Torah Portion: Balak
Due to Australia’s delayed acquisition of broadcast television, I’m old enough to remember watching reruns of Mr. Ed, the famous talking horse. In Parshat Balak, we encounter a character reminiscent of Mr. Ed but rather than a talking horse, we find a talking donkey, who is ridden by the Moabite prophet Balaam on his way to curse the Israelites. This great prophet does not see what the lowly donkey sees: an angel blocking the narrow path in front of them, and so he beats the animal in an effort to get him to move along. This biblical fable reminds us how our arrogance can blind us to the many simple truths right in front of us. It is so easy to presume, like Balaam, that we always know best and to ignore the insights and wisdom of others, particularly if we judge them (arrogantly) to be our inferiors. Sometimes, a dose of humility is what’s needed in order to have our eyes opened. But we don’t need talking horses or donkeys to achieve this. Shabbat is a time to open our eyes and see the simple truths we are often too arrogant or too busy to notice. This Shabbat, may we see our world with renewed wonder and look upon each other with fresh eyes.