why give so much space to the story about Balak and Bil’am??
Balak- a little like Pharaoh – is scared of the people and devises how to interfere with their journey. Bil’am the magician tries to curse them, three times to be exact. It doesn’t work. The end. Here, the whole story in 2-3 sentences. Why the lengthy description?
The answer might be found in the Haftara as the prophet Micah says (6:5): “my people, remember… Balak and Bil’am… In order that you may know G-d’s righteous ways”.
Where is G-d’s kindness?
To begin with, a careful read of the nuances of the interaction between the two – Balak and Bil’am – is fascinating. For example, when Balak “insists” even after Bil’am says no, why?? Didn’t Bil’am say no already??
But Bil’am’s no is not a no. He hangs his know not on himself but because G-d doesn’t let him (numbers 22:13). It’s very clear that their communication is not about the actual words but what’s beyond it. This happens again and again.
But back to G-d’s kindness: today I think it’s about turning bad things to good. Bil’am tries to curse the people and the curses turn to blessings like the famous “ma tovu”.
We who are created in G-d’s image, have opportunities to do that too. Today, hiking at Zion National Park, on a most strenuous hike, a couple going down said to us: are you guys good on water? Take ours”!
It was 108F and that afternoon sun was beating on the trail. The heat was heavy and oppressive. Yet two strangers going down just emptied their water into our (thirsty) containers. “This is why this trail is called Angel’s Landing”, I told my group, “because of the Angels along the way. This is what it’s about”.