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The B'lame Game

(The Deir-Alla inscription, discovered in modern Jordan, features curses attributed to "Balaam, son of Beor")

ln the double Parashat Chukat - Balak(Num. 19:1-25:9) we finally catch up with the portion read in eretz Israel. Chukat concludes with the defeat of Sichon and Og. The latter was one of the Refaim, a race of giants. Og is the very same giant who clung to the tevah and survived the Flood. God tells Moses not to fear Og. In the commentary, MeAm Lo’ez, we are assured that Moses wasn’t afraid of taking on such an ogre. Instead, Moses was concerned that he might not be allowed to defeat the old giant because of the merit he earned from serving the great patriarch Avraham. Also, because Og had been circumcised.

The fact that Og perished at the hands Moses was a fulfillment of a prophecy that a descendant of Avraham’s would kill Og. Though he did serve Avraham, the evil that Og committed in his latter years, outweighed any merit he had accrued.

Another old-timer shows up in Parashat Balak when the Moabite king hires the seer Balaam, to curse Israel. It's interesting how Balak compared Israel to an ox whose mouth completely uproots a plant, so he hires a seer to use his mouth, hoping to uproot God's nation. Though not as old as Og, Balaam was still quite long in the tooth, having served as an advisor in the court of Pharaoh. He was the one who suggested that Israel’s first-born be thrown in the Nile. But this time, Balaam can only bless Israel and still meets the same end as Og.

Before he is defeated Balaam offers a total of 42 animals. In Jewish tradition 42

is associated with the Hebrew letters Mem and Bet which form the Hebrew word, mevo meaning “entrance” in that it creates a pathway or portal between the spiritual and physical realms.

In mystical terms, the two letter combination of Mem and Bet is symbolic of the link between the inner world of emotions and the outer world of action. It’s a way of channeling spiritual insights and understanding into practical, tangible action. The connection to the altars of Baalam also suggest the folly of believing that one can open a pathway to heaven by speaking empty words and oaths in the manner of Balaam. Rather, we should elevate our souls through living according to HaShem’s instruction.

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