Balak | בלק | “Balak” – Destroyer
– I see it, but not now – refers to the gradual arrival of redemption for Israel, Under the Divine Mandate of Mashiach ben Yosef
-THERE SHALL STEP FORTH A STAR OUT OF JACOB, Because the Messiah will gather together the dispersed of Israel from all corners of the earth
-Fortunate is the nation of Israel who have been made holy for the Blessings from Most High….
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. The 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 G-d, has a conversation with his donkey and ends up blessing Israel instead of cursing them.
Balak, the king of Moab, persuades the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites so that he can defeat them . However, Balaam blesses the Children of Israel instead and prophesies that Israel’s enemies will be defeated. -Numbers 22:2-24:25
G-d punishes the Israelites with a plague for consorting with the Moabite women and their god. The plague is stayed after Pinchas kills an Israelite man and his Midianite woman. -Numbers 25:1-9
Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. – Numbers 22:2
Balak – Spiritual vision through the Window
However, the Zohar takes it further: Rebi Shimon said, “ It says that ‘he saw’ – what did he see? He literally saw, but it was a Spiritual vision through the Window of the external wisdom. He also had a physical vision through the bird. He saw through the ‘window’ of the external wisdom, like it says, ‘Avimelech, king of the Philistines, saw through the window. . .” (Bereishit 26:8) . . . (Zohar, Chukat 184b)
The Zohar goes on to explain that this is how Sisera’s mother was also able to see what had happened to her son, even though she had been far away from the battlefront. Thus, the “seeing” of Balak was the same as that of Avimelech and Sisera’s mother, which basically is an aspect of avoda zora (as in witchcraft).
“And Balak the son of Tzipor saw” (Bemidbar 22:2). Rabbi Shimon said, he “saw.” What did he see? HE RESPONDS: It is definitely a real vision. He perceived through the gaze of Chochmah and he saw with his eyes, MEANING THE EYES OF CHOCHMAH. He noticed through the perception of wisdom, as it says that “Abimelech, king of the Philistines looked out at a window“ (Beresheet 26:8). What is the meaning of: “out at a window”? It is as is written: “The mother of Sisera looked out at the window“ (Shoftim 5:28). It is assuredly the window of Chochmah at the rim of the edges of the stars. THAT IS THE WINDOW THAT IS MENTIONED WITH REFERENCE TO SISERA’S MOTHER AND ABIMELECH, and these are the windows TO Chochmah, MEANING THAT THERE EXIST MANY WINDOWS and there is one window where all wisdom are. Whoever looks at the essence of wisdom can look through it. Here too: “And Balak…saw” through his wisdom, MEANING HIS OWN PRIVATE WINDOW.
As for the bird, the Zohar explains, Balak used certain types of spells to send the bird out on missions to see what was going on, and he had methods for magically extracting answers from the bird upon its return. That is why he was called “the son of Tzipor ” (which means, bird): because he knew the magic on how to use birds to do his bidding better than anyone else. However, when the bird attempted to spy on the Jewish people, its wings were burned, indicating to Balak that no force would be able to stand up to the approaching Jewish nation. That is why, explains the Ramak, that it was reported how the people of Moav were very agitated.
The amazing thing is the way how someone as impure as Balak could access what appears to be a gift, but in fact, is really ruach hatumah, as was also true of Avimelech and Sisera’s mother. Then again, Bilaam was a prophet who unlike our own prophets was also able to envision the End-of- Days:
“I will return now to my people. Come and I will tell you what these people will do to your people at the end of days.” – Bamidbar 24:14
Balak, the King of Moab, wanted to wage war against the Jews, but realized that attacking them physically would not work. Balak understood that the only way to defeat the Jews physically, was to first defeat them in the spiritual realm, thus he hired Bilaam, who had great spiritual powers.
In the book of Genesis, we see Jacob wrestling with an angel and prevailing. The sages teach that this was the guardian angel of Esau – no less than Samael (haSatan) himself. Compare Jacob’s victory in the spiritual realm and subsequent “taming” of Esau in the physical world and then being called “Israel”, to Balak and Balaam’s failure.
He was riding on his she-ass, with his two servants alongside, when the ass caught sight of the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. The ass swerved from the road and went into the fields; and Balaam beat the ass to turn her back onto the road. … The ass said to Balaam, “Look, I am the ass that you have been riding all along until this day! Have I been in the habit of doing thus to you?” And he answered, “No.” -Numbers 22:22-23, 30
“Balaam beat the ass to turn her back onto the road …” This villain [Balaam] was going to curse an entire nation which had not sinned against him, yet he has to smite his ass to prevent it from going into a field! — Numbers Rabbah 20:14
Rabbi Abba Cohen bar Dala said: Woe unto us on the Day of Judgment. Woe unto us on the day of rebuke. Balaam, the wisest of the heathens, could not withstand his donkey’s rebuke: “Have I been in the habit doing thus to you?” And he answered, “No.” – Genesis Rabbah 93:6
Mouth of the donkey:
The donkey saw G‑d’s angel………. -Numbers 22:23
We learn in Pirkei Avot, that the “mouth of the donkey” was one of 10 special items that were created in the instant before G-d rested from further creation on Shabbat. What does that mean? Commentaries explain that not only the “natural world” was created during the Six Days of Creation, but the world of miracles above nature as well.
