Some thoughts and resources for exploring the Torah portion, Balak (rarely spelled differently, sometimes: Balaq), Numbers 22:2-25:9. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”
Balak is next read in most of the Diaspora the week of Shabbat July 20, beginning with mincha July 13.
These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan, concerning the Wilderness, concerning Arabah, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di’zihab; eleven days from Horeb, by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.
— Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:1-2 (Stone translation)
“These are the words” launches Moses’ long rebuke of the people. The first verse, according to commentaries beginning with the Third Century Sifrei Devarim, uses place names as code for sins: Continue Reading
When Balaam speaks poetry given him by God — 23:7, 23:18, 24:3, 24:15 — the text says he “va-yisa m’shalo.” Alter and JPS (and The Women’s Commentary) say, “took up his theme.” Stone has it, “declaimed his parable.” Fox says, “took up his discourse.” (For references, see Source Materials.) Continue Reading