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.
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.
[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.Continue Reading
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.
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 DealContinue Reading
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 TZIPORContinue Reading
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.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
) 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)?
“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.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
In This Issue of Torah Tidbits
- Lead Tidbit
- Guest Article
- Candle A Day
- Gold from the Land of Israel
- Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
- Sedra Stats
- Maharal on the Sedra
- Vebbe Rebbe
- Portion of the Portion
- Oz Torah
- Parsha Points to Ponder
- ParshaPix Explanations
- TTriddles "Report"
- Person In The Parsha
- Word of the Month
- The Trade and Commerce of the Talmid Chacham- Tamari
- Chizuk and Idud
- Divrei Menachem
- "From Machon Puah"
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Candle Lighting and Havdala
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40th of 54 sedras;
7th of 10 in Bamidbar
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.