Balak goes out to greet Bil’am, who tells Balak that he is powerless to act on his own and must say only what G-d “puts in his mouth”. This is the significance of the “mouth of the donkey” – viz. that it is G-d Who grants the gift of speech.
The favored weapon of the nations of the world is the sword. The “weapon” of the all the tribes of Israel People is “the power of speech” (prayer, divrei Torah, etc.). Bil’am arrogantly lays “his weapon” aside and attempted to harm the People of Israel with their (our) own weapon. G-d, so to speak, went against Bil’am with his abandoned weapon – the angel’s drawn sword. And ultimately, the Torah tells us, Bil’am fell by the sword – Rashi
The Ways of Balaam:
The tongue has tremendous power: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” -Proverbs 18:21
He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house. -Proverbs 15:27
“They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing.” – II Peter 2:14–15
“Woe to them! For they … have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit.” -Jude 1:11
But Moshe was angry with the army officers, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds coming in from the battlefield. Moshe asked them, “You let the women live? Why, these are the ones who — because of Bil‘am’s advice — caused the people of Isra’el to rebel, breaking faith with Adonai in the P‘or incident, so that the plague broke out among Adonai’s community! -Numbers 31:14–16;
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have some people who hold to the teaching of Bil‘am, who taught Balak to set a trap for the people of Isra’el, so that they would eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and commit sexual sin. –Revelation 2:14
Although Balaam heard from the Lord and understood His will, his love of money was his downfall. For the love of money is a root of all the evils; because of this craving, some people have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves to the heart with many pains. – I Timothy 6 : 10
Poor Man – Prayer
“Come now therefore, I pray you, curse me this people...” (Bemidbar 22:6). Rabbi Aba opened the discussion with the verse: “A prayer of the afflicted (poor), when he faints…” (Tehilim 102:1). Three forms of prayer: One is Moses, one is David and one is the poor man that was included with them and was together with them. You may say that we also find it written: “A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk” (Chavakuk 3:1), for a total of four. HE RESPONDS: that of Habakkuk is not SAID for the reason of prayer, even though the word prayer is written about it, it is rather praise and thanks for the Holy One, blessed be He, for having revived him and performed with him miracles and mighty deeds since he was the son of the Shunamite, whom Elisha brought back to life. – Zohar
However, there are three that are considered a prayer: “A prayer of Moses the man of Elohim” (Tehilim 90:1). This prayer has no equal by any other person. “A prayer of David“ (Tehilim 86:1): This prayer has no equal by any other king. “A prayer of the poor“ (Tehilim 102:1) is one prayer of the three mentioned. Which is the most important? One says, “A prayer of the poor”: this prayer takes priority over Moses’ prayer, is before David’s prayer and preempts all other prayers of the world.
HE INQUIRES: What is the reason? HE REPLIES: Because the poor man is broken-hearted and it is written: “Hashem is near to them who are of a broken heart” (Tehilim 34:19). The destitute always quarrels with the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Holy One, blessed be He, listens and pays attention to his words. As soon as the poor man says his prayer, He opens all the windows of the firmament, and all the rest of the prayers rising above are pushed away by that destitute, broken-hearted man, as is written: “A prayer of the afflicted, when he faints (Heb. ya’atof, also: ‘delays’)…” It should have said, ‘When he is faint (Heb. yit’ataf)’. Why “when he delays”? THE MEANING IS THAT he causes the delay, because all other prayers do not enter in until his prayer enters. “And pours out his complaint before Hashem” –Tehilim 102:1
Eliyahu was only a human being like us; yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months. -James 5:17
II Peter 2:14–15
“Balak” means “to destroy.” This weekly studies is named for a king of Moab who hired Balaam to curse Israel. Balak and Balaam were just two more in a long line of men who have thought that Israel can be cursed.
From the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov: G-d chose to rest His Presence on Balaam, a wicked gentile, so that the gentile nations will not have any allegation against G-d saying, “Had you given us prophets, we too would have improved our ways.”
Aza and Azael:
We have learned that when the Holy One decided to create Adam, He called various groups of angels in and sat them down before Him. He announced to them, “I wish to create Adam.” The angels responded with a verse from the Psalms: “With all his honor, if Man will not understand, he is likened to the dumb beasts.” -Psalms 49:21
He replied to them: I will create him in your angelic likeness, and his wisdom will exceed even yours. I will give him every advantage and hope that he will succeed despite the tests with which I will test him. But when He finally did create Adam, Adam sinned and was expelled from His Presence. Aza and Azael spoke up before the Holy One: “Our original claim has been justified. Behold, the Man that You made has sinned before You.” He replied to them: “Do you think you could have done better in his situation?” What did the Holy One do? He cast them down from their level of holiness.
