by Rachel Maryn
This week’s parashah, Balak, includes something for everyone. There’s a frightened king, a hesitant sorcerer, a talking donkey, and if that’s not enough, there’s a curse thrown in just for good measure.
In this portion, King Balak of Moab is worried that his nation will soon be taken over by the Israelites. To ensure this doesn’t happen, he retains the services of Balaam, a sorcerer, to come and curse the Jews. God tells Balaam that he shall not curse the people because they are blessed. This message from God makes Balaam hesitant about the king’s request. After much convincing (and a conversation with his donkey) Balaam comes to Moab and tries three separate times to curse the Israelites, but all that comes out of his mouth are praises. Needless to say, he fails and returns to his land. The end of the portion deals with a plague that is halted with the killing of a Midianite princess and the Jewish leader she is consorting with.