Description: Parashat Balak narrates the strange tale of a foreign seer who is hired to curse the Israelites but is compelled by God to bless them. What is this story doing in the Torah? It transpires entirely in a foreign royal court, and until the final lines of the parsha, Israel is mere object not subject.
In this podcast, Zvi Hirschfield and Alex Israel discuss the role of the visual in this narrative, the perspective of the outsider rather than the insider, as well as the phrase, “They are a people who dwell alone”; Is it a blessing or a curse? The podcast ends with a few reflections on Rabbi Sacks’ view of engagement versus insularity, Jewish involvement or seclusion?
Credits: Rabbi Alex Israel and Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield – Pardes Faculty
Note: Israel is currently ahead in its reading of the weekly parsha. If you are outside of Israel and would like to learn along with your synagogue’s reading, please visit last week’s podcast.