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Parashat Balak: Bless You!

What does it mean to be blessed? Think about the times in your life when you have felt “blessed.” Does being blessed have a time limit? Are we only blessed during “good” times, or can we also be blessed during “bad” times?

According to this week’s Torah portion, Balak, we, the Israelite people, the Jewish People, are blessed. G-d said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them! You shall not curse the people because they are blessed (Numbers 22:12).” Now let me rewind a bit to give you some context. Balak (who this Torah portion is named for) the king of Moab is afraid of the Israelites. He has heard how they have conquered many people across the desert. Therefore to protect himself and his people, Balak calls upon Balaam, a known diviner/prophet who is good at making curses and blessings that stick, to curse the Israelites. G-d of course does not like the idea of someone cursing the Israelites, so He speaks to Balaam Himself saying, “You shall not go with them! You shall not curse the people because they are blessed (Numbers 22:12).” After hearing G-d, Balaam refuses Balak, but when Balak asks him a second time he goes with him to curse the Israelites. Three times Balak takes Balaam to different places to curse the Israelites but, instead of cursing the Israelites as Balak wanted Balaam blesses them each time. The first a blessing for the current Israelites, the second for the immediate future of the Israelites, and the third for the distant future (the coming of the Messiah). All because G-d said we are blessed.

So tonight at your Shabbat table ask yourself, what does it mean to be blessed? Do you feel like we are blessed? Think about our history. We have suffered, yet we, at least according to G-d and Torah are blessed. What does it actually mean to be blessed? Is being blessed and experiencing challenges/hardships/pain/suffering in life mutually exclusive? Perhaps they aren’t. Perhaps we can be blessed and experience that challenges that tend to occur throughout our lives at the same time. Perhaps blessings don’t have expiration dates. Think of it this way. The Jewish people have survived persecution across the ages, the destruction of the Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust to name a few. Yet here we are today. Think about your life. I imagine you have gotten through challenges that life has thrown your way. I imagine there are still more to face. Yet you are here. We are blessed.

Shabbat Shalom!