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July 1, 2023: Parashat Torah Portion Chukat-Balak

This week’s Parashah Torah Portion Chukat-Balak is taken from Numbers 22:2-25:9. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers, as he inspects the life of Balaam, who was a descendent of Laban, uncle of our patriarch, Jacob. Exposes his ultimate motives, and cautions us to this way of living; "The world is passing away, along with its desires. But whoever does ELOHIM’s will remain forever.” (1 John 2:17)

Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah Torah Portion:

Lion of Judah Speaks: Parashah Torah Portion Chukat-Balak - Numbers 22:2-25:9

Balak, King of Moab, was scared of Israel, jealous. He joined forces with other nations in order to remove the Jewish people from his vicinity. The prophet chosen to carry out this task, Balaam, was the descendent of Laban, uncle of the patriarch, Jacob and arch-trickster of the Jewish people. There was no prophet like Moses in Israel but among the nation Balaam was considered a force to be reckoned with! In technical terms—Balaam had all the skills, yet ultimately, he was a negative character.

If we jump to Numbers 25—we see that Israel was saved by Elohim from the would-be curse of Moab and Midian, suffering a self-inflicted tragedy by allowing themselves to be enticed by the women of the land. Later on in Num. 31:16, we see that it was Balaam who devised the strategy. The strategy to turn the Israelites away from Adonai—so that a plague struck them. Even though he failed to curse them, he eventually succeeded in doing them great harm.

From Jewish sources Balaam was known to be a man with great gifts, a genuine prophet; a man who the sages compared with Moses himself, yet at the same time was a figure of flawed character which eventually led to his downfall and to his reputation as an evil-doer. What was his flaw? What was the meaning of his name Balaam? It means “A man without a people.” He is a man without loyalties. He is a prophet for hire, he had supernatural powers and could bless and curse people. However, morally he was a loner. He wasn’t concerned with justice (rights or wrongs), no commitments, no loyalties, no rootedness. He was the man “belo am”, without a people! Moses was the opposite. In Num. 12:7, Elohim Himself, says, “he is loyal in all My House.” No matter what the Israelites did Moses forgave, loved, prayed, pleaded and stood with his people. He knew their faults and yet remained utterly loyal to them. The Hebrew word, “Emunah” usually translated as “faith” is better translated in Biblical Hebrew as “faithfulness, reliability, loyalty.” It means not walking away from the other party when times are tough. It is a key covenantal virtue!

There are people with great gifts, intellectual and sometimes even spiritual who fail to achieve what they might have done. They lack the basic moral qualities of integrity, honesty, humility and above all loyalty. These people look down on people and give way to pride, arrogance with a belief of being able to do what they want. However, it looked like, according to Balaam’s speech he served Elohim (Avodat HaShem). A person may think that it is sufficient to believe in Yah and do what He commands, yet simultaneously harbor life goals that are far more in tune with the values of the secular world—such as wealth, honor and power.

What is wrong with these? First, on a practical level—mitzvah observance will inevitably be compromised by their worldly desires. Secondly, Balaam was missing the point of Avodat HaShem: His life goals are like Lot’s, and he views Torah observance as an inconvenient burden that must be dealt with.

Torah observance does not merely comprise of keeping a group of rules rather it is a comprehensive “way of life” that directs a person in every aspect of his life. The ultimate goal of all aspects of his life is connecting with Elohim and making His Presence more apparent in the world.

The narrative of Balaam in this parashah is evidence that not everyone who calls on the name of Adonai is necessarily a good guy. It is possible to know about Yah and even suppose that “Elohim is on my side”, while being quite godless. Balaam spoke: “Yah talk” but his heart was full of malice and greed. Peter compared Balaam to those who “loved the ways of righteousness”. II Peter 2:25 says, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” To the community of believers, Balaam is the example of a man who misuses religious authority for his own profit. Jude 11 says, “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korach’s rebellion.” Balaam’s error is that he obeyed his greed rather than Adonai. The angel blocks Balaam’s donkey 3 times, corresponding to Balaam’s 3 attempts to curse Israel. Each time Adonai turned his words from a curse to be a blessing. II Peter 2:16 says, “but was rebuked for his sin – a dumb beast of burden out with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s insanity.” Yet, Balaam refers to himself as “one who hears Yah, who knows Yah, and sees what Shaddai sees” …he is full of himself. He is the model of spiritual pride. He sees himself as righteous, but his donkey disagrees with his self-assessment. The man who “sees clearly” does not see as clearly as his donkey.

We need to heed what Paul spoke in Rom. 13:13-14, “Let us live properly, as people do in the daytime—not partying and getting drunk, not engaging in sexual immorality and other excesses, not quarreling and being jealous. Instead clothe yourselves with Adonai Yeshua HaMashiach; and don’t waste your time thinking about how to provide for the sinful desires of your old nature.”

Because Balaam couldn’t curse Israel, he introduced them to the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. John warned us in I John 2:16 about the 3 powers the enemy uses: sexual lust, greed for money and the love of power. The lust of the flesh is passion and lack of self-control. The lust of the eyes is covetousness, greed, ambition and materialism. The pride of life consists of selfishness and haughtiness which results in striving for position, abusing power and misusing people. Verse 17 warns us “And the world is passing away, along with its desires. But whoever does Elohim’s will remain forever.”

The devil has no new tricks because the old ones still work quite well. If he can lure a believer into fellowship with worldly people and spark some romantic interest in an unbelieving member of the opposite sex—he can successfully snuff out the flame of faith. I Peter 5:8 says, “Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil does not have permission to harm us, but he can trick us into harming ourselves. When we give in to the 3 lusts, we actually do the devil’s work for him. Listen the devil does not have the power to curse us, but we have the power to bring down curses on ourselves. Where is the remnant of Adonai?

Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha

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Follow Adonai with all your being! Come and worship the King of Kings and the great Adonai. Yield your life to Him and never look back. Don’t allow the enemy to stop your forward progress. See you at the altar!

Shalom Aleichem

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