Silver lining – or turnaround

Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Chukat Balak

For fluent Hebrew readers, this week’s Parsha is a celebration of a beautiful factual description of Am Yisrael, coupled with the most far reaching benediction by none other than Balaam, an old anti-Semite.

As we read through the Parsha, it is quite clear that the magnificent blessings are not really Balaam’s own ideas, but that he was compelled by G-d to deliver them, instead of delivering a “hate speech” which was his original intention…

Furthermore. It is revealed later in Chumash Devarim that the actual planned “curse” was virtually overturned by G-d into blessings, as they appear in this week’s reading: 

עַל־דְּבַ֞ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַאֲשֶׁר֩ שָׂכַ֨ר עָלֶ֜יךָ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר מִפְּת֛וֹר אֲרַ֥ם נַהֲרַ֖יִם לְקַֽלְלֶֽךָּ׃

Because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse you.

וְלֹֽא־אָבָ֞ה יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ לִשְׁמֹ֣עַ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיַּהֲפֹךְ֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֧יךָ לְּךָ֛ אֶת־הַקְּלָלָ֖ה לִבְרָכָ֑ה כִּ֥י אֲהֵֽבְךָ֖ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

But your G’d refused to heed Balaam; instead, your G’d turned the curse into a blessing for you, for your G’d loves you.—

I wonder. If G’d wanted someone to deliver those beautiful blessings, why not does it “through” the safe hands of a holy man like Moshe Rabeinu. Alternatively – if it should be an outsider, then Jethro would have been a perfect choice. But why do it through the “good services” of Balaam?

Perhaps. This is teaching us an important lesson for life.  “A curse can be transformed into a blessing” Or in more modern language, a curse can (very often) have a Silver Lining…

One (of many) mission(s) in our lives is indeed to try and turn any difficult situation – from curse to blessing.

The development of MRNA vaccines (which were widely used to vaccinate millions of people against Covid19) started in the late sixties of last century. It has been a very lengthy process which while promising possible cures for some incurable conditions, was moving forwards very slowly….

However, as soon as the pandemic became a worldwide emergency, scientists have changed the tempo into super-fast. Within months (!) the first vaccine was enrolled and successfully administered to millions of vulnerable people. 

Now – this process may have brought forwards by many years, the possibility of treating other terminal illnesses and extending lives way beyond the current available treatments. Indeed, it might be a typical case of coordinated human effort to turn a terrible global curse into a future blessing.  Be’ezrat Hashem. 

With best regards and Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld