Torah Portion Summary

From Torah Sparks by Rabbi Joyce Newmark
a product of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism



God instructs Moses and Aaron about the ritual of the red cow whose ashes were to be used to purify people who had become ritually impure through contact with a corpse.


Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh.


Once again, the Israelites lack water and turn to Moses and Aaron with complaints and recriminations. God tells Moses to take his rod, and then, with Aaron, assemble the community and order a rock to produce water. Moses strikes the rock with his staff and the rock produces enough water for the Israelites and their animals. But God is displeased and tells Moses and Aaron that they will not enter the land He is giving to the Israelites.

Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom, asking for permission to cross his territory. The king refuses and sends an armed force to prevent the Israelites from entering his land.

The people take a different path and come to Mount Hor. Aaron dies on Mount Hor, and Moses invests Aaron’s son Eleazar as the new high priest. The people mourn for Aaron for 30 days.

The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and is defeated at Hormah.

The people begin complaining yet again and God sends poisonous snakes to punish them. The Israelites approach Moses saying they realize they have sinned and they ask him to intercede with God for them. God tells Moses to make a copper serpent and place it on a pole so that anyone bitten by a snake could look at it and be cured.

The Israelites continue their journey through the territory east of the Jordan. They ask Sihon king of the Amorites for permission to cross his land, but he refuses and attacks. The Israelites defeat the Amorites and take possession of their land. The Israelites also defeat King Og of Bashan and his people, taking their land as well. The Israelites camp in Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.


Balak, the king of Moab, sees that the Israelites have defeated the neighboring Amorites and he is afraid. He joins forces with the Midianites to hire the prophet Balaam, asking him to curse the Israelites to insure their defeat. Balaam receives the delegation from Moab and Midian and asks them to spend the night so that he can receive God’s instruction. God tells Balaam that he may not go with them; he must not curse the Israelites, who are already blessed. Balaam sends the delegation away.

Balak sends a second delegation, promising Balaam great riches for his services. Once again Balaam asks them to wait overnight, and this time God tells him that he may go if he wants to, but he will only be able to do what God commands.

Balaam sets out, riding on his ass. An angel appears and blocks the road. Balaam doesn’t see it but his ass does and refuses to move. Balaam beats the animal, but it still refuses to move. After three beatings, the ass speaks and complains that it doesn’t deserve this treatment. God then allows Balaam to see the angel, who rebukes him for beating the ass but permits him to continue on his journey with the warning that he may only say what God tells him.

Balaam asks Balak to build seven altars and to provide animals for sacrifices. After he makes his offerings he speaks the words God gives him, praising and blessing Israel.

Balak is furious, but Balaam explains that he can speak only as God commands him. Twice more Balaam offers sacrifices and then praises and blesses Israel. Balak sends Balaam away; he leaves after describing the defeat of several other nations.

While the Israelites are camped at Shittim, Moabite women incite Israelite men into illicit sex and worshiping their god, Baal-peor. God tells Moses to have the ringleaders executed publicly. An Israelite man brings a Midianite woman to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and engages in public sex. Pinhas, the son of Eleazar the High Priest, grabs a spear and stabs them both, ending the plague that had resulted from God’s wrath.

July 3 - 4
12 Tammuz 5780


Parashat Chukat - Balak

Shabbat Begins (Candles) – 7:37 p.m. Friday
Shabbat Ends (Havdalah) – 8:37 p.m. Saturday

Torah Triennial (1st Cycle)

Num. 19:1—25:29 (Etz Hayim p. 880)

    1) Num. 19:1 — 9 (Etz Hayim p. 880)
    2) Num. 19:10 — 17 (Etz Hayim p. 881)

    3) Num. 19:18 — 20:6 (Etz Hayim p. 883)

    4) Num. 20:7 — 13 (Etz Hayim p. 884)
    5) Num. 20:14 — 21 (Etz Hayim p. 886)

    6) Num. 20:22 — 21:9 (Etz Hayim p. 887)

    7) Num. 21:10 — 20 (Etz Hayim p. 889)


Num. 21:16 — 20 (Etz Hayim p. 890)


Micah 5:6—6:8 (Etz Hayim p. 914)

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