Balak

The focus of this week’s reading is external to Israelites, allowing them to see themselves through the eyes of the Other. What an opportunity! Who can see themselves on their own? All their internal complexities are seen in a new light by Bilam, a foreign prophet, “fallen, with open eyes”; and Balak, who sees Israel only as numbers, “a horde who will lick the land dry.” The two of them look on from the outside, horrified and amazed, then recite the most beautiful blessings the people have known: comparing them to stars, to palm-groves, to lions. Yet without coming close to the Other, how could anyone be seen this way? That, perhaps, is what could be learned from these blessings.

 

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[Inspired by: Numbers 24; Haamek Davar on 24:4; R. Raz Hartmann on Balak;

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