Shabbat Readings and Commentary

Friday, July 07, 2006 |  by Michael Schneider
Balak : Numbers 22:2-25:9; Micah 5:6-6:8

Just a reminder from last weekend’s feature: The captain of the German soccer team, Michael Ballak, and his team lost this week to Italy. His name, Ballak, is ironically similar to the name of this week’s Torah portion!

We read in our weekly Torah portion about Balak, king of Moab, who was frightened by the victorious people of Israel after they defeated the mighty Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. (Both of these battles are still remembered in daily Jewish prayers!)

Balak turned to spiritual powers for help: He called upon Balaam, a known seer, to curse Israel! We see that at first Balaam resisted the demands of the king, wanting to obey God. The king sent first messengers then princes to persuade him. God saw Balaam’s heart grow increasingly weak so He allowed him to go: “Rise up and go with them’ (22:20). Balaam waited for the ‘green light’ from God. We read how quickly the next morning he packed his donkey and went.

But “God was angry because he was going” (22:22). As we read in Romans 1, God sometimes allows people to “go after the desires of their heart.”

God used the situation to demonstrate that he can use anyone to proclaim His word, this time through a talking donkey.

Later we see that instead of a cursing, Balak had to listen to a blessing on Israel (23:11 and 25) three times. He, like Pharaoh, did not give up easily and it became a power struggle between him and the God of Israel.

Blessed is everyone who blesses you (Israel), and cursed is everyone who curses you." (24:9)

However, the story shows us, that the Jewish people are the most cursed people in all history! The United Nations has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than against all other nations put together including Iraq! Of the 175 resolutions of the UN Security Council, 97 were against Israel!

On the other hand, people, companies and individuals are blessed because they bless Israel whether through practical and financial help or prayer. Yes, this formula still holds good.

Just look at the United States, which stand on Israel’s side most of the time and has been blessed for that. One of Balaam’s blessings even became the introduction of a prayer: “How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel” (24:5).

The portion of the prophets coincides with Numbers. “My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and from Shittim to Gilgal, so that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.” Micah 6:5

Let it be a word of comfort to us: God can change any ordered and planned curse into a blessing!

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