Parashat Balak בָּלָק 5782, & Animals Wiser Than Their Owners?

Inspiring Critical Thinking and Community via Books, Lessons, and Story

     This week’s Torah portion, Balak (בָּלָק),  is the 40th (40/54 or 52, depending on the year: this year, it’s 54…) reading in the annual cycle, and the 7th parashah in the book of B’Midbar/Numbers.  Sometimes it is doubled up with Parashat Chukat, but this year, 5782, being a leap year, it is read separately, in Numbers 22:2-25:9.

        Everyone remembers this parashah as the talking donkey story, although I’m pretty sure that the Messenger sent to kill Balaam did not look so elegant, but why is it named for the evil king who hired the ass’s owner?  And, more importantly for me, why do we use the words of a mercenary mage as our soothing song when we enter the synagogue (Mah Tovu)?  Interesting how the Sages chose to honor the very villains of the stories, sometimes, to show the lessons…

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