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    Two more books – Balak

    When we come to this week’s portion we are reminded of the passage in the Talmud that declares that Moses wrote not only his own five books but also the Books of Bilam and Job (BB 14b).

    Sculpture of Moses in the US House of Representatives

    Sculpture of Moses in the US House of Representatives

    We cannot be certain why the sages made this claim.

    Perhaps it has to do with Bilam and Job apparently being outside the stream of Israelite history, making it advisable to justify their inclusion in the Biblical story.

    More likely it reflects the nature of the Bilam and Job episodes which both address deep human problems.

    Bilam struggles with his conscience – shall he follow conscience and tell the truth, or shall he suppress his scruples and do what powerful people (in his case the king of Moab) pay him to do?

    In Job’s case it is an inner struggle over maintaining his belief in God even when it seems that the Almighty has let him down.

    If their stories are written by Moses it leads us to ask questions about Moses himself.

    Was he always as sure of himself as people think, or did he too have agonies of conscience behind the scenes?

    The text does not explicitly say, but from the fact that he was more than once challenged by his brother and sister we see that all was not plain sailing, and when the Torah relates his tugs-of-war with the Israelite tribes we once again see that there were difficulties that suggest that we need to look into the psychology of Moses’ personality.

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