These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on July 7, 2011 by Barer

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[Cross-posted from my blog]

This week’s parsha documents the continuation of the Israelites interactions with the nations surrounding Cana’an, this time focusing almost entirely with the kingdom of Moav.  Specifically, the king of Moav, Balaq, fears the Israelites and hires a local sorcerer, Bil’am, to curse them.  However, Bil’am is constantly thwarted from doing so, instead blessing the Israelites, as his power comes from Hashem, who does not want the Israelites to be cursed.  The most interesting thing about this parsha for me was the fact that Bil’am, from the very beginning, acknowledged that Hashem was the deity that gave him his power (instead of claiming that it was some other foreign deity, such as Ba’al Pe’or which the Israelites are punished for worshiping at the end of the parsha).  Given this admission, it seems strange that Bil’am would ever have expected to be able to curse Hashem’s explicitly favoured nation.

If your God is mine
‎ואתם עם סגולה
How can I curse you?

[The middle line says, in Hebrew, “and you are a chosen people” in language closely resembling, for example, Deuteronomy 7:6]