July 2017, Parshat Balak

Dear friends,

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Balak, is remarkable for a number of reasons. In it we read the famous verse of ‘Ma Tovu,’, the praise heaped upon the Jewish people, that starts with ‘How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwellings Israel’.

These beautiful praises were said by Balaam, a non-Jew hired by King Balak of Moav to come and curse the Jewish people. What transpires is that Balaam, despite having been summed to curse the Jewish people, ends up blessing them instead.

Commentators on the Torah note that each time an enemy of the Jews came to wage war on them, G-d provided the people with Divine protection. Protection, indeed, from the curses Balaam intended to deliver. However, the people felt defenceless each time the prophet Balaam would arrive on the side of the enemy.

What we see is that it required a focused attention and faith that G-d would protect them in order to overcome the fears of Balaam. While the Jewish people had G-d’s backing for success, it was up to the people themselves to recognise the Divine protection in order to be able to succeed in their quests.

Our daily lives can feel, at times, like a rollercoaster with its ups and downs which can feel extremely unsettling. It can be difficult to find the middle path that balances work, life and family commitments. Sometimes we simply can be at a loss as to how to answer the challenges that are thrown our way or comprehend the terrible things that happen to people around us. Individually we are required to formulate our responses: do we continue to seek solace in our faith and belief that nothing is random and everything is for the best? Sometimes this can be very difficult as we fight the ‘flight or fight’ response.

This week’s parsha reminds us that even in the face of great adversity and seemingly impossible situations it can be comforting to remember that with just a little bit of faith and belief even what seems like the biggest curse can turn into a blessing.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Gabi