Rabbi Micah Hyman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Sholom. To read more about Rabbi Hyman click to his bio here: Rabbi Hyman's Bio.
Rabbi Hyman's weekly Torah Byte:
In our parsha this week, Balak, Balaam is induced to curse Israel and in the end delivers the blessing “Mah tovu ohalecha Ya’akov”: “How good are your tents, O Jacob.” The famous scene where Balaam cannot move his talking ass along a path that is blocked by an angel is regarded by many as light comedy. The one who is empowered to see the future cannot even see what faces him presently; the one who is saddled with carrying the load is compelled to address the one “divined” to prophecy. The only difference between comedy and tragedy is how it ends, and this parsha ends in violence, death, and chaos.
We face a present day Balak/Bilaam situation in the regime and antics of Ahmadinejad of Iran, who uses a bully pulpit to spit vitriol at Israel and threatens its destruction with the use of nuclear war. We can view him as a simpleton and a monkey, but that would be a fatal flaw. We can also view ourselves as the voiceless donkey, just moving our load from day to day without a voice and without a possibility to change the currents of history.
We now have a chance to speak truth to power in two ways. First, we all can call our congresspeople who supported crippling sanctions that will not only punish the government of Iran but will also force companies that hide under the veil of capitalism to make a market choice: support Iran and lose American investment. But this is not enough: we must still listen for the muffled cry of a green revolution that seemed to be on a precipice of change only a year ago but has been violently and brutally repressed like a million sparks stifled by a smothering blanket. These voices are still there, and their leadership will have new faces. Balaam’s oracle against other nations that attack Israel should make him a hero in Israel and neither an enemy nor a fool shouting at the wind. We should be looking out for both Balaams: those who poison the well of humanity with hatred and those who look just the same but are poised to deliver a blessing from a deeper source, the universal God.