Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Posts so far for parshat Balak


1. Balak sources -- further improved and expanded.

2. Why would Balak attack IsraelEspecially since the Israelites were enjoined from waging war against Moav, and he could only attack them a little bit, to no avail? Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers. I suggest an answer based on the context in Midrash Tanchuma.

3. The Kedushas Levi on the Erev Rav -- and why Moav feared them so much.

4. YUTorah on parshas Balak.

5. Targum Onkelos, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- Why translate כְּגַנֹּת עֲלֵי נָהָר as כְּגִנַּת שִׁקְיָא דְּעַל פְּרָת, making it refer specifically to a garden on the Euphrates? Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers with a unique fertile property of the Euphrates. Rabbi Yitzchak Zeev Diskin suggests the same, as well as that it is a reference to Gan Eden. I suggest that there is a gzeira shava of nahar nahar to earlier in the parasha, to where the speaker, Bilaam, lived. And finally that it is a reference to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

  1. Learning parshas Balak in your sleep.
  2. Samaritan astrology, and how a pasuk in Balak goes against such superstition.
  3. Targum Yonasan's 'prophecy', and how a realization that it was actually written after the Arab conquest, and is not from the Tanna Yonasan ben Uziel, it becomes clear that this is no prophecy but just a reference to a place by its presently known name. And related to this, Bnei Yissasschar, and how he reinterprets a gemara to allow for Yonasan ben Uziel's authorship.
  4. Balak sources - further expanded. For instance, many more meforshei Rashi.
  5. Zing! Ibn Caspi believes in a talking donkey. Well, if need be.
  6. The Targum of וַיְשַׁלַּח as וְשַׁלַּח -- rather than veshadar.
  7. YU Torah on parashat Balak.
  8. And commenting on the first listed audio shiur there, the talking snake vs. the talking donkey in the thought and scholarship of Abarbanel.
  9. The megillat hamasaot and the parasha of BilaamAccording to Rav Gifter, both were written separately. The list of  masaot as they made their way through the midbar, and the parasha of Bilaam as something separate. Themasaot were added to the Torah, but the parasha of Bilaam was not, and is not the same as our parashat Balak. I consider this idea.
  1. Balak sources -- revamped, with more than 100 meforashim on the parasha and haftorah.
  2. The land of whose peopleIbn Ezra vs. Mizrachi. And I suspect that neither one is right.
  3. The spelling of כְּתוֹעֲפֹת -- Considering whether the Samaritan text bolsters one side of a masoretic dispute.
  4. Why did Hashem get mad if He told him to goAccording to Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Ibn Caspi.
  5. Petorah as Aramaism -- Rashi's midrashic explanation of Petora, and Aramaisms in general in parashat Balak.
  6. True peshat in Petorah -- A consideration of what makes true peshat according to Rashi, and according to his supercommentators. There is a difference, I think.
  7. Why does Rashi mention that the geder is made of stoneAn interesting Taz on Rashi, but I find my own way.
  8. Dreams of talking donkeys --  Ibn Caspi's thesis that the talking donkey and the angel with sword were part of an elaborate daydream.
  9. Does Rashi reject the very *idea* of magical objects? An analysis of a hyper-rationalist approach, which excludes the idea that Rishonim could be non-rationalists.
  1. How did Moshe know of Bilaam's prophecies? -- and why we can include this section in the Torah.
  2. Balak sources -- links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos, as well as to many meforshim on the parsha and haftara.
  3. Masorah on Balak -- at least some of it, namely how the word par and vayikar in parshat Balak uniquely gets a kamatz; and some other words with localized kemeitzim.
  4. Some interesting censored text on Balak in the commentary of Siftei Kohen now that the black-out has faded.
  5. How did one "join" to Baal Peor? Considering a suggestion that the act of intercourse was the worship of Baal Peor. Ultimately, I don't think so.
  6. Why the war with Midian before Moshe's death? From Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, that they should not think Moshe did not take revenge upon them on behalf of Klal Yisrael because he, too, was guilty.
  7. As a followup to Rav Kanievsky's assertion that Jews have a different number of teeth than gentiles, others who believe Jews have a different number of teeth than gentiles. Based on Balak. And this followup.
  1. Shadal's framing of parshat Balak, such as whether Bilaam was an idolator, his profession, whether he used trickery, whether and how he had prophecy, whether the donkey spoke, and why Hashem saw fit to turn the words in Bilaam's mouth into blessing.
  2. Further thoughts on the etnachta in the last pasuk of Balak, as a followup to the 2006 post. I messed this post up, though.
  3. Balak saw something, and therefore Moav was afraid -- as a midrash, as a Rashi, as Ibn Ezra reading Rashi's midrash as peshat.
  1. Did Balak or Israel begin the hostilities?
    1. We get different perspectives from parshat Balak and parshat Devarim. It seems that conquering was disallowed, but minor raids were allowed.
  2. Bilaam Saddled His Donkey
    1. Either personally, or by command. And the implication of this.
  3. Midianites as a generic term
    1. which would resolve some confusion. Plus a tie in to the incident of the sale of Yosef.
  4. Why isn't Zimri mentioned by name?
    1. At least in parshas Balak?
  5. Holy Cow! A talking donkey?!
    1. Can a donkey speak? Shadal suggests that while Hashem is capable of anything, the reaction of Bilaam and his attendants suggests that it brayed in a different manner, and that Bilaam was adept at understanding animal speech. I make reference to Yerushalmi Berachot about Arabs capable of understanding animal speech.
  6. Some questions and thoughts on Balak
    1. questions which would arise from a surface reading of the parsha, which the commentators and midrashim set out to answer.
  • Why the Etnachta in the last pasuk of Balak?
    • somewhat of an attack piece. There is an etnachta there because of the demands of trup, for the trup marks the primary division point of the pasuk. Yet in a longer pasuk which contains that phrase, there is no etnachta because the primary division point of the pasuk is elsewhere. Etnachta (together with other disjunctive accents) is not absolute, but rather relative to the phrase/subphrase structure. Yet someone asks this question, why an etnachta here but not there, apparently unaware of how the system of trup operates, and offers a silly answer to a silly question.
  • Blog Roundup
    • what other blogs are saying about parshat Balak.
  • Bilaam the flying soothsayer
    • from parshat Matot. All discussing how Bilaam flew.
  • The Land of the Children of His People
    • Considers the possibility that eretz benei ammo - "the land of the children of his people," which is taken as meaning that Balak sent to his homeland - is really eretz benei Ammon - the land of the benei Ammon, with the nun sofit relaxing, where benei Ammon were the decendants of ben Ami, and is the usual name for Ammon, just as Moav were the descendants of Moav.
  • וַיַּרְא בָּלָק - The Mapik Aleph
    • Cross-listed from parshat Ki Tisa, discusses a midrash that notices there is no mapik in the aleph (!!) of וַיַּרְא, and deduces that the word means "feared" rather than "saw"
to be continued...