As we have mentioned in connection with the verse, “He makes Spirits His Angel-Messengers,” –Psalms 104:4 , these two were angels.
Once they descended, the Evil Inclination entered them and overcame them as well, as it is written, “They took [any of, many of] them as wives for themselves from whomever they chose.” -Genesis 6:2 As a result of their sin of being arrogant, presumptuous, they were removed and banished from their former holiness.-Zohar Bereishit I:37a
Balaam used to go to the Ancient Mountains of the East each day. This is why he said, “Balak… has brought me… from the Ancient Mountains of the East….”
The Torah calls the mountains of darkness “Harerei Kedem” [“Ancient Mountains of the East”, based on the double meaning of “Kedem”, meaning “east” and “ancient”], as the verse states, “Balak, king of Moab, has brought me from Aram, from the Ancient Mountains of the East, (telling me) to come curse Jacob and conjure divine wrath against Israel.” -Numbers. 23:7
Laban[Jacob’s father-in-law in Aram] and Balaam [a reincarnation of Laban, literally, and also because Balaam took after Laban in being a master-magician] learned the occult arts from these fallen angels.
This is why Balaam said about himself, “It is the word of one who hears G‑d’s sayings, who sees a vision of the Almighty.” -Numbers 24:4 For Aza and Azael had taught him G‑d’s secret sayings that they had heard when they were still in heaven. This is why it says, “…hears G‑d’s sayings“, and not “…hears G‑d’s voice”, i.e. the sayings he had heard from Aza and Azael. He also said, “It is the word of the one who hears G‑d’s sayings and knows the will of the Most High.” From Aza and Azael he learned how to divine the most auspicious times to perform his art. He continued saying, “Who sees a vision of the Almighty while fallen with mystical insight.
Aza is called “Nofel” ( i.e fallen ) because besides being cast down from heaven once, the Holy One forced him further down into the depths of darkness. Azael is called “Galui Eynayim” because he didn’t anger the Holy One as much as Aza.
Since you already know all this, my purpose is only to remind you that Adonai, who once delivered the people from Egypt, later destroyed those who did not trust. And the angels that did not keep within their original authority, but abandoned their proper sphere, he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgement of the Great Day. And S’dom, ‘Amora and the surrounding cities, following a pattern like theirs, committing sexual sins and perversions, lie exposed as a warning of the everlasting fire awaiting those who must undergo punishment. –Jude 5
Rabbi Shimon said: How many times have I repeated, and no one pays attention! The Holy One does not allow His Presence to rest except in a place of holiness that is befitting. The Holy One therefore repeatedly warns, “Let there not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, who practices stick divination, who divines auspicious times, who divines by omens, who practices witchcraft, who uses incantations, who consults mediums and oracles, or who attempts to communicate with the dead.” –Deuteronomy 18:10-11. On the contrary, fortunate is the nation of Israel who have been made holy in order that He allow His Presence to dwell among them, as it is written, “G‑d makes His Presence known in your camp… Let your camp therefore be holy.” (ibid. 23:15)
Balaam and Balak:
“Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against HaShem in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of HaShem.” -Numbers 31:16
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. -Revelation 2:14
Balaam achieved his powers by “tapping into” the evil sefirot , the “unholy crowns”, said to emanate from the left side.
