Balak (Balak, בלק) was the name of a Moabite king in the days of Moses. It is also the name of the fortieth reading from the Torah. It comes from the second verse of this week’s reading, which says, “Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” (Numbers 22:2).

This week’s Torah reading tells the story of how Balak hires the occult prophet Balaam to lay a curse on Israel. Balaam meets resistance from God, has a conversation with his donkey and ends up blessing Israel instead of cursing them.

Balak and Bilaam are dark characters in The Torah. What is the lesson? How do we decode this section? We are approaching the three “negative weeks” starting on June 27 and ending on Tisha B’Av on July 18. These weeks represent a time when The Light is direct. We may be more reactive and have the opportunity to really see and feel our “triggers” which need to be corrected.

We are heading towards “The Promised Land” and there are obstacles along the way. This week’s portion’s hurdle is the land of Moab, Balak and Bilaam.

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