symbolic treats for parshat balak

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Balak, takes place just after the Jewish People conquered Emor and Bashan. The king of Moav, Balak, gets nervous that his nation will be conquered next so he asks the prophet Bilaam to curse the Jewish People. At first, Bilaam tells the messengers that he cannot go because Hashem has told him he may not curse the Jewish People. They insist that he comes and Hashem allows him to go as long as he only says that which He permits. On the way, Bilaam’s donkey speaks to him as he sees the angel of Hashem blocking their way before Bilaam does. Bilaam hits the donkey and the angel criticizes him for his treatment of his animal and reminds him to only speak that which Hashem allows. Bilaam tries to curse the Jewish People three times, after setting up altars and bringing sacrifices, but each time he blesses them instead. Before leaving, Bilaam has prophesies on the end of the days and the coming of Mashiach, saying “a star has gone forth from Yaakov, and a staff will arise from Israel which will crush the princes of Moav…”

As one of the blessings of Bilaam was about the modesty of the Jewish People in their family lives (we say this blessing each morning – Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov), he advises Balak that the way to cause their downfall is to try to disrupt this virtue. He sends Moavite women in to seduce the men in the camp and to entice them to worship the idol Baal Peor. Hashem commands Moshe to execute those who are guilty and a plague comes in the camp. When one of the leaders of the Jewish People, Zimri, goes in public with a Midianite princess, Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon, immediately kills them both and the plague stops.

There are many symbols in this week’s Parsha! Candy mouths represent the blessings that Bilaam gives the Jewish People when he tries to curse them and his miraculous talking donkey that tries to prevent him from traveling to Moav. Animal crackers symbolize Bilaam’s talking donkey and the sacrifices he brought three times when he attempted to curse the Jewish People. White gum drops symbolize the angel who appears first to Bilaam’s donkey and then to Bilaam while they were on their way to Moav. Pretzel sticks can represent the stick that Bilaam uses to hit his donkey and the staff mentioned in the prophecy of Bilaam about the times of Mashiach. Candy stars represent the star that will come forth from the Jewish People according to Bilaam’s prophecy. Finally, Shock Pops can represent Pinchas’ shock at seeing Zimri sinning with a Midianite princess which led him to take action and kill them both, which stops the plague.

Do you have other ideas for representative treats for this week’s Parsha? Please share them in the comments section below.

Shabbat Shalom,
Shayna Levine-Hefetz

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