Rabbi Marcus – Balak
In this Sidra we read of the confrontation between Balak, the King of Moab, and the children of Israel who wished to pass through Moab on the way to the Promised Land. Balak enlisted the help of the heathen prophet Bilaam to curse our people. In a series of dramatic sequences Bilaam, on Balak’s instruction, attempts to curse the people of Israel and instead ends up blessing Israel, including on the third occasion the well known words which we traditionally say when entering a Synagogue, ‘Ma Tovu’ – ‘How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel’. Balak eventually dismisses Bilaam and then on Bilaam’s advice entices our people to perform immoral and idolatrous acts invoking the anger of G-d resulting in a plague that killed 24,000. Pinchas the grandson of Aaron risked his life by killing the ring leader Zimri and the plague then ceased.