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This week's Torah reading

Balak

Balak, the king of the Moav, is in morbid fear of the Beney Yisrael. He summons a renowned sorcerer named Bil’am to curse them. First, HaShem appears to Bil’am and forbids him to go. But because Bil’am is so insistent, HaShem appears to him a second time and permits him to go. While en route, a malach (angel, messenger from HaShem) blocks the path of Bil’am's donkey. Unable to contain his frustration, Bil’am strikes the donkey each time it stops or wants to make a detour. Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bil’am why he is hitting her. The malach instructs Bil’am what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say regarding the Jewish People. When Bil’am arrives, King Balak makes elaborate preparations in the hope that Bil’am will succeed in the planned curse. Three times Bil’am attempts to curse, and three times a blessing issues instead. Balak, seeing that Bil’am has failed, sends him home in disgrace. The Beney Yisrael begin sinning with the Moavi women, and worshipping the Moavi idols, and are punished with a plague. One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe and the people. Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon, grabs a spear and kills both evildoers. This halts the plague, but not before 24,000 have died.


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