Torah Tidbits

24 April 2014 / 24 Nisan 5774

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Issue 1049
Shabbat Parshat Balak
June 20, 2013
Lead Tidbits
Guest Article

From the pen of Rabbi Berel Wein - Reprinted from Shabbat Shalom #4 with permission

The Bible is replete with what can be called “peripheral characters.” These people flit in and out of the biblical narrative having impact but are always mysterious to those of us who study the Bible. Most of the time these characters are shown in a less than positive light. Lot, Potiphar, Avimelech, even Yitro, are somewhat damaged goods in the eyes of the Torah. But the two main characters in this week’s parsha, Balak and Bilaam, are just plain evil.
Balak is brutal, direct and minces no words. The existence of the Jewish people itself is somehow seen as a lethal threat to him and Moab. Bilaam, on the other hand, is suave, cunning, full of sweet words and blessings, but no less inimical to the existence of the Jewish people.
It is the combination of greed and hatred of the Jews that makes Bilaam such a dangerous foe. Whereas Balak seems to be safely ignored by heaven, not so Bilaam. The Lord “turns” Bilaam so that his curses become blessings. Without God’s interference, so to speak, Bilaam’s true wishes could have been fulfilled.

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Guest Article

Hidden in the Sand

MA TOVU OHALECHA YAAKOV MISHKENOTECHA YISRAEL:
Well known pasuk - words that emerged from Bil’am’s mouth, but were put there, so to speak, by G-d.

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Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary

Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary

[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p’tucha or s’tuma. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p’sukim in the parsha.

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Sedra Stats

Balak stats

40th of 54 sedras;
7th of 10 in Bamidbar

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Lead Tidbit

Our Greatest Ally and Weapon

Of course, any part of Torah can be analyzed and studied on a deep level - many deep levels. But in one way of looking at Parshat Balak, we can say that it is a simple sedra. Maybe the simplest. It has none of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. But there are 16 other sedras without mitzvot, so that alone is not why it is simple.
Parshat Balak consists of two stories. The first one is 95 p’sukim long - in a single parsha, one of the longest in the Torah.
The second story is told in the last 9 p’sukim of the sedra, which a continuation in the beginning of next week’s sedra. That’s it for Parshat Balak. Two stories.

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Other Tidbits
TTriddles "Report"

TTriddles

TTriddles are Torah Tidbits-style riddles on Parshat HaShavua (sometimes on the calendar). They are found in the hard-copy of TT scattered throughout, usually at the bottom of different columns. In the electronic versions of TT, they are found all together at the end of the ParshaPix-TTriddles section. The best solution set submitted each week (there isn’t always a best) wins a double prize a CD from Noam Productions and/or a gift (game, puzzle, book, etc.) from Big Deal

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ParshaPix Explanations

Parsha Pix

Upper-left is part of one of the very first ParshaPixPuzzles of years ago. There is a BLOCK (sounds like BALAK) in a nest, which makes it BLOCK BEN TZIPOR

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Divrei Menachem

Divrei Menachem

As we read in our parsha about the slick soothsayer Bilaam, we cannot but be confused as to whether he was a smooth sorcerer or a propitious prophet. On the one hand, Yehoshua describes him as, “Bilaam the son of Be’or the sorcerer” (Yehoshua 13:22), yet, on the other hand, we know that Bilaam heard the words of G-d.

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"From Machon Puah"

Time-Lapse Imaging

Last week we discussed the developing technology of in-vitro fertilization and the attempts to improve implantation rates to get a better pregnancy rate. One of the ways to do so is to move the fertilized eggs as little as possible during the several days of the incubation period from fertilization to egg transfer into the uterus.

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Portion of the Portion

Don't Call Me a Donkey

Since the weekly portions now come from the book of Bamidbar, I thought it appropriate to pick up and read the new book by Dr. Erica Brown “Leadership in the Wilderness, Authority and Anarchy in the Book of Numbers” published by Maggid books. Her comments in chapter 11 relating to this week’s portion made me think about how leaders can come from unusual places.

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Parsha Points to Ponder

Parsha Points to Ponder - Balak

) Why does Balak give such specific information about Bilaam including his father’s name, his city’s name, and where the city is located when sending messengers to hire Bilaam to curse the Jewish people (22:5)?
2) Why did G-d ask Bilaam who the people are with him (22:9) given the reality that G-D is all-knowing?
3) Why does G-D command Moshe to kill the leaders of the sinners specifically in the light of day (NEGED HASHEMESH - 25:4)?

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Chizuk and Idud

CHIZUK and IDUD for Olim not yet Olim respectively

“This is a People that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Bamidbar 23:9). This seminal verse reminds me of Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Herzog’s book, “A People That Dwells Alone”, containing his collected writings and speeches. Included therein one finds a record of his debate, in his capacity as the Israeli ambassador to Canada, with the British historian Prof. Arnold Toynbee.

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Vebbe Rebbe

Wedding Chupa Question

Last week, the Torah world lost a true talmid chacham, Rav Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth (pronounced Noyvirt), zt"l, who died at the age of 85. We have not in the past used this column to eulogize but felt that this case was different - not because of various connections with Rav Neuwirth or even the fact that we have quoted him in this column hundreds of times.

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Word of the Month

Word of the Month

A weekly feature of Torah Tidbits to help clarify practical and conceptual aspects of the Jewish Calendar, thereby better fulfilling the mitzva of HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem…

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In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

Candle Lighting and Havdala

Candle Lighting Sponsored By:

Sedra Stats

40th of 54 sedras;
7th of 10 in Bamidbar

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Word of the Month

Word of the Month

A weekly feature of Torah Tidbits to help clarify practical and conceptual aspects of the Jewish Calendar, thereby better fulfilling the mitzva of HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem…

Last op for KL is Motza"Sh Balak (June 22 - until dawn of June 23). Although opinions vary as to earliest op (3 days after the molad, the first Motza"Sh thereafter, 7 full days after the molad - and a few variations thereof), the last op is exactly halfway between the previous molad and the next. There are those who permit saying KL a bit later that time, but we are accepting the application of SAFEIK B’RACHA L’HAKEIL, that if there is a doubt as to whether a b’racha should be said or not, one should not say it.