Making the World a Brighter Place

Yael Eckstein  |  June 22, 2021

Yael with elderly woman in Ukraine

Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.” — Numbers 22:6

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a Balak, named after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2-25:9.

In Judaism, we begin every Sabbath and Festival meal with the kiddush, saying a blessing over a cup of wine. We hold the cup and raise it up while we make the blessing. One of the meanings behind this symbolic act is that we raise up that which has been pushed down. We elevate that which has been oppressed.

This very simple act is also symbolic of the different ways that we can approach life.

In life, there are two ways to get ahead — either by raising ourselves up, or by pushing other down. Unfortunately, people often choose the latter. Be it a colleague in a large company trying to ascend the corporate ladder, or a cruel dictator wanting to enrich himself, many people choose to better their own conditions at the expense of others.

Making the World a Brighter Place

This was exactly what Balak, the king of the Moabites, decided to do. Balak was afraid of the children of Israel, and so he employed Balaam, a sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people. Really, he could have just as easily hired Balaam to bless his own people. He could have asked for greater strength for his own people, but instead Balak asked Balaam to weaken the Israelites. Ultimately, Balak’s plan did not succeed. Instead of being weakened by Balaam’s words, the Israelites were strengthened when Balaam’s curse came out as a blessing.

We all have the same choice in our own lives — to either spend our time cutting others down or building ourselves and others up. While pushing others down through gossip or the like may be tempting, we really only hurt ourselves. On the other hand, when we bless others, we benefit from their blessings as well.

The world will not become brighter by diminishing someone else’s light. It’s only when we make our own flame brighter or add light to someone else that the world will become a brighter place for us all!

Your Turn:

Who can you raise up today with words of encouragement?