Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
Take the Blame
Why name the parshah after the secondary character?
The Power of the Mind to Create Blessings
When is the last time you checked in on the inner dialogue in your head, and your running thoughts and feelings about yourself?
Balaam and Balak: The Full Story
The fascinating story of Balak and Balaam’s failed attempts to curse the Jewish people, in which a talking donkey and a sword-wielding angel also take starring roles.
Why Do They Hate Us?
The borderless war by terrorism is a new phenomenon, but its roots are age-old: an ideology of discontent that causes people to be disgusted by, and ultimately hate, cultures different than theirs.
Pestered By Angels
It's not too often that an angel drops by for a cup of tea and a chat, or that one discovers a heavenly being hovering impatiently in the waiting room...
Why Name a Torah Reading After a Wicked Person?
I was a little shocked that the weekly Torah portion read in the synagogue on the Sabbath was named after the wicked king, Balak, who schemed to curse the Jews in the desert. Couldn’t a more fitting name be found for this Torah portion?
Peaceful Coexistence
How do we reach true unity?
Wedding Speeches for Balak
Phinehas: The Zealot of the Bible
Phinehas was brazenly zealous when he slayed Zimri, the licentious leader of the tribe of Simeon.
The Star of Jacob
Insights into the Balaam prophecy.
What Do Anti-Semites Have to Offer?
Anti-Semitism is a powerful, negative, thoroughly unholy phenomenon. Stripped of its negativity, however, its raw power can be used in the service of holiness.
Was Moses in a Forbidden Marriage?
Not Every Attack Deserves a Response
Why the Jewish People Await Moshiach
There’s a secret reason the Jewish people have always wanted Moshiach, and that reason is very relevant to your life, right here, and right now.
Torah Insights
Saddle the Donkey
The Abrahamic passion will absorb the negative passion and transform it to fuel, intensifying our commitment to holiness and positivity.
Weekly Sermonette
Keeping Up with the Cohens
Do not look into your neighbor’s tent to help decide what you should be doing. Your decisions in life should not be based on what other people are, or are not, doing.
A Lousy Excuse
In our age of the information explosion, ignorance has become a lousy excuse
Alone, but Not Lonely
The Jewish people have been very much alone throughout history, and that hasn’t changed.
Life's Passages
How to Become Your Greatest Advocate
Why is it that just as we are about to reach a long sought-after goal, we falter in those final moments?
Aren't My Friends Just Awesome?
He would guzzle down my mother’s delicacies, spilling some on our pristine white tablecloth.
Inner Stream
The Showdown
On one side stood Moses, the greatest prophet of all time. On the other side was Balaam, the far-famed soothsayer. At stake was the most critical question in all creation: Does G‑d care about good and evil?
How Not to Serve Idols
In His infinite kindness, G-d deposited hidden spiritual gems even in this world. And is it possible to hunt around in this world and discover these kernels of Divinity.
Parshah Musings
There Is No Such Thing as a Bad Jew
A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s not where you are that counts, it’s what you’re doing
Profit from a Non-Jewish Prophet
I don't get it. We've got no Jews, no rabbis, no home grown talent, that we need a Bilaam to introduce such a fundamental concept as the messianic redemption?
Close Your Blinds
We live in an age of revelation; privacy is passé. All the more reason to recall Balaam's vision of the goodly tents of the Israelite camp...
And This You Call Religion?
It’s easy to mock the ancient idol worshippers for their misplaced emphasis on style over substance, but how many of us make similar mistakes in our personal lives?
I Have Sinned
Don’t just sit back waiting for people to bring their troubles to you; go out and make the needs of others your business. We are all responsible for each other and ignorance is never, ever an excuse.
Sand or Stars?
Where is the grandeur and excitement of granules of crushed earth?
Reflections on the Parshah
Behind the Blessing
Balaam blessed the Jews, praising the "goodliness of their tents." What was the malicious intent behind these words?
Parshah Moment
A Lonely Nation
Am levadad yishkon, a nation dwells alone. In ways we can’t always appreciate, that dwelling is a benefit to us and to the world. History attests to that, even as it does not explain it . . .
