General Overview: In this week’s Torah Parsha, Balak, King Balak of Moab retains the sorcerer Balaam to curse the Jewish people. Instead of curses, only blessings come out of his mouth – including prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption. Moabite women entice some of the Israelites to sin, resulting in a plague amongst the Jews. Pinchas zealously kills two of the high-ranking offenders, and the plague comes to an end.
In the first Aliya, the Israelites have just conquered the Emorites and the Bashanites, the two mighty neighbors of Moab. Balak, king of Moab, worries that his nation would be the Israelites’ next victim. He sends messengers to the Land of Midian, to Balaam, a famed non-Jewish prophet and sorcerer, asking him to come and curse the Jews. G‑d appeared to Balaam that night and instructed him not to go to Moab. “You shall not curse the people because they are blessed!”