The Zohar says he dealt with haSatan directly: “There are many Chieftains who guide them and one supreme Chieftain from the side of the Left. That wicked Balaam gained access to this supreme Chieftain by his sorceries, which he practised in the night when he was at the head of all his company, and then he made known his requests to him. The word Elohim is used in connection with Balaam as with Laban and with Abimelech, because this is a name of general application, being used of idols under the title of “other gods”, which includes these Chieftains also. So this wicked Balaam summoned the Chieftain to him and he came to him. It may be said that he was with him by day (when he was with Balak). The truth is, however, that at that hour he only made observations by means of his divination’s to fix the right hour, and when it says, “he went not as at other times to meet with enchantments” -Numbers 24:1, this signifies that he tried to fix the hour, but was not able as on other days, because he saw that there was no great wrath in the world and knew that “it was good in the eyes of the Lord to bless Israel” (Ibid.). For when burning wrath is rife the Left is aroused, and the wicked Balaam knew how to take hold of the left side so as to curse; but on this occasion he looked and saw that the wrath was not there.” -Zohar, Vayikra 112b, 113a
Balaam’s power also stemmed from his mouth: “R. Jose quoted the verse: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye” (Proverbs 23:6). ‘This’, he said, ‘is Balaam who blessed Israel. “Neither desire thou his dainties”: this was Balak, whose burnt offerings were not accepted by the Almighty. When Balak observed that Sihon and Og had been killed and their land taken away, he foresaw in his wisdom that he and five princes of Midian and his people would fall by the hand of Israel, and not knowing what to make of it he approached Balaam, whose power was in his mouth, just as the power of Israel was in its mouth. Balaam was even more anxious to attack them than Balak. The knowledge which he acquired was at night time, because the lower crowns and the asses are at large only in the first watch of the night. Therefore he had an ass to attract the asses to her in the early part of the night. It is true that it says, “Elohim came to Balaam in the night”, but we have explained this to refer to the Chieftain appointed over them. It was on this account that Balaam said to the princes of Balak, “Tarry here this night”. Balaam went to his she-ass and performed his rites and uttered his spells, and the ass then told him and he did the requisite act for that spirit to rest upon him. Then someone came and told him things through the agency of the ass. It may be asked, if he told him in one night, “Thou shalt not go with them”, why did he try a second time? The fact is that these powers are subject to a higher control, and we have learnt, “In the way in which a man desires to go he is led”. At first he was told, “Thou shalt not go with them”. When G-d saw that he was bent on going, He said to him, “Arise, go with them, only the thing that I tell thee”, etc.” – Zohar, Bemidbar 206b, 207a
“It is, however, true that Balaam was the counterpart of Moses. As the works of the one were from above, so were the other’s from below. Moses wrought his works by means of the holy Crown of the All-highest King, Balaam by means of the unholy crowns from below. Hence, “The children of Israel slew Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer” Joshua 13:22. ” -Zohar, Shemoth 21b, 22a
“Our Rabbis said: SWORD refers to the Torah, as it is written, And a two-edged sword in their hand – Psalm 149:6; -Genesis Rabbah 21:9
The (two-edged) sword is the Torah coming from the mouth of G-d. Yeshua threatens to correct these individuals ones with the Torah of His mouth.
Yeshua says:But I have against thee a few things: That thou hast there those holding the teaching of Balaam, who did teach Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol-sacrifices, and to commit whoredom; so hast thou, even thou, those holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans — which thing I hate.
If this is the case, the sin is related to that of Balak and Balaam with the sons of Israel, as found in the book of Numbers 22-24. This involved the women of Moab seducing the men of Israel, which included acts of idolatry as part of their “offer.”
The Torah and Talmud record that Balak and Balaam offered a total of forty-two sacrifices to come against the power that supported Israel. In the Torah he offers seven sacrifices going up and seven going down each of three mountains.
Talmud, Sotah 47a – R. Hanina said: On account of the forty-two sacrifices which Balak, king of Moab, offered, were forty-two children cut off from Israel.
The Zohar states the same about Balak and Balaam, and then goes on to explain that the prophet Elisha exacted revenge upon forty-two children for the curses that Balak and Balaam attempted to inflict upon Israel:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 224a – R. Simeon said: ‘Observe that the forty-two offerings brought by Balaam and Balak were offerings diverted from the “other side” towards the Holy One, blessed be He, and so the “other side”, which is called “curse”, had to be repaid these offerings from Israel. This is the inner implication of the verse, “And he (Elisha) looked behind him and saw them” (2 Kings II, 24). That is to say, “behind him”, meaning the “other side,” which stands behind the Shekinah. He turned “and saw them” (the children), as being meet for punishment; “and cursed them in the name of the Lord” (Ibid.), inducing the Divine Name, as it were, to discharge the debt owing to the “other side”, for the latter’s offerings which had been diverted to Him. Thus all is made right before the Holy One, blessed be He, and not a single act is lost, whether for good or for evil.
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 224b – Straightway “he [Elisha] cursed them in the name of the Lord”. “And there came forth two bears” II Kings II, 24)-she bears, as indicated by the feminine numeral sh’tayim, big with offspring, “and tare forty and two children of them” (Ibid.), in correspondence, as has been explained, to the number of offerings brought by Balak.
The Talmud teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to G-d, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest .
The Scripture verse from II Kings: And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. -II Kings 2:24
After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualising the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.
42 number of generations
All the generations, therefore, from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations, and from David unto the Babylonian removal fourteen generations, and from the Babylonian removal unto the Messiah, fourteen generations. -Matthew 1:17
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. – Revelation 13:5
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of G-d, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months – Revelation 11 : 1 – 2
The number 42 is also associated with the idea of a “window” between worlds. When the groom (6) and bride (7) come together (6×7=42) a window is open.
STAR will come out of Jacob:
I see him, but not now. I see him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob.
A sceptre will rise out of Israel, and shall strike through the corners of Moab,
and break down all the sons of Seth.” -Numbers 24:17
I shall see him, but not now – Or, I shall see him, but he is not now. I shall behold him, but not nigh – I shall have a full view of him, but the time is yet distant. That is, The person of whom I am now prophesying does not at present exist among these Israelites, nor shall he appear in this generation. There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel – a person eminent for wisdom, and formidable for strength and power, shall arise as king among this people. He shall smite the corners of Moab – he shall bring the Moabites perfectly under subjection; (2 Samuel 8:2) and destroy all the children of Sheth.
