This week's portion: on blessings and curses
July 04, 2006
In parashat Balak we read the story of Balaam, hired by Balak to curse the Israelites who are newly-encamped in the area.
This is a great story. We have an angel of Adonai, a talking ass (seriously -- the donkey talks back to Balaam), some phenomenal poetry (including a few famous lines we recite every Shabbat morning as we begin worship)...and three instances when Balaam opens his mouth to offer curses like his employer asked him to, but the curses don't exactly come out right.
I think Balaam's transformation has something to do with the nature of prophecy, and with what happens when we really open our eyes:
With eyes unveiled, Balaam sees a new reality. Instead of seeing a military threat, a foreign people to be feared -- as Balak had seen -- Balaam looks into the hills and sees a people who travel with the Holy Blessed One in their midst. He sees with mochin d'gadlut, his "big mind" or expanded consciousness, instead of mochin d'katnut, constricted consciousness. And in that moment of seeing, all he can do is offer praise.
Read my Radical Torah post here: On blessings and curses.