Balak

The prophet Bilam is called to curse Israel, and ends up blessing them. Blessing should be the easier option: all it takes is to feel blessed, look at the other, and invite them to feel blessed too. There’s no magic involved. How could Bilam, with such spiritual intimacy, curse anybody? Only by closing his eyes to everyone, fencing himself in, turning loneliness into anger. He is sh’tum ha’ayin, meaning either “open-eyed” or “blind”. Like everyone, he has the capacity to be both, and to act accordingly. When he is enraged, even his donkey can see more than him; as he climbs to new peaks, “the light is sweet, and good for the eyes,” the blessings flow out of him, effortlessly.

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[Inspired by: Numbers 22-24 and Rashi on 24:3 ; Kohelet 11:7 ; Amitay ; and Oedipus cursing his son Polynices by Henry Fuseli. ]

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