Parasha Balak

In our Parasha, the powerful King Balak is frightened of the Jewish people, and he sends for Balaam to come and curse the Jewish people.

After several failed attempts, Balaam, the greatest sorcerer that has ever been in the world, explains his inability to curse the people of Israel in several ways, and one of them is: “Because there is no divination in Jacob and no soothsaying in Israel”, meaning that Am Israel are above negative spiritual powers that sometimes dominate the world.

Indeed, the prohibition on divination, sorcery and magic appears in the Torah in several places, or in a more detailed and poignant way in what Moses says to the people of Israel before his death in the Book of Deuteronomy 18:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, or a sorcerer, or a charmer…Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God.”

We see that the human desire to predict the future exists, even among the Jews.
Following primitive and erroneous mysticism causes us to believe in irrational things that go against logic, and immoral manipulators can exploit the genuine faith or naivete of the crowd.

This explanation appears in the world of psychology as the “confirmation bias” which is explained as the tendency of human beings to be aware of the things that confirm their prejudices.  And so the magician who puts some idea in our head, will cause us to interpret reality in a way that confirms that idea.  And that can deceive us.

The Torah wants to protect us from this danger of believing in magicians, zodiac signs, and guesses and anything else that is not based on belief in God, and therefore the Torah quotes the words of the greatest magician of all, Balaam, that despite the power of his words, God protected his people and didn’t allow any harm to come to them.

That is why the Torah makes a radical emphasis that we as the children of God shouldn’t pursue those magicians and just place our trust in our Creator.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Refael Cohen

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