The Targum of Onkelos translates the whole passage thus: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but he is not near. When a king shall arise from the house of Jacob, and the Messiah be anointed from the house of Israel, he shall slay the princes of Moab, and rule over all the children of men.”
The Jerusalem Targum is a little different: “A king shall arise from the house of Jacob, a redeemer and governor from the house of Israel, who shall slay the chiefs of the Moabites, and empty out and destroy all the children of the East.”
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon has, in my opinion, perfectly hit the meaning of the prophecy in the following paraphrase of the text: “I shall see him, but not now. This is David – I shall behold him, but not nigh. This is the king Messiah – A Star shall come out of Jacob. This is David – And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel. This is the king Messiah – And shall smite the corners of Moab. This is David, (as it is written, 2 Samuel 8:2; : And he smote Moab, casting them down to the ground) – And shall destroy all the children of Sheth. This is the king Messiah, of whom it is written, ( Psalm 72:8;), He shall have dominion from sea to sea.”
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh When a king shall arise out of Jacob, And the Meshiha be anointed from Israel, He will slay the princes of Moab, and reign over all the children of men; And Edom shall be an inheritance, and Seir a possession of his adversaries. But Israel shall prosper in riches.One will descend from the house of Jacob, who will destroy him that escapes from the city of the peoples.” -Targum Onkelos to Numbers 24:17
The Ramban, R’ Moshe ben Nachman (1194 CE -1270 CE) states: “THERE SHALL STEP FORTH A STAR OUT OF JACOB. Because the Messiah will gather together the dispersed of Israel from all corners of the earth, Balaam compares him [metaphorically] to a star that passes through the firmament from the ends of heaven, just as it is said about [the Messiah]: and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven, one like unto a son of man etc.”
THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL – STAR’S
From the earth’s viewpoint, a star appears as a tiny, sparkling point of light, piercing the unfathomable sea of darkness. Our own sun is a star that provides light, warmth and energy to the earth.
There is a tradition regarding Abraham, that at his birth, there was a star in the East: “When our father Abraham was born, a star rose in the east and swallowed four stars in the four corners of heaven. Nimrod’s wizards said to him: To Terah, at this hour, a son has been born, out of whom will issue a people destined to inherit this world and the world-to-come. With your permission, let his father be given a house full of silver and gold, on condition that his newly born son be slain.”
–Beit haMidrash 2:118-196 cited in Sefer HaAggadah, Schocken Books
the children of Israel are likened to stars: “And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed HaShem, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” -Genesis 15:5-6
Though twinkling stars appear small, they are blazing sources of immense power. Deuteronomy says: “HaShem your G-d has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day as the stars of the sky for multitude.” -Deuteronomy 1:10
Rashi: “But were they ( the Israelites ) on that day as ( many as ) the stars of the heavens? Were they not only six hundred thousand? What, then, is [the meaning of] “And, behold, you are today…?” [It means]-Behold, you are compared to the sun, [signifying that you will] exist forever as do the sun, the moon, and the stars (cf. Sifrei).” -Rashi on Deuteronomy 1:10
THE STAR IN THE EAST
Like Abraham’s birth, the revelation of the Messiah is connected to the Star in the East: “A star steps forth from Jacob’ (Numbers 24:17). It is taught in the name of our Sages: the septennial cycle wherein the Son of David comes (will transpire as follows): (in) the first (year), there will not be food for all who need it; (in) the second (year), the ‘arrows of famine’ (cf. Ezekiel 5:16) will be unleashed; (in) the third (year), a severe famine; in the fourth (year), neither famine nor plenty; in the fifth (year), great plenty, and a star will emerge in the east. This is the star of the Messiah, and it will be visible in the east for fifteen days. Should it linger, it will be to Israel’s benefit. (In) the sixth (year), noises and sounds. (In) the seventh (year), battles. And at the end of the seventh (year), one will behold the Messiah.”
The concept of the star linking to the Messiah is an ancient thread in Jewish tradition. R’ Akiba gave Shimon bar Kozeba the name “Bar Kochva” (Son of the Star), proclaiming him the Messiah, linking him to the prophecy in Numbers 24:17. During this time, after the destruction of the Temple, Israel was battling the Roman Empire in a last stand for freedom.
The Prayer of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’ states:“And during the sixth (year) a star shall appear from the east and on top of it a rod of fire like a spear. The Gentile nations will claim ‘this star is ours,’ but it is not so; rather, it pertains to Israel, as Scripture forecasts: ‘a star shall step forth from Jacob, etc.’ (Numbers 24:17). The time of its shining will be during the first watch of the night for two hours. It will set (for) fifteen days in the east, and then revolve to the west and act (similarly?) for fifteen days. If it should be more (its period of shining), this is good for Israel.” –Tefilat Shimon Bar Yochai.
