Between Magic & Metaphysics: Parashat Balak Reflections

Hebrew Vision News Exclusive

by Miykael Qorbanyahu aka The End Time Scribe

Torah: Numbers 22.2-25.9     Haftarah: Mikah 5.6-6.8     Witness: Mark 11.12-26


When Balaam went forth later to curse the Israelites in the wilderness, he again had with him his sons Jannes and Jambres (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxii. 22). His witchcraft had no effect on Israel, because the merits of their ancestors shielded them and angels protected them (Tan., ed. Buber, Balak, xvii., xxiii.; Targ. Yer. to Num. xxiii. 9, 10, 23; Samaritan Book of Joshua, ch. iii.). He then resorted to the strategem of seduction. After having, by divine inspiration, predicted the destiny of the people of Israel, and having spoken even of the Messianic future (Josephus, “Ant.” iv. 6, §§ 4, 5; Philo, l.c. 52), he advised Balak to select the handsomest daughters of the Midianites, who should lead the Israelites to idolatry (Josephus, l.c., §§ 6-9; Philo, l.c. 54-56; Samaritan Book of Joshua, iv.). This plan was executed, and 24,000 Midianite women caused as many Hebrew men to fall (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxiv. 25; Samaritan Book of Joshua, iv.). Phinehas decided to avenge the wrong upon Balaam. Seeing his pursuer, the latter resorted to witchcraft and flew up into the air; but Phinehas made use of the Holy Name, seized him by the head, and unsheathed his sword to slay him. In vain did Balaam entreat his conqueror, saying: “Spare me and I will no longer curse thy people.” Phinehas answered, “Thou Laban the Aramean, didst intend to kill Jacob our father, and thou didst invite Amalek to make war against us; and now, when thy wiles and sorceries were of no avail, thou didst lay pitfalls for 24,000 Hebrews by thy wicked counsel. Thy life is forfeited.” Whereupon Balaam fell, pierced by the sword (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxxi. 8; Sanh. 106b).

Jewish Encyclopedia. The Stratagem of Balaam

“Ěl is not a man, to lie; nor a son of man, to repent! Has He said, and would He not do it; or spoken, and would not confirm it? See, I have received, to bless. And He has blessed, and I do not reverse it. He has not looked upon wickedness in Ya‛aqoḇ, nor has He seen trouble in Yisra’ĕl. יהוה his Elohim is with him, and the shout of a Sovereign is in him. Ěl who brought them out of Mitsrayim, is for them like the horns of a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Ya‛aqoḇ, nor is there any divination against Yisra’ĕl. Now it is said to Ya‛aqoḇ and to Yisra’ĕl, ‘What has Ěl done!’”

Numbers 23.19-23


No automatic alt text available.In the world of humanity there are means by which individuals are able to transcend the physical bounds of time and space to the effect of altering perceived reality by connecting with unseen forces. This ability is determined by several factors of which perception and focus are fundamental to the processes that enable individuals to tap into power sources which provides them with the capacity to facilitate their will with clearly demonstrated activity. These powers include, but are not limited to telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, prognostication, levitation along with other extra sensory perceptions and supernatural abilities. Most individuals who develop such perceptions and abilities utilize the practice of magic, both black and white, to either enhance or assist their own or someone else’s lot; or to bring harm and ill will to others. Few, however, are those who access the power of the sacred science of metaphysics to achieve such feats which, by most, are considered beyond the scope of human potential. But as we shall see, the Scriptures speak of such human exploits which individuals have used for both nefarious and virtuous purposes.

Image result for magic and sorceryTaken from the Proto Indo-European root word magh– meaning to be able or to have power, magic, according to the Torah, is a prohibited practice among Israelites. This Torah based prohibition is due to the aspirants attempted acquisition of power and extraordinary ability outside of the Sovereignty, Providence and Will of יהוה. As defined by the Jewish Encyclopedia, magic is understood as the

…pretended art of producing preternatural effects; one of the two principal divisions of occultism, the other being Divination. The effects produced may be either physical (as a storm or death under conditions insufficient to explain its occurrence, or any phenomenon impossible in the ordinary course of nature) or mental, and the latter either intellectual (as preternatural insight or knowledge) or emotional (as love or hate arising or disappearing in obedience to the arbitrary will of the magician). The methods of producing these effects include on the one hand actions of various sorts, and on the other incantations, invocations, and the recitation of formulas. Even in the Talmud the act and the results produced by it are regarded as the criteria of magic, and these two factors appear in all forms of witchcraft as essential characteristics.

