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Torah Teasers Parshat Balak

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9 )

by Moshe Erlbaum

Challenging questions for the Shabbat table.

1. Which relative of Balak has a name linguistically related to a relative of Moshe?

The father of Balak is Tzipor (Numbers 22:2), related to the name of Moshe's wife, Tzipora (Exodus 2:21). Both names mean "bird."

2. In this parsha, who is compared to an ox, a lion, and a lion cub? What two other people in the Torah are compared to a lion cub?

In this parsha, Moav compares the Jews to an ox licking up its surroundings (Numbers 22:4). In the blessing that Bilaam gives to the Jews, they are compared to a lion and a lion cub (lavi) (Numbers 24:9). In parshas Vayechi, Yaakov compares Yehuda to a lion cub (Genesis 49:9), and in parshas Vezos Haberacha, Moshe compares the tribe of Gad to a lion cub (Deut. 33:20).

3. In this parsha, to whom does Hashem ask a question? What three other places in the Torah does Hashem ask someone a question?

In this parsha, Hashem asks Bilaam, "Who are these men with you?" (Numbers 22:9). In parshas Bereishis, Hashem asks Adam, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). Also in parshas Bereishis, after Kayin killed Hevel, Hashem asks, "Where is Hevel your brother?" (Genesis 4:9). In parshas Vayera, after Sarah laughed upon hearing the news of her upcoming childbirth, Hashem asks Avraham, "Why did Sarah laugh?" (Genesis 18:13).

4. In this parsha, Bilaam saddles his own donkey (Numbers 22:21). Who else in the Torah saddled his own donkey? What two people in the Torah harness their own chariot?

In parshas Vayera, Avraham saddled his own donkey to travel to the binding of Yitzhak (Genesis 22:3). (Bilaam's donkey of is a female - ason, while Avraham's is a male - chamor.) In parshas Vayigash, Yosef harnessed his own chariot when going to greet his father Yaakov (Genesis 46:29). In parshas Beshalach, Pharaoh harnessed his own chariot to go chase the Jews (Exodus 14:6).

5. In this parsha, in what context is veering to the right or left mentioned? Where is this concept mentioned in parshas Chukas?

The third time that the angel appears, the donkey is unable to veer "right or left" (Numbers 22:26). In parshas Chukas, the Jews guarantee the king of Edom they will stay on the main road and not veer "right or left" (Numbers 20:17).

6. In this parsha, a donkey speaks to Bilaam (22:28). Where else in the Torah does an animal speak to a human?

In parshas Bereishis, the snake speaks to Chava and entices her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:1).

7. Where in this parsha does someone clap his hands?

Balak claps his hands in anger when hearing Bilaam, for the third time, blessing the Jews instead of cursing them (Numbers 24:10).

8. In this parsha, what location is mentioned that shares its name with a type of wood mentioned elsewhere in the Torah?

In this parsha, the Jews encamped at Shitim (Numbers 25:1). Shitim is also the Hebrew name for acacia wood, used as a primary material for many of the Tabernacle's vessels (Exodus 25:5).

9. What weapon is mentioned in this parsha, but appears nowhere else in the Torah?

The "spear" used by Pinchas to kill Zimri (Numbers 25:7) is not mentioned anywhere else in the Torah.

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