Balak For the week of June 22, 2013 / 14 Tammuz 5773
Torah: Bemidbar /Numbers 22:2 – 25:9
Haftarah: Micah 5:6 – 6:8 (English 5:7 – 6:8)
Jewish perspective: Leveraging Sexuality
Israel faced many challenges in the wilderness in the years prior to their entering the Promised Land. Some went well; others not so much. This week’s Torah portion includes both kinds. One in which God protected the people from harm and the second where disaster ensued. Both incidences had to do with the same opponents, the people of the region of Moab.
While Israel was responsible for their irresponsible behavior, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Later on in this same book of the Torah we read concerning the Moabite women with whom the Israelite men sinned, “Behold, these, on Bilaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord” (Bemidbar /Numbers 31:16; ESV).
Bilaam had instigated this affair. What he couldn’t accomplish through spiritual power, the nation of Israel brought upon itself through sexual sin. Bilaam conceived a plot whereby he leveraged the sexuality of women to bring destruction to Israel, which in the end also brought death to himself and the women he used.
Women are still being used by the forces of evil to bring destruction through the illicit use of their sexuality. I am not saying that women’s sexuality is any more evil that men’s. In fact sexuality itself isn’t sinful at all. It’s created by God for good purposes. Yet, sexual desire is a powerful and complex thing, and when not handled within God’s defined parameters, it causes great trouble.
It is extremely important for both men and women to understand the dynamics of sexual desire. Any attempt to reduce a woman’s allure is viewed as sexist and oppressive, but a woman’s purity is a precious gift that should be protected. Men need not be expected to be sexual animals, living to fulfill their drives. Self-control is a gift of God’s Spirit and is the mark of atrue man.