1metaphysicsConversely, metaphysics, which is a fusion of two words; meta, meaning beyond, and physics being events related to the dynamic phenomena of energy, force, matter and motion, is understood as the sacred science of transcending the physical world into the inner dimensions of the spirit world. Ultimately, this results in the unification of consciousness with the supreme Mind of existence, which is יהוה. To confirm this reality, the Rambam says in the summation of his classic work, The Guide for the Perplexed,

Having stated the sublime ideas contained in that Scriptural passage, and quoted the explanation of our Sages, we will now complete what the remainder of that passage teaches us. The prophet does not content himself with explaining that the knowledge of [Elohim] is the highest kind of perfection; for if this only had been his intention, he would have said, “But in this let him who glorieth glory, that he understandeth and knoweth me,” and would have stopped there; or he would have said, “that he understandeth and knoweth me that I am One,” or, “that I have not any likeness,” or, “that there is none like me,” or a similar phrase. He says, however, that man can only glory in the knowledge of [Elohim] and in the knowledge of His ways and attributes, which are His actions, as we have shown (Part 1. liv.) in expounding the passage, “Show me now thy ways” (Exod. xxxviii. 13). We are thus told in this passage that the Divine acts which ought to be known, and ought to serve as a guide for our actions, are, ḥesed, “loving-kindness,” mishpat, “judgment,” and ẓedakah, “righteousness.” Another very important lesson is taught by the additional phrase, “in the earth.” It implies a fundamental principle of the Law; it rejects the theory of those who boldly assert that [Elohim]’s providence does not extend below the sphere of the moon, and that the earth with its contents is abandoned, that “[יהוה] hath forsaken the earth” (Ez. viii. 12). It teaches, as has been taught by the greatest of all wise men in the words, “The earth is יהוה’s” (Exod. ix. 29), that His providence extends to the earth in accordance with its nature, in the same manner as it controls the heavens in accordance with their nature. This is expressed in the words, “That I am [יהוה] which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.”

Image result for latent powers of manFrom this information, we are able to conclude that it is the sovereignty of יהוה that establishes and maintains the entirety of existence. This establishment and maintenance clearly extends into the realm of human affairs of which our alignment with the will of heaven allows for us to access the latent powers that are available to us which results from adherence to the Torah in the spirit of Truth. As the Rambam stated, the objective of this goal is to embody the essence, character and nature of the Most High which is how we come to reflect the image and likeness of our Creator and Maker. To further expound on this matter, the Rambam goes on to complete this thought by stating that knowledge imbued leads to our perfection and attainment of metaphysical states of consciousness which provides the demonstration of powers as substantial evidence of the existence of this hidden reality. Maimonides finishes his thought, stating that the

prophet thus, in conclusion, says, “For in these things I delight, saith יהוה,” i.e., My object [in saying this] is that you shall practise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. In a similar manner we have shown (Part I. liv.) that the object of the enumeration of [Elohim]’s thirteen attributes is the lesson that we should acquire similar attributes and act accordingly. The object of the above passage is therefore to declare, that the perfection, in which man can truly glory, is attained by him when he has acquired–as far as this is possible for man–the knowledge of [Elohim], the knowledge of His Providence, and of the manner in which it influences His creatures in their production and continued existence. Having acquired this knowledge he will then be determined always to seek loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, and thus to imitate the ways of [Elohim].

Image result for balaam the wicked prophetWith these words, we can clearly surmise that our Israelite ancestors were organic scientists in that they were able to arrive at a conclusive perspective of existence based on their observations and experiences which yielded results which brought them closer, in consciousness, to the unseen realms and inner dimensions of life. This reality is made clear in this week’s parashat which is called Balak, wherein we yet again witness the contest of magic going up against metaphysics. The first of such encounters was when Moshe approached Pharaoh and his court and the plagues were unleashed on Mitzrayim, of which his magicians were able to replicate the first three plagues of serpents, blood and the summoning of frogs. A significant point of interest at this point is the traditional idenification of the magicians who opposed Moshe at that time were none other than the sons of this week’s antagonist Balaam, Yannes and Yambres.

