Curses Into Blessings

Even an elementary approach to Parshat Balak demonstrates that, in the long run, our enemies are unable to curse us because The Holy One will always turn these curses into blessings, (even if the blessings don’t manifest until much farther down the road).

The story is well-known. Balak, the King of Moab, fearing the approach of Bnei Yisrael on our way through the desert to the Promised Land, hires Bilaam, the evil prophet whose level of prophecy approached that of Moshe (although at the negative end of the spectrum) to curse Israel, weakening us so we’d become vulnerable to Moab’s military attack.

Overcoming first the resistance of God, Himself, Who explicitly told Bilaam to not accompany Balak’s entourage (BaMidbar 22:12), and later the refusal of his own ass to bring him to meet Balak himself, warned once again by The Creator to “not curse the people because they are blessed (BaMidbar 22:12)”, Bilaam, nonetheless, attempts to curse them. His words, however, are overcome by and replaced with the words “God placed in his mouth (BaMidbar 23:5 and others)” and, much to Balak’s displeasure and fury, he proceeds to bless Bnei Yisrael instead.

Familiar and reassuring, this is still just the “first-grade” lesson we all learned in grade school. Yes, God will protect His People from ultimate harm, but there are deeper and more profound lessons here.

We say “Yisrael v’Oreita v’Kudsha Brich Hi Chad Hu”, Yisrael, Torah and The Creator are all One. The Torah is not just a collection of words and letters, a quantity of ink on treated animal hide, not just the history of the Jewish People, not limited to a code of laws, but the entire Torah, all 600,000 letters that comprise the Torah (including those letters which don’t even appear in ink on parchment but which we are taught exist anyways and contribute to the Torah) is, itself a unique Name of God. Chained together to provide semantic meaning or experienced as a string of letters (each of which is a combination of ink-strokes), taken together, all of the letters in the Torah, all the words as well, are a part of the “meta-Name” and, as such, are filled with infinite light and holiness. When we, Yisrael, study and read the words of Torah, we chant and invoke aspects of God’s Holy Name.

Thus, even the words of klalah (cursing), as well as the horrific words of warning, hochachah, elsewhere in the Torah (Parshat Nitzavim, for example), beneath the simple semantic meaning of the words, are, nonetheless, names of The Creator and, as such, filled with blessing and light.

With this insight, the words of Bilaam take on an even deeper power of blessing than is already apparent. Curses, warnings, history and halachot are all part of the great blessing we receive whenever we engage with Torah.

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4 Responses to Curses Into Blessings

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    Rabbi Yerachmiel of Kozhnitz (the 6th Kozhnitzer Rebbe,
    who died 13 Elul 1909 CE) said:

    “Thank G_d, I am not jealous of a single soul, except
    those Jews who have been able to go to Eretz Yisrael.”

    Something to Say (page 98) by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1998 CE

  2. Jacques Ruda says:

    Bilum’s blessing is that Israel is like a mighty tree. One of the times Moses provides a curse for Israel it sins he says it will blown like the grass in the field. In a storm a tree will be blown down but the grass will survive. Hence a curse from Moses may be better than a blessing from someone like Bilum.

  3. Mr. Cohen says:

    Baba Sali, the famous Sephardic tzaddik [who lived from 1889 to 1984 CE] said that the life of a certain soldier had been saved through the merit of his having cleaned up the beth medrash and having straightened the chairs, when the rest of the troops had finished praying.

    Something to Say (page 168) by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1998 CE

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