Parshat Balak (Numbers 22)


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.


Dedicated to the memory of Reb Zalman Shactar –Shalomi z”l

This portion raise my association about Moses and the burning bush. Balak Ben Zipor is like Pharaoh: both are afraid of the Hebrews/Isralies, and while Pharaoh enslaves them Balak invites Bilam ben p’or to curse them, (so that they will become weak and he could overcome them with ease).

Bilam is not eager to go on that mission and clarifies that he could speak only the words God will put in his mouth. After 3 times that Balak’s messengers approach Bilam, God gives Bilam “green light” to set on the mission, on one condition that he will speak only what God will instruct him.

Something strange happen right after: After Bilam saddled his ass and started his journey to Balak, God  who has just given him permission to go,  gets angry with him and  send his angle with drawn sword  to stop him on his way.

Same thing happens with Moses: he is hesitant about the mission-to lead the Hebrews to freedom-and when he accepts and starts his journey toward Egypt, riding his ass (with his wife and two children) God tries to kill him!

I’d like to invite you to step into the role of Bilam and I ask you Bilam: How do you explain to yourself the fact that God who has just given you permission to go- is angry with you and tries to stop you?

(Collect a few answers from audience)

The pictorial scene in which Balak rides his ass and it stops because it have seen the angle, while Bilam doesn’t see it and he beats the ass, invites an allegoric translation, since ass cannot talk and a human does not convers with ass..

Who is the ass and what it represents?

Who is the angle, what does he represents?

Who is Bilam and what does he represents?  Why he is not able to see the angel?

Let’s try to unfold this story and look at it as if it is a dream and each part in the dream represents a part of the psyche.

The main characters here are; Bilam, the ass, the angle.

A teaching from Chasidic orogins suggests a partition of the soul to 3 levels of consciousness:

The intellectual soul   הנפש השכלית

The Instinctual soul     הנפש החייתית / הבהמית  

The Divine soul    הנפש האלוהית

In my reading I find similarity between the three main characters in the portion and the three levels of soul, and so

The intellectual soul is represented by Bilam

The instinctual soul is represented by the ass

The Devine soul is represented by the angle of God.

The angle of God s like the burning bush. It represent a level of consciousness that is connected to Y.H.V.H, a message from the Devine, an inner truth about one’s calling.

This calling has to do with bringing God’s words to a powerful figure, regarding the people of Israel 

The ass represents the instincts, it senses the presence of the angle, stops, and despite being beaten, doesn’t continue.

Bilam, riding on a narrow path, between two fences, (narrow consciousness?) doesn’t see the angle at this point, he is not connected to his inner truth, to the spark that knows the truth about his calling, maybe he even denies it (his truth is that he can be only a vehicle to God’s words and is not coming to speak/curse on his own).

 It seems that he knew this truth on the first time he was invited and refused, however when he received the ‘green light” from God he might have surrendered to his own ego and let it take the lead? (when we compare verses 22: 8, 13, 18, 20 to 22:21,we see that Bilam goes on his mission without repeating and declaring that he will be bound only to what God will put in his mouth), And then God is angry!

Why indeed God is angry/ has he not given Bilam permission to go? Why does he try to kill him or at least to stop him with an angle with a sword?

Maybe Bilam is acting from an imbalance place?

Maybe there isn’t a right connection between his 3 levels of soul and he is operating mainly from his intellectual level but is not connected to the instinctual level and to the Devine level?

Maybe he is operating from an unclean place (thinks that he can “play” between the two Masters, and try to please them both?)

In order to operate from a balance, clean, connected place God needs to rattle him,

Bilam, the man with one eye, had magic powers to put an “evil eye”, to curse.

When he sets on his mission it seems that his connection to the Devise kevel is not tuned, he does not see the angle of god with its sword, and he doesn’t listen to his instincts that do recognize the angle).

Maybe Bilam is missing the nark by operating on his “automatic pilot”, without intentions, without a true connection to the Devise spark?

Both Moses and Bilam at one point are going “off tune” and hit-one hits the rock and the other hits the ass-and forget to mention that they are messengers to God’s words!

And how can we “bring home” this story?

Can I identify where I operate on an “automatic pilot? Don’t listen to my instincts?

Ignore the signals my body sends me and continue on my “automatic pilot”?

And what can we do to operate from a balanced place?

May we all be blessed with the knowledge to recognize these un-balance places and know how to restore it.

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