Parshat Balak 5775–Shabbat Torah Study in the “D” — Curse or Blessing: The Choice May Be Yours

Of course we believe in the power of blessings. We ask for them. We give them. We pray for them. We look forward to them. Interesting that while we may believe in the power of blessings (or hope that blessings can be real). When it comes to their opposites—curses, we may call belief in such things superstitious. It is part of our Torah that curses can be as real as blessings and we are warned against them. Just as the power and mercy of the Almighty can be invoked for blessing, so do we believe that it can be invoked for its opposite.

Notice our ingrained tradition of saying “Kein Eyin Harah” (or however your family may pronounce it or “Pooh, pooh, pooh” which may mean that the curse or evil eye should turn to Pooh). The point is that we fear and want to ward off the “Evil Eye.”

This week’s Parasha of Balak contains the story one of the top contenders for the title of most evil and immoral, yet powerful man in Tanach—Bilaam. It is only through God’s actual intervention that Bilaam’s evil curses were turned to blessings.

We can and certainly should be aware of all of our blessings. But are we cognizant of the curses from which we are spared? Do you think of traffic as a curse? But do you also consider the possibility that the traffic kept you from being at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Are you aware of God’s intervention in your life? Do you look for it? Do you offer blessings? Please never curse anyone (we also believe they can boomerang).

Our faith is that there is a blessing in everything. It is our job to seek it. Curses only become curses when we let them be so.

May your life be blessed and may you never have a Bilaam in your life.

Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. This week’s Parasha contains the famous praise known to all of us from our earliest days in Hebrew School—Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov. Click on the link for a beautiful Carlebach melody for this ancient praise. Most are startled to learn that those words of blessing (at least the first sentence) actually came from the mouth of an enemy of our People—Bilaam—who was being paid by a foreign king to curse Israel.

P.S.S. Please note that we will be resuming our regular Shabbat Torah Study with our Rabbis and teachers at Adat Shalom Synagogue with Parashat Va’etchanan/Shabbat Nachamu, August 1st.

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