As expected, things are quite hectic between work, CAJE and my impending relocation. So I offer up, still as apropos to what's going on in my life as when I wrote it 3 years ago, my Random Musing for Balak from 5758.
How many times must we "beat our donkeys" before our eyes are opened and we see that which was impeding us was ourselves and our own blindness?
In the incident with Bilaam and the ass and Gd's angel, we have the first example of "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Three times, Bilaam hits his donkey. When he didn't get the expected result the first time, Bilaam could have learned the lesson and moved on to another tactic. But no, he repeats himself, and expects his mount to respond differently. Of course it doesn't.
Then yet a third attempt. I can just hear Gd sighing "Oy! What a shlemiel!" Obviously frustrated by Bilaam's refusal to learn, Gd gives voice to the donkey. What the donkey effectively says is "Look, this obviously isn't working. Shouldn't you be looking for another cause of your problems?" Obviously the light finally dawns for Bilaam and he can finally see the angel the Gd has sent to block his way.
We get wrapped up in our paradigms, develop tunnel vision, and sometimes just cannot see what is really there, blinded by our own desires and prejudices. I, myself, experienced some of that this week. Instead of looking for root causes of problems within myself and my own behaviors, I sought to blame other circumstances, other people for my problems, my roadblocks. I repeated old, learned patterns of behavior and blinded myself to the truths. But then, like Bilaam, my eyes were opened. I won't go into the story here, but suffice it to say that from now on, I must remember to look outside my prejudices, my paradigms.
In this story is also another lesson to be learned. That of recognizing intentions. And it is another lesson tied in with the story of Bilaam. Why couldn't Bilaam curse Israel? Because Gd wouldn't let him, or because Bilaam himself could not? I think the latter. Because Bilaam's intentions were good. To speak the truth that Gd had told to him.
Bilaam was charged with a difficult task-to speak the truth. Truth speakers often have a hard time relating to people, because sometimes their words and messages are hurtful to those hearing them. But what I have learned is that, hurtful or not, the truth is the truth, and must be recognized and accepted for what it is. We can rail against the truth, but when we do so, we only hurt ourselves. Better we should embrace the truth, make it part of ourselves, and grow from learning it.
Knowing that Israel was blessed and his people would be defeated, Prince Balak could have found a way to embrace the truth-and perhaps save his people from destruction. But he chose to ignore the truth and his people paid the price. When we ignore the truths around us, we pay the price too.
This Shabbat, let us all learn to see the obstacles that are really blocking our way-putting aside our blinders, and opening ourselves to the truths around us.
© 1998 & 2001 by Adrian A. Durlester
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