• Home
  • Parashah
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals
  • Freemasonry
  • Articles
  • About
  • Books
  • Media

    Son of a bird – Balak

    birdThe sidra of Balak is called by the name of the Moabite king who opens the story.

    “Balak” probably comes from a root that means to lay waste.

    Isaiah utilises this root b-l-k, when he begins his 24th chapter with the powerful rhetoric of the phrase, HaShem bokek ha’aretz uvol’kah – “The Lord makes the earth empty and lays it waste”.

    Balak was no friend of the Israelites and thought he could lay them waste in a moral and national sense by sending Moabite girls to tempt and seduce the young men of Israel.

    Balak’s father was Tzippor (Num. 22:2) – a strange name which means “bird”. The root is tz-p-r, to chirp.

    In Aramaic tz’far and tzafra mean “morning”, presumably because that is when the birds begin to chirp.

    But how can a human being be named “Bird”?

    In rabbinical literature Tzippor was not himself a king but a minor prince.

    When the sages tell the story they apply the characteristics of a bird to Balak himself, not his father, and say he flew as swiftly as a bird to do harm to Israel.

    Comments are closed.