Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!” — Numbers 23:11
The Torah portion for this week is Balak, after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2–25:9, and the Haftorah is from Micah 5:6–6:8.
In this week’s Torah reading, Balak, the Moabite king, wanted to utterly destroy the nation of Israel. Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to defeat Israel militarily because of God’s special protection, Balak decided to attack the Israelites spiritually. To that end, he hired Balaam, a sorcerer, who was renowned for his supernatural powers. The plan was for Balaam to curse the children of Israel, rendering them spiritually weak, and therefore, militarily conquerable.
However, Balak’s plan backfired because as soon as Balaam opened his mouth to curse the nation of Israel, blessings emerged instead. He tried to curse the people several times, but each time, God intervened miraculously. As much as Balaam wished to curse Israel, he could only bless them.
What’s really fascinating about this entire episode is that the Israelites themselves were completely unaware of both the danger they were in and of God’s miraculous salvation. This fact underlines the lesson that we, too, are unaware of the many dangers that we face every day – and also the daily miracles that God does on our behalf without us even knowing.
This reminds me of a video clip I saw recently about a husband who followed his wife to work every day without her knowing it. The reason? His wife had contracted a rare disease that slowly eroded her vision. The husband understood his wife’s need to feel independent and not like a burden, so he protected her and watched over her without her knowing it.
He was there to make sure she got on and off the subway safely. He rode behind her on the train to make sure no one bothered her. At home, he placed things within her reach as she searched for them blindly. Out of his deep love and devotion for her, he helped her and she had no idea that he was doing so.
To me, this is a great demonstration of how God walks with us daily in our lives. He is beside us, before us, and behind us, protecting and guiding us without us knowing it. And yet, in the Jewish daily prayers, we acknowledge what we cannot see. We thank God “for Your miracles that are with us every day . . .” These are the things that we notice as God’s hand in our lives. But we also say, “ . . . and for your wonders and favors in every season . . .” These refer to the miracles that go unseen.
Today, as we go about our daily routine, know that we are protected and loved by God. He is with us in all we do and everywhere we go. We are never alone, so we need not fear.
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With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President