Image result for the serpent in mesopotamiaAs the Torah informs us of this episode, Balaam, son of Beor is summoned by Balak, king of Moab, for the express purpose of bringing a curse upon Israel due to their awe-inspiring strength in יהוה which has preceded them upon their entry into Canaan. Aware of his prowess as a magician, Balak was convinced that Balaam’s magic was comparable to that of Moshe. As a diviner and prophet from Pethor in Mesopotamia, this son of Beor was also the grandson of Laban, yet another serpent worshiping nemesis of Israel. That both Balaam and Laban were serpent worshipers becomes apparent from a verse in Genesis wherein we find hidden in the Hebrew tongue the line that lifts the curtain and unveils the secret power that Laban and his progeny wielded. At the twenty-seventh verse of Genesis chapter thirty, we read the following words in the Holy Tongue,

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו לָבָן אִם־נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ נִחַשְׁתִּי וַיְבָרֲכֵנִי יְהוָה בִּגְלָלֶֽךָ

Image result for nachash

The operative word of this passage is nachashti (נִחַשְׁתִּי), which translators have rendered into English as divination, or experiene. However, looking at the root of this word, we find that old serpent, nachash (נִחַשְׁ) coiled up and hiding in the text. As we stated last week, it is this enchanting, divining and deceiving serpent that has continuously presented itself as a stumbling block unto Israel, and remains so yet and still to this very day. The dynamics of this week’s reading is as such that the contempt, disdain and desire to destroy Israel was evidently passed down from Laban to his offspring. We read of this matter from an article entitled The Curses of Laban, which tells us that

Laban’s worship of the serpent (nachash) led him to become one of the first enemies of the [Israelites]. He tried to make Jacob a slave from the beginning, later claiming that all his descendants and possessions belonged to him (Genesis 31.43). Later Laban had a son named Beor (בְּעוֹר) who became the father of the wicked prophet Balaam (בִּלְעָם). In other words, the cursing prophet Balaam was none other than the grandson of Laban…

The idea of a cursing prophet is bizarre, to say the least. Balaam was gifted with great spiritual sensitivity which he perversely devoted to evil purposes. The Scriptures condemn Balaam as a spiritual hireling who sought to corrupt the people of [Elohim] (Deuteronomy 23.3-6). He was a consummate hypocrite who, for all his talk about speaking “only what [Elohim] put into his mouth” was highly motivated to curse the [Israelites] for a fee (Numbers 22.17-18; 23.28). His blindness led him to be rebuked by a talking donkey who saved his life from the angel’s sword of fire (Numbers 22.23). The rebuke from the mouth of an animal was delicious irony, since in spite of his best efforts, Balaam would be forced to bless the [Israelite people]. Like his donkey, he could only speak the words that [Elohim] put into his mouth…

So as the plot of this tale unfolds, this wicked descendant of Laban finds himself unable to work his magic at the request of Balak against Israel due to their suggested pleasing of the Most High so as implied by the verse He does not look at evil in Jacob, and has seen no perversity in Israel; the Lord, his God, is with him, and he has the King’s friendship. The Palestinian Targum translates the verse in a way which gives more insight into what is meant by Balaam when he looked into and pryed open the matter through his means of divination;

Bileam the wicked said, I see not among them of the house of Jakob such as worship idols; they who serve false idols are not established among the tribes of the sons of Israel. The Word of יהוה their Elohim is their help, and the trumpets of the King Meshiha resound among them.

Furthermore, Targum Onkelos goes on to tell us of Israel’s immunity to divination as he translates the twenty-third verse of Numbers chapter twenty three,

For no divination can prosper against the house of Jakob, nor enchantments against the myriads of Israel. According to the time it shall be said of Jakob and of Israel, what hath Eloah wrought!

With this pronouncement the Sovereignty, Providence and Will of יהוה becomes evident in that the prophet Isaiah informs of us of this certain reality when Israel is aligned with the Most High that

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall prove wrong. This is the inheritance of the servants of יהוה, and their righteousness from Me,” declares יהוה.

