Our guest this week is Rabbi Steven Bayar, the rabbi of congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, NJ. Rabbi Bayar received his BA in religious studies and an MA in Biblical Studies and Medieval Jewish Philosophy from the University of Virginia. He was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and served in congregations in Greenbelt, Maryland and Chestnut Ridge, New York before coming to CBI in 1989. He is the author of several books and, as Co founder of Ikkar Publishing, has written over 50 curricula in use in over 800 schools and educational institutions throughout the world. He currently serves as Chair of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of Golda Och Academy, a Solomon Schechter School; as President of the Millburn Clergy Association; and as a Chaplain for the Millburn Police Department.
This Week's Torah portion – Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9) – features the famous story of the prophet Bilaam, who was sent by the Moabite king Balak to curse the people of Israel. On his way, Bilaam is berated by his Donkey who sees an angel of God blocking the road. Bilaam tries to curse the people of Israel three times (from three different vantage points) and each time ends up blessing them. He then continues to prophesize on the end of days and the coming of the Messiah. Our conversation focuses on the interesting, albeit dubious, figure of Bilaam and on his status as a prophet.
If you would like to learn some more about parashat Balak, here’s a link to our conversation with Rabbi Elliot Dorff.