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June 24, 1994 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-06-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Balak's Desired Curse
Turns To Blessing

For 24 Months



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his entire sedrah deals with
an amazing folk tale in-
serted into the Torah. It de-
scribes how Balak, king of
Moab, dealt with the Israelites.
The scene is on the eastern
shores of the Dead Sea as the Is-
raelites were making their way
north, entering upon the last
stage of their journey to the
promised land.
King Balak was petrified at the
sight of the oncoming Israelites
who have already dealt with
other neighboring tribes victori-
ously and now were approaching
the land of Moab. Curses among
ancient and primitive peoples
were thought to be decisive in
dealing with an enemy. King Bal-
ak, overcome with dread, decid-
ed to turn to an Eastern seer
named Baalam. King Balak had
heard that this reknown heathen
prophet Baalam was able to
curse anyone who needed to be
curses. Enemies said his curse
was irresistable.
Balak sent messengers to
Baalam inviting him to come to
Moab and cast a spell upon the
approaching Israelites. Balaam
was at first reluctant. The second
time Baalam agreed to go with
the men. He rose up early in the
morning, saddled up to go with
the princes of Moab. As he was
riding along, the ass saw an an-
gel of the Lord standing in the
way with his sword drawn in his
hand, so the ass turned aside.
Bantam beat the ass to turn back
the right way; this happened
three times.
Then God opened the eyes of
Baalam to see the angel of the
Lord standing in the way with his
sword drawn in his hand. He
bowed his head and fell on his
face; he knew he had sinned. The
angel said to Baalam, "Go with
these men, but only the word that
I shall speak unto thee shall thou
The great confrontation was
dramatic. Balaam declared, "How
shall I curse whom God hath not
cursed? And how shall I de-
nounce whom God had not de-
Balaam looked upon the Israel
and said, "How goodly are thy
tents 0 Jacob, they dwelling
places, 0 Israel." Balak said, "I
called you here to curse my ene-
mies and behold all you've done
is to bless them! Go back home!"
And Baalam said to him, "I must
say to you as I said to your mes-
sengers, `If Balak would give me

Dr. Richard C. Hertz is rabbi
emeritus of Temple Beth El.

a house full of silver and gold, I
cannot go beyond the word of the
Lord. What the Lord speaketh,
that is what I speak.' "
Why was this story, with a folk
theme all its own, inserted into
the Torah? Bantam, who desires
to subdue Israel with words, can-
not even subdue his beast of bui-•
den with a stick.

Shabbat Balak:
Numbers 22:2-25:9
Micah 5:6-6:8.

This lampooning of Baalam
shows in reality that he was a
fool, a caricature of a seer, out-
witted even by his dumb beast.
Thus the image of Baalam the
wicked is ready to be transformed
into Baalamthe saint.
Baalam's oracles have a bless-
ing for Israel, predicting that Is-
rael will be blessed with
prosperity and victory and will
crush Balak's nation. Baalam's
blessing moves from the present
to the future for its ultimate ful-
filment but Balak has defied God
by attempting to destroy Israel.
There is even a parallel with
Pharoah, who also tried to thwart
God's design to bless Israel. 0

Elects Leaders

Temple Emanu-El recently in-
stalled its 1994/95 temple and af-
filiate officers and trustees.
Temple officers are president,
Sharon Jaffe; vice presidents, Ju-
dith Nolish, Joel Hearshen, Ger-
ald Bayer, Dr. Alan Kessler;
treasurer, Glen Liebowitz; secre-
tary, Suzan Caplan; immediate
past president, Beatruce Sacks.
Trustees are Mary Paquette-
Abt, Marilyn Kaczander-Cohen,
Stephen Dillon, Janice Erdstein,
Allan Gale, Robert Gershman,
William Hartman, Dr. William
Hoffman, Dennis Kayes, Barbara
Nurenberg, Jennifer Patterson,
Dr. Steven Rossmoore, Muriel
Sherbow, Lloyd Strausz, Alice
Subia, Andrea Teeple, Stuart
Trager and Richard Zussman.
Temple Emanu-El Brother-
hood officers are president, Dou-


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