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Hukkat - Balak

Hukkat

The laws of the para aduma "the red heifer" are detailed.  These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death.

After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh.  The people complain about the loss of their water supply which until now has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam's righteousness.

Aharon and Moshe pray for the people's welfare.  G-d commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth.  Distressed by the people's lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it.  He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of G-d's mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe's word.  Therefore, G-d tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land.

Bnai Yisrael resume their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael.  When they reach Mount Hor, Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities.  Aharon was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days.

Sichon the Amorite attacks Bnai Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land.  As a result, Bnai Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River Exodus.

 

Balak

Balak, King of Moav, is in morbid fear of Bnai Yisrael.  He summons a renowned sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them.  First, G-d speaks to Bilaam and forbids him to go.  But, because Bilaam is so insistent, G-d appears to him a second time and permits him to go.

While en route, a malach (emissary from G-d) blocks Bilaam's donkey's path.  Unable to contain his frustration, Bilaam strikes the donkey each time it stops or tries to detour.  Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bilaam why he is hitting her.

The malach instructs Bilaam regarding what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say regarding the Jewish People.  When Bilaam arrives, King Balak makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will succeed in the curse.  Three times Bilaam attempts to curse and three times a blessing issues instead.  Balak, seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace.

Bnai Yisrael begin sinning with the Moabite women and worshipping the Moabite idols, and they are punished with a plague.  One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe and the people.  Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon, grabs a spear and kills both evildoers.  This halts the plague, but not before 24,000 have died.