Isaiah 54.17

Image result for yhwh echadHere is where the metaphysical principles of Torah come into existence in that Israel’s safety and well-being lies beyond the influence of magical incantations and other formulations that may affect other people and nations who function outside of the promises and protections of the covenant that יהוה has entered into with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. For Israel, the metaphysical nature of their existence is axiomatic to the thirteen attributes enumerated at Exodus 34 and what the Rambam identified as the Thirteen Articles of Faith. These core principles are not just core beliefs, but expressions of all Israelites consciousness and the source of both individual and collective power of the commonwealth. These Thirteen Articles are identified as follows:

  1. [Elohim] exists
  2. [Elohim] is one and unique
  3. [Elohim] is incorporeal
  4. [Elohim] is eternal
  5. Prayer is to [Elohim] only
  6. The prophets spoke truth
  7. Moses was the greatest of the prophets
  8. The Written and Oral Torah were given to Moses
  9. There will be no other Torah
  10. [Elohim] knows the thoughts and deeds of men
  11. [Elohim] will reward the good and punish the wicked
  12. The Messiah will come
  13. The dead will be resurrected

Upon the realization, internalization and actualization of these fundamental principles, an Israelite is able to focus their energies and derive great power by aligning their consciousness with the principles, and ultimately, become the embodiment of the principles. As was stated earlier in this writing, this consciousness is based upon the acquisition of the knowledge of [Elohim], the knowledge of His Providence, and of the manner in which it influences His creatures in their production and continued existence.

No automatic alt text available.In addition to this, the Hebrew letters and the words that they form are also able to transcend the bounds of time and space and bring forth realities that are unseen into existence. As we read in the opening quote about Phineas seizing Balaam, it was his use of the Tetragrammaton, or the Divine Name of the Creator, which allowed him to overpower the magical prowess of Balaam and execute righteous judgment upon the wicked, cursing prophet. The reason that Hebrew letters and words are so powerful is because, according to Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary of the Sefer Yetzirah, or the Book of Creation, an ancient mystical text attributed to the patriarch Abraham,

With each act of creation, the Torah reports that “[Elohim] said.” Thus, “[Elohim] said: let there be light,” and [Elohim] said, let there be a  firmament.” The decrees through which [Elohim] brought creation into being consisted of ten sayings. These in turn consisted of words, and these words were formed out of letters. Hence, it was through the letters of the alphabet that the universe was created.

These letters of creation were not only responsible for the inception of the world, but they also constantly sustain it. It is thus written, “forever, O [Elohim], Your Word stands in the heavens” (Psalm 119.89). The very words and letters with which the universe was created are also the ones which constantly sustain it. If these words and letters were withdrawn for even an instant, the universe would cease to exist.

Thus, if one knows how to manipulate the letters correctly, one can also manipulate the most elemental forces of creation…

Sefer Yetzirah. pg. 26-27

Related imageContrarily, it was when Israel succumbed to the flesh and allowed their lusts to lower their consciousness that they fell victim to the wrath of יהוה. This is because Israel was to embody the highest form of thought and spiritual consciousness which was to be carried out in the actions with the demonstration of presenting reality to the world is it was brought into being by the Creator. This remains our greatest challenge as a kingdom of priests; for self-mastery is what is required to align with the Most High and ultimately enter into the metaphysical realms of pure consciousness. This also pertains to both the adherence and the application of the Word of יהוה which is what further reshapes terrestrial existence into the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

For it is by the circumcision of the heart, or the mind renewed by Torah, combined with the circumcision of the flesh, which is the key of the covenant that the Most High gave to Israel to have power over the transcendental realm, and the circumcision of the tongue, which is the mastery of the mystery of the Hebrew language and the Torah, that opens the door to the great unknown which those who have governed themselves and perceived the inner meaning of life in Torah are able to enter and comprehend. It is then that all illusion is able to be dispelled and conquered for the sake of Heaven and the sovereignty, providence and will of יהוה are able to be established and embraced, as the prophet Mikah prophesied,

And it shall be in that day,” declares יהוה, “that I shall cut off your horses out of your midst, and I shall destroy your chariots. And I shall cut off the cities of your land, and I shall pull down all your strongholds. And I shall cut off witchcrafts out of your hand, and let you have no magicians. And I shall cut off your carved images, and your pillars from your midst, so that you no longer bow down to the work of your hands. And I shall pluck your Ashĕrim out of your midst, and I shall destroy your cities. And I shall take vengeance in wrath and rage on the gentiles who did not obey…My people, remember, please, what Balaq sovereign of Mo’aḇ counselled, and what Bil‛am son of Be‛or answered him, from Shittim to Gilgal, in order to know the righteousness of יהוה. With what shall I come before יהוה, bow myself before the high Elohim? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Is יהוה pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my being? He has declared to you, O man, what is good. And what does יהוה require of you but to do right, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your Elohim?

Mikah 5.10-15, 6.5-8






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