“And this will be the sign for you—when you see that at the beginning of one week there is rain, and in the second (week) the loosing of the ‘arrows of hunger,’ and in the third a severe famine, and in the fourth no hunger but (also) no satisfaction, and in the fifth there is great satiety. A star shall appear from the east with a rod on top of it—this is the star of Israel, as Scripture says: ‘a star shall step forth from Jacob etc.’ (Num 24:17). If it shines, it is for the benefit of Israel. Then the Messiah of the lineage of David shall emerge.” –Nistarot Shimon Bar Yochai
The Zohar amazingly links this revelation of the Messiah to the land of Galilee,
“The glory of his majesty” refers to the Messiah when he shall reveal himself in the land of Galilee; for in this part of the Holy Land the desolation first began, and therefore he will manifest himself there first . . . and when the Messiah shall have manifested himself, a star shall come forth from the East variegated in hue and shining brilliantly, and seven other stars shall surround it, and make war on it from all sides, three times a day for seventy days, before the eyes of the whole world. The one star shall fight against the seven with rays of fire flashing on every side, and it shall smite them until they are extinguished, evening after evening. . . . After the seventy days the one star shall vanish.” -Zohar, Shemot 7b
Matthew also links Galilee to the Messiah: a prophecy from Isaiah: “And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Kfar Nachum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zevulon and Naftali: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘The land of Zevulon, and the land of Naftali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” -Matthew 4:13-16
The Midrash then notes that Gentile astrologers will recognise the star,
And there shall be a ruler amidst Jacob ( Numbers. 24:19 ) , At first a star arose in the east, at the head of which there was a sword. Israel saw it, and said to one another, “What is that?” The other nations asked their astrologers, “What is the character of this star?” They ( the astrologers ) said to them, “This is the star of Israel. This is the king who shall yet arise for them.: As soon as Israel heard that, they approached the prophet Samuel and said to him, Give us a king to judge us, just like all the nations ( I Samuel 8.5 ) – just as the nations said. in this context it says, a star shall arise from Jacob. ( Numbers 24.17 ) And so also at the end [of days], a star shall arise in the east, and it is the star of the Messiah; as it says, and there shall be a ruler (yerd) amidst Jacob. Rabbi Yose said: In the language of the Arameans, the east is called yerd. And it spends fifteen days in the east. If it tarries even longer, it is only for the good of Israel; and then you may expect the footsteps of the Messiah.” Midrash ha-Gadol, Numbers.
Now when Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:1-2
The gifts that are brought to the Messiah are a foreshadow of the Messianic era, in which all of the non-Jews of the world will bring gifts to the King Messiah,
“R. Judah bar Simon taught: The nations of the earth will bring gifts to the King Messiah the son of David, and to Messiah the son of Ephraim. . . the nations will bring gifts to the King Messiah. And as soon as the nations of the earth come to the King Messiah, he will ask: “Are there children of Israel among you? Bring them as gifts to me….” –Midrash Tehilim 87.6.
The process of the stars coming out, and finally the dawn breaking upon the world, is a pattern of what the Final Geulah, Redemption will look like,
“At night, though it be night, one has the light of the moon, the stars, and the planets. Then when is it really dark? Just before dawn! After the moon sets and the stars set and the planets vanish, there is no darkness deeper than the hour before dawn. And in that hour the Holy One answers the world and all that are in it: out of the darkness He brings forth the dawn and gives light to the world. The hind of the dawn [the morning star]–its light rays out as it rises. At the beginning, light comes little by little; then it spreads wider and wider, grows and increases; and at last it bursts into shining glory.” –Sefer HaAggadah, Translated by Schocken Books, citing Midrash Tehillim 22:4 and 22:13; Aggadat Esther 7:10
R’ Moshe Alshich (1508–1593) says: “I see it, but not now,” (re: Numbers 24:17) he refers to the gradual arrival of redemption for Israel, the Mashiach ben Yosef to whom he refers as “there arose a tribe (rod) in Israel.”
-Midrash of R’ Moshe Alshich on the Torah
Pirke Mashiach says: “And now we will celebrate the praise of the King Messiah. He is going to arrive ‘with the clouds of heaven,’ and two seraphim will be on his right and on his left, as scripture says: ‘and behold, one like a human being came with the clouds of heaven’ -Daniel 7:13. Fiery seraphim will be sent into the palace, and stars will appear like fire in every place during the generation when the son of David comes.”
