Balak – Rishon

Take Balaam – Please!

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Balak, king of Moab, saw what the Jews had done to the Amorites and he wasn’t pleased. He consulted with his allies in Midian about a preemptive strike. (The Talmud in Sanhedrin 105a says that Moab and Midian were historically enemies but they put aside their differences to confront a common enemy.)

Balak sent messengers to Balaam, a pagan prophet, with a request that he hobble the Jews with a curse. (It was well-known that Balaam’s blessings and curses were most effective.) Balaam told the messengers to stay overnight, as he had to wait for G-d’s word on the matter.

That night, G-d appeared to Balaam and asked him about the men. (Of course G-d knew; when G-d asks a human a question, it’s a test to see how he responds. Refer back to G-d’s question to Cain about Abel’s whereabouts in the fourth aliyah of parshas Bereishis.) Balaam enthusiastically explained Balak’s request, which G-d then denied.

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