In Bamidbar, 24:10, we read

וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֤ף בָּלָק֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיִּסְפֹּ֖ק אֶת־כַּפָּ֑יו וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בָּלָ֜ק אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם לָקֹ֤ב אֹֽיְבַי֙ קְרָאתִ֔יךָ וְהִנֵּה֙ בֵּרַ֣כְתָּ בָרֵ֔ךְ זֶ֖ה שָׁלֹ֥שׁ פְּעָמִֽים׃ Enraged at Balaam, Balak struck his hands together. “I called you,” Balak said to Balaam, “to damn my enemies, and instead you have blessed them these three times!

The Judaica Press reads "and he clapped his hands. "

Some of the commentators explain what the word vayispok means, but I can't find any that discusses why the clapping is mentioned. Yes, Balak was angry, but we know that from "vayichar af". Is anything gained by telling us that he also clapped his hands? Other people have been angry in the text but I don't recall that the Torah makes a practice of telling us that they stamped their feet or shrugged their shoulders unless that action was independently important (like Moshe's action of throwing down the Luchot in Sh'mot 32:19).

So why does the clapping matter enough to be mentioned?


2 Answers 2


Rav Hirsch says

striking ones hands together as an expression of surprise and dismay

This is not just a matter of being angry but expressing total shock at the treachery of what Bil'am was doing. Balak is so shocked at the reversal of what Bil'am had promised that he cannot contain his immediate reaction. It is the reaction of a ruler who has promised untold wealth and has gone to the expense of building the altars, bringing the sacrifices, honoring the seer, setting up the complete series of events, only to be betrayed and not only not having his request honored, but by being faced with defeat instead of even neutrality.

Stretching the hand out with the palm turned upwards expressed the requirement for "receiving" and is accordinly the expression for desiring a material gift and also for an intellectual one, information respecting something, an answer. Striking the open hand on to such an asking open hand says: "so this is what I asked for , this is to be what I expected"! is accordingly an expression of surprise or even disgust.


Finally ספק striking one hand into the other would also express complete equality of two conditions so that they mutually balance each other, and admit no way out in any direction and so come to the meaning of "doubt".

  • Does Rav Hirsch mention anything relating the use of ספק , here, to mean "doubt"?
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 17:03
  • @DanF see the last paragraph in the citation from Rav Hirsch. He shows why doubt would apply because of the equality of the two separate motions in opposite directions. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 17:48

Balaam was still in his prophecy with God. Balak clapped his hands to interrupt his concentration so God couldn't feed Balaam more blessings to bestow. No source at my hand.

  • 4
    If you find a source, please update as I find this answer intriguing.
    – rosends
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:51

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