The book of Daniel: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” -Daniel 12:2-3
The Maharal of Prague, R’ Judah Loew ben Betzalel (1520CE – 1609CE) says: “A star shall come forth from Yaakov…” He calls the King Messiah a Star” nivdal [separate, exalted] from man, just as a star is in the firmament and man is on earth. Messiah is described as “exalted, and on high, and exceedingly lofty” [Isaiah. 52:13], such that he is called “star,” loftier than anything in the universe. The star rules over the world as it circuits the world (Devarim Rabbah 1:14), and the extent of his domain is described by the rest of the verse. The star is not fixed, but shoots across the heavens like zikin [meteors] that leave a trailing light [Rashi, Ber. 58b], with great force.”
The Zohar says: ”Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun (Isa. xxx, 26), and then will this cause the seventh window to open to the whole world, whose star is the Star of Jacob, concerning which Balaam said: There shall come a star out of Jacob (Num. XXIV, 17). This star will shine for forty days and forty nights, and when the Messiah shall be revealed and all the nations of the world shall gather around him, then will the verse of Scripture be fulfilled which says: And in that day the root of Jesse which stands for an ensign of the peoples, to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious (Isaiah. 11:10).” -Zohar Shemot 172b
Haftara portion – Micha 5:6-6:8
In this week’s haftarah Micah gives a series of short prophecies directed at the Israelites in exile, whom he refers to as the “remnant of Jacob.” Finally, Micah closes with a famous summation of what G-d wants from His people: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with G-d.”
O My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, that you may know the righteousness of HaShem. -Micah 6:5
Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me [Balak], for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you [Bala’am] bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed. -Numbers 22:6
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does HaShem require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d? -Micah 6:8
The haftara ends with the famous encapsulation of our responsibilities to G-d: “What does G-d demand of us, ONLY to behave justly, love chesed, and walk modestly (humbly) before G-d.” This is the formula for the greatest protection we can have from the Balaks and Bil’ams of the world.
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your habitations, O Israel!
TORAH COMMENTARY ON BALAK -By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
The story of Bilaam and his talking donkey is one of the most strangely picturesque sections of the whole Torah. It is said that one Shabbos, while the holy Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the ARI, was taking a short nap, his attendant noticed the master’s lips moving in his sleep. When he awoke, the attendant asked him: “Master, what were you studying?” “It was a lesson about Bilaam’s donkey,” replied the ARI. “But if I were to try to explain to you what I learned in those few minutes, the introductions alone would take hundreds of years.”
Since the Torah states that “there did not arise another prophet in Israel like Moses” (Deut. 34:10), the rabbis inferred that while there never arose another prophet in Israel of the stature of Moses, there did arise a prophet of comparable stature among the other nations. This was Bilaam, who was sent to the nations so that they could not argue that if they had had a prophet like Moses, they would not have rebelled against the Torah. The Torah describes Bilaam as “knowing the knowledge of the Supreme” (Numbers 24:16). Yet instead of reproving the nations and bringing them to the service of G-d, Bilaam’s advice to them was to untie the reins of chastity that had hitherto bound the Children of Noah and to let wild immorality loose on the world.
According to the ARI, Bilaam is one of three who had the same soul: Laban, the antagonist of Jacob; Bilaam, the antagonist of Moses, and Naval the antagonist of King David (Samuel I, Chapter 25). The initial letters of the three make up the name of NaVaL, who cast his evil eye on G-d’s annointed, David Melech HaMashiach, just as Laban cast his evil eye on Jacob and his children and Bilaam cast his evil eye on Moses and the Children of Israel. [The three are fallen parts of the soul of Abel, whereas Moses embodies the rectified Abel.]
As the adversary of Moses, who brought the Torah to Israel, Bilaam is the chief adversary of Israel. To look at him from the outside, one might easily have been deceived, for this arch prophet of the Seventy Nations may well have appeared on the surface as a supremely pious and spiritual individual. The Torah itself testifies that he received prophecy from HaShem. Presumably Bilaam was constantly engaged in meditations and rituals, and surrounded by priests, monks and other acolytes. A turn of expression in Ethics of the Fathers explains how we find out who is the true Bilaam: not from his external piety and spirituality, but by observing the actual traits of those who are his students and followers. “Whoever has these three traits is of the students of the wicked Bilaam: an evil eye, a haughty spirit and an expansive appetite” (Avot 5:19). Rashi, in his commentary on our parshah, shows where in the narrative Bilaam exhibits these traits (Numbers ch. 22 v. 13 & 18; ch. 24 v.2).
Bilaam is the very epitome of those who choose This World, the world of extraneous splendor, glory, wealth and appetite, over the World chosen by Abraham, Jacob, Moses and the Children of Israel: the World of Truth. Having chosen This World, Bilaam cannot but look askance at the Children of Israel, whose eccentric religion appears to make no sense in terms of the visible logic of the material world. Israel’s existence is such an affront to the world chosen by Bilaam that he feels compelled to “cast the evil eye on them” — to demonize and curse them. His haughty spirit is offended that this nation of escaped slaves seeks to rein in man’s material appetites and desires and elevate them in the service of G-d.
