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  • Balak 2019

    My family recent observed yahrzeit for my father. At his Levoyah the Rabbi giving the Hesbed compared him to Pinchas who takes centre stage towards the end of today’s sedra. Zimri and Cosbi acted immorally in front of the people and Moshe was shocked and rooted to the spot, unable to take the leadership role. Pinchas picked a spear and killed them both (Bamidbar 25: 7-8). The Rabbi said it was outstanding leadership but a violent act and by linking Pinchas’s attributes to my father’s unintentionally caused great consternation.

  • Balak 2018

    Today’s date is actually 17th Tammuz.

    If not Shabbat, it would be a Fast day, which is postponed until tomorrow.

    17th Tammuz counts as a ‘minor’ Fast, lasting only through the hours of daylight.

    It begins the intense period of mourning for both Temples, and other Jewish tragedies, known as the ‘Three Weeks’, which culminate on 9th Av, or Tisha b’Av.

    These ‘Three Weeks’ mark the period in Jewish history which led up to the destruction of both Temples. I wonder how many people know anything about 17th Tammuz, let alone actually observe it?

  • Balak 2017

    “Ma tovu ohalecha Ya’acov, mishkenotecha Yisrael”.

    King Balak of Moav, fearing the might of the Israelites (as demonstrated against Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of the Bashanites, in last week’s parashah) called upon Bilaam, the prophet / magician to curse Israel so that they would fail to crush Moav.

  • Balak 2014

    “Ma tovu ohalecha Ya’acov, mishkenotecha Yisrael”.

    This week, three Israeli families will be burying their  teenage sons. Their disappearance has united the family of Israel with their families under one large tent, one large Mishkan, for over two weeks. Now we collectively mourn with them.

    King Balak of Moav, fearing the might of the Israelites, as demonstrated against Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of the Bashanites, in last  week’s parashah, called upon Bilaam, the prophet / magician to curse Israel so that they would fail to crush Moav.

  • Balak 5773

    The Sidra is named after Balak, the king of Moab, who was the ruler of that country at the time that the Israelites reached the Eastern bank of the Jordan in the plains of Moab, opposite Jericho. It was the 40th year since the Exodus. The Israelites were almost ready to cross over the Jordan. Earlier in their journey, they had been commanded by God, not to attack the Moabites. This was because they were the children of Lot, and, therefore, they were related, since the days of Abraham, to the Israelites.  
  • Balak 2013

    This week’s sedra and haftara give us two well-known phrases. “Mah Tovu Ohelecha Ya’akov” - “how good are your tents O Jacob, your Sanctuary, O Israel.” With these words, spoken by the prophet Bala’am, we have opened our prayers in synagogues throughout the world for thousands of years.

  • Balak 5772

    The Sidra of Balak, the king of Moab, contains the unique Biblical story about Bilam, (this is how the name is pronounced in Hebrew), who was hired by Balak to curse the Israelites when they came near to his country’s borders.  Our ancient Rabbis regarded Bilam as a gentile Prophet and asserted, quite surprisingly, that he had attained the same supreme level of prophetic powers as Moses. According to some scholars, he was a pagan magician, with similar characteristics as other magicians, who flourished in Assyria and Babylon during the second millennium BCE.

  • Balak 2012

    Among Balaam's best known words in his unintentional blessing are "How goodly are your tents, Yaacov, and your dwelling-places, Yisrael". They are so beautiful that we recite them upon entering the synagogue for morning prayers. This seems to imply that his words may be hinting at houses of prayer.
    What in fact are these tents and dwelling-places, physical houses or spiritual dwellings, and why are they associated with Yaakov?

  • Balak 2007


    Can anyone tell me - other than the Rabbi - what the connection is between the sedra of Korach and today's sedra of Balak?
    Answer - the "hole in the earth" which swallowed Korach and his followers was one of the 10 things created on the eve of Shabbat; another was "the mouth of Bilaam's ass" in today's reading.
    After a short summary of today's sedra, I am going to talk about the prophet Michah and about two verses in today's haftorah.
    First let me summarise today's sedra.
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