Congregation B'nai Jacob "Rich in Tradition - Dynamic & Inclusive in Approach"
a tought for shabbat - parshat balak - june 26, 2021
"Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he who you curse is cursed.” -Number 22:6 The Israelites are passing through the land of Moab on the way to the Promised Land. The king of Moab, Balak, hires the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites and bring about their defeat. G-d tells Balaam that he must not curse the Israelites but Balak repeatedly presses Balaam, promising great riches for his services. On his way to curse the Israelites, Balaam’s donkey refuses to move. After being beaten with a stick, the donkey speaks and complains that it doesn’t deserve this treatment. G-d rebukes Balaam for hurting the donkey but permits him to continue on his journey with the warning that he may only say what G-d tells him. Sure enough, despite several pleas by Balak to curse the Israelites, Balaam finally speaks the only words G-d allows him to say: “How fair are your tents O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel…” A blessing, not a curse. Let’s leave the talking donkey for another time. Ask yourself: if Balak really believed in the prophetic powers of Balaam to bless and curse people, why didn’t he just hire Balaam to bless his own people? Our Hebrew Bible commentary, the Etz Hayim, wisely offers us this explanation: when a person is so consumed by hate, they forget about their own needs and think only of inflicting harm on the other. That is powerful. Hatred is an overwhelming emotion that not only clouds our judgement but destroys our lives. Hate turns us away from appreciating the gifts we have in front of us and forces us to focus on what our neighbor has and how to destroy their gifts. We may have so many blessings in our lives and yet, hate fixates us on being angry at what others have or shouldn’t possess. Balak had a prophet who could bless his people; a genie in a lamp with the ability to grant good fortune to his people. Instead, he threw it away for a monkey’s paw that ultimately brought ruin for himself. Mitch Albom said it well: We think that by hating someone we hurt them. But hatred is a curved blade and the harm we do to others, we also do to ourselves.” May we never be so consumed with hate that we cannot appreciate the blessings that are in front of us. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Victor Urecki
WEEK OF june 21st - 27th, 2021
Marilyn and I will be away beginning this Sunday and returning at the end of July. This will be my last email until August.
Services will be held in person and on zoom every Monday night at 5:45 PM beginning June 28th and Shabbat mornings will be in person only beginning July 3rd. (Note: the week of July 4th, the evening minyan will be on Tuesday July 6th)