Sedra of the week: Balak
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Sedra of the week: Balak

Rabbi Jeff Berger looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Parshat Balak introduces Balaam, who according to the Babylonian Talmud was one of seven non-Jewish prophets, born circumcised and given spiritual powers, so non-Jews could have a prophet of the stature of Moses.

Although Balaam and Abraham were of different generations, separated by more than 300 years, Pirkei Avot 5:19 curiously compares their character traits.

Students of Abraham see with a “good eye, are humble and altruistic”. Those following Balaam are the opposite; “evil-eyed, arrogant and avaricious”.

Rashi also draws a comparison between the Sacrifice of Isaac and Parshat Balak: Abraham rose early to saddle his donkey to take Isaac to Mount Moriah, and Balaam saddled his donkey early on his way to curse the Israelites.

Rabbi David Fohrman of AlephBeta notes several other similarities – both take two lads with them and both had contact with an angel along the way.

More poignantly, God promised Abraham, “those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed” (Gen 12:3). Balaam is described as someone with the power to curse or to bless.

What do we make of these similarities? One lesson may be that more important than the gifts we’re endowed with is the way in which we use them. When we set out to create a better world, our efforts will be aided. So too, regrettably, for those who wish to do the opposite.

In our troubling times, it’s up to us to set a positive example.

Jeff Berger is interfaith adviser for Mitzvah Day and can be contacted at RabbiJeffLondon@gmail.com

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments