“How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel. They stretch out like streams, like gardens by the river; they are like the aloes God has planted, like cedars by the water.” So says Balaam, “the man with the enlightened eye who hears God’s sayings and knows the Highest One’s will”, and who has inspired the beginning of our daily service. Yet he sees less than his donkey, who immediately recognises God’s angel and turns aside from him, whereas his master needs to be told several times by God and his angel not to curse the people of Israel, but who, nevertheless, tries to do so. The prophet’s failure to see what is in front of his nose is not only due to a lack of prophetic vision, but of a moral one too. His donkey is, in more ways than one, his superior. The parsha of Balak concludes with the killing of the Israelite man who takes a Midianite woman into his tent and, presumably, also engages in idolatrous practice.

Pinchas continues the story, with the reward of eternal priesthood for the family of Pinchas, Is his zealotry, however, purely good? A question to consider. The parsha continues with another census of the people, the appointment of Joshua as Moses’ successor and a description of daily and festival sacrifices. These are very bare bones. To see them clothed, come to the service on Saturday at 10.30. Adam Feldman  will be leading us. What is more, we will be joined by Rabbi Michael Hilton of Kol Chai Hatch End Reform Jewish Community in London will be joining us, together with his wife Claire.