Below is a collection of Parashat Balak resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: In Parashat Balak we read about Bilaam who tried to curse the Jewish people but blessed them instead. One of the characters in the story is Bilaam’s donkey who refuses to take him on his mission to the king. Bilaam beats him and the donkey speaks to him in a complaint. Do you think animals have language? Do you believe that Bilaam’s donkey used words or another way to convey his message?
Look inside the text (Bemidbar 22:28):
וַיִּפְתַּח ה’ אֶת פִּי הָאָתוֹן וַתֹּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם מֶה עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ כִּי הִכִּיתָנִי זֶה שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים – But God was incensed at his going; so a messenger of God took a position in his way as an adversary. He was riding on his donkey, with his two servants alongside
Question #2: In this parasha, Bilaam the magician is hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Jewish people because he is afraid of them. Bilaam agrees, but instead of cursing the Jews, he blessed them. Among his blessings are the words we say in our prayers every morning: He blesses the tents (homes) of the Jewish people! What do you think is a good blessing for a home -what makes it a good place to be?
Look inside the text (Bemidbar 24:5):
מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל – How fair are your tents, Jacob, Your dwellings, Israel!
Question #3: Bilaam clearly tells Balak, many times, that he cannot curse the Israelites as God will not permit it. Despite those repeated proclamations, it later becomes clear that Bilaam is involved in a different plot to undermine the Israelites. What kinds of motivations drive us to do things which we know are clearly wrong? How do we feel after we’ve done them?
Question #4: After having seen the Israelites destroy the powerful nations of the Emorites and the Bashan, Balak sends for the sorcerer Bilaam to curse the Israelites. Success can sometimes backfire, as it builds envy or fear in others. Should we let that stop us? Is it possible to be too successful? Can we mitigate the fear that others have of our success?