[Remember, the jokes follow the commentary.]
The Israelites don’t actively take part in this week’s portion until the last nine verses. Instead, we see them through the eyes of Balak ben Tzippor, the king of Moab, who is scared to death of them; and Balaam ben Beor, a sorcerer/”prophet” who is briefly inspired by the Lord to bless them but soon after lures them into another disaster. Balak sends successive delegations to Balaam, who has a great reputation for effective blessings and curses (or maybe some of that is extra Moabite soft soap), to get him to curse the Israelites for him. The Lord tells Balaam not to go, that the people are blessed, and Balaam duly refuses. Then he is solicited by a grander Moabite delegation, and he puts them off until he can convene with the Lord. The Lord, annoyed, tells him he can go but will only be able to say what the Lord puts in his mouth. On the way, Balaam’s donkey sees an angel barring the path and stops. Balaam beats her. The third time this happens, the donkey speaks and complains about her treatment and the Balaam sees the angel, who reiterates than he can go to Moab but only say what the Lord tells him. Balaam tells Balak this, leaving out the small detail that he’s also been told he can’t curse the Israelites. Balaam tries three times to curse the people, but only blessings come out of his mouth: the first dealing with the present, the second the near future, and the third, farther off in time. Balak tries to reposition Balaam, thinking he’ll be able to curse them if he gets a better view of the Israelite camp, but to no avail. The spirit of the Lord comes upon Balaam (only) when he gives the third blessing, part of which has been incorporated into our liturgy (24:5, Mah tovu ohalekha Ya’acov, mishk’notekha Yisrael). He continues to prophesy, telling Balak what Israel will do to the Canaanites in the days to come. Surprisingly, the enraged Balak lets Balaam go on his way. Afterwards, the Israelites are shown whoring with Moabite women at Shittim and worshiping the Moabite god Baal-Peor , all of which apparently occurs at Balaam’s instigation (Moses says so in Deuteronomy) and which of course leads to a plague. Pinchas, grandson of Aaron, then steps forward and publicly impales the two chief offenders. More on that next week.
Putting the occasional comic elements of the story aside. let’s look a little more closely. Clearly, Balaam hates the Israelites at the end of the Balak episode. But we are not told how he feels about them at first, for instance, when he’s told he can’t curse them. He also has a very high opinion of himself and seeks to capitalize financially on his relationship (more like acquaintance) with the Lord. His first refusal to go with the Moabites seems straightforward enough. His second refusal sounds fake, as if he’s actually interested but bargaining for an even bigger offer (cf. the bargaining in Gen. 23:3-16). And notice that he never explicitly says he can’t curse the Israelites, only that, initially, he can’t go with the Moabites and, later, that he can only say what the Lord allows. This is a con artist. Somehow, he reminds me of Zoltan Karpathy in Shaw’s Pygmalion (or Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady”). Why, then, does the Lord give Balaam permission to go, maybe even tell him to, and then express anger at his going? Nachmanides wrote that the Lord gave permission in order to have Israel blessed publicly by a non-Hebrew prophet and then got angry at the eagerness with which Balaam went, as if he really was ready to do what Balak wanted. Ibn Ezra was of the opinion that the Lord didn’t want him even to go to Balak, made that clear, and was annoyed that Balaam apparently hoped to reverse the “don’t curse” dictum; in that scenario, the Lord is actually acknowledging grudgingly that Balaam had free will and would not be stopped from going to Balak. Balaam surely realized he wouldn’t be allowed to curse the Israelites. But it may have been a big surprise to him that this curses turned into blessings. Maybe that’s what led Balaam to take revenge on the Israelites via the Baal Peor incident?
Bargaining at its best !!
By Thazeen Khan Sunday 21st, November 2010
One Bengali Babu went to Cannought Place in New Delhi to purchase an umbrella. He had been told in Calcutta that one could bargain for better prices in Delhi also.
Bengali Babu: How much does this umbrella cost
Shopkeeper: Rs. 200
Bengali Babu: Can I have it for Rs. 100?
Shopkeeper: Ok I’ll give it to you for Rs.150.
Bangali Babu: Well can I have it for Rs. 75 then?
Shopkeeper: OK, take it for Rs. 100.
Bangali Babu: Can I have it for Rs. 50?
Thus shopkeeper is pretty angry now: Why don’t you take it for free?
Bengali Babu: OK, can I have two of them?
At a nursing home a group of seniors were sitting around talking about all their ailments.
“My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee”, said one.
“Yes, I know,” said another. “My cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee.”
“I couldn’t even mark an “X” at election time, my hands are so crippled”, volunteered a third.
“What? Speak up! What? I can’t hear you! I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck,” said a fourth, to which several nodded weakly in agreement.
“My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy!” exclaimed another.
“I forget where I am, and where I’m going,” said another.
“I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old”, winced an old man as he slowly shook his head. The others nodded in agreement.
“Well, count your blessings,” said one woman cheerfully. “Thank God we can all still drive.”
Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it”
Thomas Paine quotes(English born AmericanWriter and political pamphleteer, whose ‘Common Sense’ and ‘Crisis’ papers were important influences on the American Revolution. 1737–1809)
Five Yiddish Curses
May you grow like an onion,with your head in the ground.
May your bones be broken as often as the Ten Commandments.
May you have a son named after you soon.
May the souls of all of King Solomon’s mother’s in law inhabit you.
May G-d mistake you for your worst enemy and give you all the curses you wished on him.
Bad Mistakes On Resumés [selected]
Here are some real-life examples:
“”Education: Curses in liberal arts, curses in computer science, curses in accounting.”
“Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Milpitas chain store.”
“Personal: Married, 1992 Chevrolet.”
“I am a rabid typist.”
“Exposure to German for two years, but many words are not appropriate for business.”
“Proven ability to track down and correct erors.”
“I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely nothing and absolutely no one.”
“References: None, I’ve left a path of destruction behind me.”
Joke Submitted By:: Garry Desmond
A man goes into a pet shop and asks the shop keeper for a new pet.
“I don’t want a cat or a dog I want something different!” Specifies the man.
The shop keeper informs him that they have some talking centipedes for £50.
Happy with that the man buys his new pet and carefully takes it home in a match box. [This seems like a set up for a Monty Python sketch. IGP]
When he gets home he carefully opens the matchbox, looks down at the centipede and says:
“Hello Mr Centipede, do you fancy going down the pub for a drink?”
The centipede says nothing. Assuming it must be tired from the trip from the pet shop he thinks “I’ll give it half an hour then ask it again”.
30 mins later he again goes to the centipede and says “Hello Mr Centipede, do you fancy going down the pub for a drink?”
Again the centipede says nothing. The man thinks to himself “OK I will give it another 30 mins and if it doesn’t talk to me then I’m taking it back!”
30 mins later the man goes to the centipede and says “Hello Mr Centipede, do you fancy going down the pub for a drink?”
The centipede replied “I heard you the first blooming time! I’m putting my shoes on!”
An amazing talking dog
A man and his dog walk into a bar. The man proclaims, “I’ll bet you a round of drinks that my dog can talk.”
Bartender: “Yeah! Sure…go ahead.”
Man: “What covers a house?”
Man: “How does sandpaper feel?”
Man: “Who was the greatest ball player of all time?”
Man: “Pay up. I told you he could talk.”
The bartender, annoyed at this point, throws both of them out the door.
Sitting on the sidewalk, the dog looks at the guy and says, “or is the greatest player Mantle?”