Torah for Now
Of Donkeys and Discernment
G‑d has given us something far, far superior to "Donkeyvision": the challenge of liberty and the gift of discernment...
What Do You Think?
Balak's Bad Day
Balak was having a bad day. The Moab State Department has just sent him a memo that two mighty kings in the region had being defeated and killed by the invading Hebrews. Consumed with panic, he called a press conference...
Living through the Parshah
Counting Other People's Money
At each of their stops over their forty-year trek, the people made sure to erect their tents in a modest arrangement. Apparently, it was this exceptionally sensitive quality amongst them that made it impossible for Balaam to harm them.
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Fake it or Break it
Instead of pouring his fear out and onto his people, Moses strapped on a face of calm and fortitude, and went around tranquilly planting seeds of serenity in the Israelite camp...
Parshah Messages
Moses the Rebuker?
Moses rebukes and Balaam blesses -- sounds wrong, no?
The Secret of Jewish Survival
Why was this nation immune from G-d's curses and wrath? Let's listen to what our enemy has to say on the matter...
A Love (From) Hate Relationship
Balak hated the Jews—but for good reason; in his estimation, they presented a mortal threat to him. Balaam, on the other hand, like so many anti-Semites throughout the ages, hated the Jews for no reason at all...
For Friday Night
Privacy and Modesty
Our role as Jews is to be an example. The Torah describes us, thousands of years ago, as expressing the virtues of modesty and privacy.
Weekly Torah
Covenant & Conversation
Not Reckoned Among the Nations
Balaam is numbered by the rabbis as one of only four non-royals mentioned in the Tanach who are denied a share in the World to Come.2 Why then did G‑d choose that Israel be blessed by Balaam?
What Makes G-d Laugh
From the vantage point of heaven, the ultimate absurdity is when humans start thinking of themselves as G‑dlike.
The Hardest Word to Hear
The character of Bilam remains ambiguous, in both the Torah and subsequent Jewish tradition. Was he a diviner (reading omens and signs), or a sorcerer (practising occult arts)? Was he a genuine prophet, or a fraud?
Leadership & Loyalty
Is leadership a set of skills, the ability to summon and command power? Or does it have an essentially moral dimension also?
The Freeman Files
Sighting Moshiach
Is it true that he shall suddenly appear on a main street in Jerusalem, a poor old man spewing forth wisdom and declaring the time of redemption has arrived? If so, why will they not lock him up?
The Fragile Veneer of Evil
On the one hand, he’s declared to be nothing less than the equal of Abraham (in passion) and Moses (in prophecy); on the other, he’s described as the most perverse, greedy and corrupt human being ever to walk the face of the earth!
Calling Moses
Do we surrender to the anti-truth of arbitrary happenstance, or do we embrace the divine calling of purposeful engagement? The difference looks a lot smaller than it is
Our Goodly Tents
We all know the story of how Balaam's curses turned into blessings. But according to the Talmud, most of them turned back into curses
The Crouching Lion
The details differ (a tiger raised in a Brooklyn apartment, a circus lion losing it in the ring) but the basic story is the same: a large cat "suddenly" sheds its domesticated persona and... well, you don't want to be in its way when that happens
Who Believes in Moshiach?
Why do you bother getting out of bed in the morning?
Parshah Recovery
It seems that Balaam knew what many of us have learned in recovery—that it is the pursuit of gratifying our most basic instincts that disrupts our natural connectedness with G‑d.
More Parshah Articles
Moshiach: An Anthology
Where are we headed? What is the Jewish interpretation of history? Twenty-eight articles and dozens of source texts on the why, how, who, when and what of Moshiach and the future redemption.
Beyond Speech
Balaam in the Haftorah
For the haftarah of Balak, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
I am amazed by the brilliance of our sages to choose haftorahs that encapsulate the theme of the parshah to a tee
How (Not to) Answer a 'Nudnik'
Zimri brought Kozbi before Moses and asked him, “Is she allowed or forbidden?"
The Private Eye
The private unit of a married couple is so holy that it is the foundation of the family and it leads to the coming of Moshiach.
To Bring Moshiach We Must Work G‑d's Garden
Our purpose is to reveal the essence of the world, that it is His garden.
Mothers Over Fathers
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