Balak (5758)

Drash Cards for Balak (5758)

by Marc Mangel

• How do we make sense of the end of this parsha (Ch 25, v1 following) in which we have Baal Peor, idolatry, the murder of Zimri (whose name is given in the midrash) and the Midianite woman, and a plague is averted or ended. And then in the next chapter in v 12, God gives Pinchas his gift of ‘peace’

• What is going on? There is no trial, no defense, no respect for the law, no testimony — basically defiance of everything we think about law.  How should we read it today?

• The sages were troubled too, but said “Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable”.

• First point: Pinchas/Zimri are part of our history and collective memory, on which Jewish spirituality is based.

• Second point: Coping with zeal.  The Jerusalem Talmud writes that Pinchas did not do something that leaders approved of.  Indeed, Zvi Berlin writes that God’s covenant of peace is protection against the inner demon that Pinchas will have to battle the rest of his life.

• Third point:  Consequences of zeal.  Pinchas is not chosen as the leader after Moses even though he is in line for it. A leader cannot take the law into his own hands.