Dear Friends,

The Torah relates that King Balak of Moab was much distressed by the presence of the Israelites close to his territory as he fear that they would attack him. So he sent for Balaam who is described as a well-reputed sorcerer or visionary whose curses could destroy whomever he cursed. The king’s message to Balaam: “Come now and put a curse upon this people for me; thus can I defeat them and drive them out of the land.”

Balaam is warned by God in a vision that he should not respond to the request, but finally he does go. As the king takes him to a mountain where he could see the Israelites, to the king’ surprise, Balaam pronounced a blessing upon Israel instead of a curse: “How good are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel!”

Yes, the intended curse was converted to blessing, and perhaps that has been the story of our history: our collective ability to withstand adversity and to ever-arise from our experiences with determination to not only survive, but to keep alive the worthy values and ideals that we Jews have always cherished. No, Balaam could not curse this people long ago. He could only speak words of blessing as he looked upon our strength and the noble purposes that our ancestors embraced. May the same be true of us.

Shabbat shalom,   

         Rabbi David Greenberg