midian

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Balak – Interference of Souls

Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab became terrified of the people, for they were numerous, and Moab became disgusted because of the children of Israel. Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this assembly will eat up everything around us, as the ox eats up the greens of the field. Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, "A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the 'eye' of the land, and they are stationed opposite me. So now, please come and curse this people for me, for [...]

Phinehas – the Slayer of Uncertainty

A strange episode at the end of the last Torah portion, Balak, where Phinehas (Pinchas) slain a Jewish prince caught in the act with a heathen woman, is rewarded in this week’s eponymous Torah portion with the priesthood.  This begs the question, what is the connection between the act of zealotry by Phinehas and the reward of priesthood he receives for it? By way of background, as we read in the previous Torah portion, the evil king, Balak, fails to bring a curse on the Jewish people by Balaam (Bilam).  According to Midrash, Balaam advises Balak to send most beautiful Midian women to seduce Jewish men (see Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraphs 6-12). Balak heads the advice and uses Moabite and Midianite women to seduce Jewish men [...]

Convergence of Science and Torah

The Torah portion of Yitro (Ex. 18), is the high point of the story of Exodus—the giving of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.  In a strange digression, the progressive narrative of the Exodus from Egypt is interrupted by the side story of Jethro (Yitro), the father-in-law of Moses, who comes to Sinai desert to join the Jewish nation.  After hearing Moses’ account of all the miracles God performed for Jewish people, Jethro exclaimed: Now I know that the Lord is greater than all deities. (Ex. 18:11) Jethro said confidently, “I know,” because, as the chief priest of Midian, he indeed knew all pagan cults and all deities worshiped in his time.  Moreover, in antiquity, priests were expected to possess all secular knowledge as well (sadly, it is no longer the case).  They needed to [...]

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