the path with his sword in his hand.  Balaam quickly bowed.  Then the angel of God said “Why did you hit your donkey 3 times?  Maybe she turned from me in fear.  If she had not turned away I would have killed you and let her live.”

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at www.TiptoeThroughTheTorah.com, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.