As the Israelites approach the land of Moab, King Balak sends for an ancient world sorcerer named Balaam: “Come now, I pray thee, put a curse upon this people for me; thus can I defeat them and drive them out of the land.”
Balaam does come but he tells King Balak that he can only speak the words that God puts into his mouth. So does it turn out that Balaam can speak only words of blessing as he looks upon the Israelite people: “How good are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel!”
Yes, the intended curse was converted to blessing. And perhaps that has often been the story of our people. It is our collective ability to withstand adversity and to ever-arise from our experiences with determination to not only survive, but to keep alive the values and ideals that we cherish as Jews.
Throughout history there been many who have asked: “What is the secret of this people’s immortality?” Why is it that not Pharaoh, not Haman, not even Hitler could bring to realization the life-ending curse of the Jewish people which they sought? Is it God’s will that we survive? Is it something in our “genetic” makeup whereby we know that we are destined to be a blessing unto this world, and that we are needed “to keep hope alive!”
No….Balaam could not curse this people long ago. He could only speak words of blessing as he looked upon our strength and the worthy purposes that our ancestors embraced. May the same be true of us, as each of us is needed to assure that there will be a meaningful Jewish future.