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B“Balak! Balak!”

07/15/2022 12:19:59 PM


Rebecca Abbate

“Balak! Balak!” In the often narrow, crowded streets of old Moroccan cities, this word means one thing, “Watch out! Donkey coming through!” For almost two weeks now, the word Balak has made me reach for my daughter and pull her to the side of the street, because those donkeys will not stop. As my guide says, “They have the right of way! It’s their world, and we just live in it!”

So you can imagine my amusement when I opened this week’s Torah portion and realized that two of its central figures are Balak (a Moabite king) and a talking donkey! Surely, God has a sense of humor… 

A quick refresher on the parsha: Balak tries to convince a seer named Balaam to curse Israel. At first, Balaam refuses, but he eventually sets out on his donkey toward the Israelites’ encampment. En route, his donkey sees an angel sent to block the path, and he refuses to go on, until Balaam beats him with a stick. Finally fed up, the donkey speaks to Balaam, and he is suddenly able to see the angel. Balaam promises to report back only the words that God places in his mouth, and some of those words, “Mah tovu ohalecha yaakov,” “How fair are your tents, o Jacob,” are a part of our morning liturgy. (If you haven’t heard Debbie Friedman’s song for it, I highly recommend it!)

Every morning, we are reminded of the beauty of our tents, of our mishkan, of our temple… And each of us knows that a temple is only as beautiful as the people inside of it! As we welcome our interim rabbi and save a seat for Jodi in the pew, I hope that we will always feel a sense of joy when looking at the fair tent that is our Temple Beth David family. We are an eclectic group held together by a lot of love, and the tapestry we weave together is stunning in its beauty.

“Balak! Balak!” Keep out of the way of those who would curse you! And know that, at those times when you need shelter or beauty seems hard to find, our wonderful community is here for you. Shabbat Shalom!

Thu, December 7 2023 24 Kislev 5784