Animals: Balak and Maroon 5

In Balak, this week’s Torah portion, we read various stories regarding animals.   Long before we get to the climax of this story where Bilaam’s donkey talks to him, we meet Balak. There we read:

And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. ( Numbers 22:2)

Balak the king of Moav was afraid of the Israelites and  he sent messengers to Balaam. We wants this prophet to curse the Israelites.  But what is his name? Balak the son of Zippor- Balak the son of Bird. And of course this story of animals fits into the larger context of the book of Numbers where the people of Israel are acting like animals. We saw this last week from when they were being struck down by snakes and at the end of this week’s Torah portion when they succumb to animal-like sexual promiscuity. What do we make of all of this “parsha menagerie“?

To understand this we need to focus in on the story of the Bilaam’s donkey. In the story the donkey understood the Angel’s presence while Bilaam just did not understand. And Bilaam a prophet of God not only missed the Angel, but in the process also revealed his own ugly side by striking the donkey. Even this prophet who can see the will of God cannot see what the donkey can. A human being is the blend of divine and animal qualities. The question is how we choose to show up.

Even as the Israelites are spared the curse of Bilaam and instead are blessed, they are still cursed in the end by being seduced by the Moabite women.  This reminds me of Animals by Maroon 5.

In this super disturbing video a guy is obsessed with either an ex, or just a random woman (customer) in his life. He’s convinced he means as much to her as she does to him. The song seems to be celebrating their basic animal qualities. In the books of Numbers and in life we are animals, but we can decide to be so much more if we open ourselves up to see that.



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