While Moses brought the knowledge of G-d to the world — the Tree of Life — what Bilaam embraced was the other side of knowledge: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Bilaam demanded the right to know and experience every side of the world to the full, without boundaries or limitations. “Knowing the knowledge of the Supreme”. This desire to know everything, including the innermost face and slimy underside of the material world, is expressed in the rabbinic statement that Bilaam had intercourse with his donkey (Sanhedrin 105b). The donkey is symbolic of materialism in general (HOMRIUS), as indicated by the generic Hebrew term for donkey, HAMOR. Wanting to “have it all”, Bilaam was diametrically opposed to the Israelite path of self-restraint and discipline.
It is part of G-d’s deep plan for man in this world that there should exist a world-view and mindset that is diametrically opposed to that of the Torah in order for man to be subjected to the test of free will. We are indeed constantly confronted with and challenged by this mindset in the predominant materialist culture that surrounds us on every side in the contemporary world. It is the mindset that tells us that we are in this world to enjoy everything it has to offer according to the way we feel, without having to be bound by the dictates of a restrictive religious code of conduct that constantly seems to be telling us what we must do next and what we must not do.
The deepest mystery of creation is that G-d gave man free will to do as he chooses, yet G-d directs man in such a way that in the end, he has no option but to acknowledge that G-d is right. This mystery is contained in the story of Bilaam, who was determined to curse Israel and tried every way possible to get G-d to agree, but in the end was forced to bless Israel, even against his will.
Bilaam wanted to be completely free: to be in the driver’s seat, “riding the donkey” — going where he chose in the material world. The irony is that the donkey itself rebelled, and refused to go where Bilaam wanted. Bilaam wanted to know and enjoy the side of the world where there is no G-d, no restraint, no pangs of conscience. only the donkey, the animal. But the donkey itself opened its mouth! The term for the donkey in our parshah is AThON — alluding to the 22 letters of the Aleph Beith, from Aleph to Thav, and to the Fifty Gates of Understanding (the final letter of AThON, Nun, has the numerical value of 50). Bilaam was forced to see that the material world itself is made up of “letters of the alphabet” — spiritual significance and purpose. Bilaam could not escape from G-d’s truth.
G-d “bridled Bilaam with a halter and put a hook in his mouth, the way a man bridles an animal to take it where he wants” (Rashi on Num. 23:16). Bilaam was forced against his will to bless the Children of Israel. The bridling of Bilaam comes to teach us the profound lesson that although it may appear on the surface that the forces of evil are riding high without control in the world, in fact G-d has evil on a leash like a dog. G-d allows evil only just as much rein as suits His deep plan for the world.
The Talmud states that “from the blessings of that wicked man you learn what was in his heart. He wanted to say that they should not have synagogues and study halls — “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob.”. The Indwelling Presence should not rest upon them — “.and your sanctuaries, O Israel”. Their kingdom should not continue — “.like streams they extend.”. They should not have olive trees and vineyards — “like gardens by the side of a river”. Their odor should not waft forth — “Like aloe trees planted by G-d”. They should not have kings of stature — “like cedars by the side of waters”. They should not have a king who is the son of a king — “water will flow forth from his source”. Their kingdom should not hold sway over the nations — “and his seed over the many waters”. His kingdom should not be daring — “his king will be high above Agag”. His kingdom should not be fearsome — “and his kingdom will be exalted” (Sanhedrin 105a).
From this Talmudic passage we learn what gives Israel its strength: its synagoand study halls, and its kings — the true kings who follow in the path of King David, the archetype of the true Tzaddik.
“How goodly are your tents of Jacob.” Everything is founded on the sanctity and purity of Israel’s “tents and habitations” — theTorah home, where man and wife unite in holy love to bring new souls into the world and nurture them in the ways of G-d. It was precisely this sanctity that Bilaam sought to attack in advising Balak that the best way to get the better of Israel would be by promoting immorality. Thus Bilaam’s advice was to ensnare the Israelite men with the Midianite girls, who would quickly persuade them to go after the god of immorality. This was diametrically opposed to the way of Moses, causing a plague that threatened the entire nation. They were saved only through the heroism of Pinchas, who zealously stood up for HaShem when everyone else was confused.
Shabbat Shalom!!! – Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Who brings forth the Manifestation of Salvation. ( Baruch Atah HaShem, matzmiach keren Yeshuah )
We will see that the children of Israel return to Most High and Torah of Mashiach, And will hug in the Holy Land, and by obeying and listening the “VOICE of Most Ancient Holy One of Israel”, will bring offerings in a righteous way on the holy mountain and also bring the Ark of the covenant with pure heart in the right place ( i.e In Har HaBayit, on the foundation Stone) .
We will Welcome the son of David on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.
[ Ha Khadosh Baruch Hu – Baruch HaBa B’Shem Adonai ] – Gaddi, President, BetYisrael International.
Gaddi – President
A Servant of Most Ancient Holy one of Israel and Disciple of Yeshua HaMashiach
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