Pragmatician said...

wow, so many resources, if only they were bundled in a book. Would make it an easier read.

Steven said...

Dear Parsha Blog,

I am puzzling over the theory you've previously suggested that "eretz bnei amo" (the land of his people) in Bamidbar 22:5 really means the land of *Amon*. A friend of mine in Shul independently made the same suggestion to me yesterday.

But I don't understand what that would mean? Bilam clearly was summoned from *Aram* (in Mesopotamia), per Devarim 23:5, as you also mention in your posts. Not Amon. Balak was king of Moav, and presumably Balak was in Moav when he sent for Bilam -- in fact see 22:36, when Bilam arrives he meets Balak in Moav. What would 22:5 possibly mean if it is referring to the land of Amon? Who is located in Amon, and how is Amon connected to the summoning of Bilam?

If the Torah meant "Amon", does the text provide enough other facts to make sense of how Amon is involved? Or would it require all sorts of speculation and invention to rationalize the relevance of Amon?

When I consider the fact that "Amo" and "Amon" are so close in spelling, and Amon does feature in *other* nearby parshiyot of the Torah (e.g. Chukat, battles of sichon & og), and "eretz bnei amo" is kind of an odd phrase, the conclusion I draw is: it's easy to imagine how a Samarian scribe who maybe wasn't following the story details too closely could have mistakenly transcribed "Amon" in 22:5.

What I don't understand is how interpreting 22:5 as meaning/referring to "Amon" leads to a more coherent pshat? What does the land of Amon have to do with Balak king of Moav sending messengers to summon Bilam from Aram?

If our Masoretic text had instead said "eretz bnei amon", then I suspect objective, truth-seeking bloggers :-) would be wondering what that means (since Petor is in mesopotamia), and suggesting that the correct text is really eretz bnei *amo* and simply means Petor was Bilam's homeland, and that the reference to *Amon* in the (hypothetical) masoretic text is erroneous. No?

Bottom line, it seems to me that "Amon" in the Samarian text is just an easy-to-imagine typo, and not a variant reading that makes more sense than our masoretic version Amo. Am I missing something? My friend still agrees with your theory, for what that's worth -- but I don't undesrtand why!

Steven said...

My friend pointed me to Daat Mikra, who presents yet another interesting theory: "bnei amo" should be vocalized as "bnei Amu", the land of Amu, which was supposedly an ancient land in Mesopotamia. Daat MIkra also comments that there is no connection here to the land of "Amon", which was not located in Aram/Mesopotamia.

If you want to see a really unusual work supporting the "Amu" theory, look in Google Books for an old book called "The Soothsayer Balaam, or The Transformation of a Sorcerer into a Prophet" by a christian bishop named Seraphim. I found the link by searching "Amu" and "mesopotamia" on Google.

The reader can decide if "Amu" is persuasive. But clearly a Mesopotamian location makes a lot more sense in this context than Amon would.

joshwaxman said...

Did you see my post with my response?

It seems strange to say that Ammon was not in Mesopotamia when maps have it right there, immediately across the river from Ir Moav, where you pointed out that Balak and Bilaam met.


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