Thursday, June 24, 2010

Balak: Retro-style.

Because I'm too insanely busy schlepping things back and forth from Connecticut to the Poconos and today to New Jersey (where I'll happily be reunited with Husband Tuvia), I don't have much time to review the parshah and put some decent, practical thought to it. So, I've looked back THREE YEARS (good lord, I can't believe I've been sustaining this blog that long) to this post, and I've pasted below a portion of the blog post's thoughts on this week's parshah, Balak. Enjoy!
I don't have much (if anything) to say expressly about Balak, this week's Torah portion. The only sort of thought-invoking bit of commentary in Etz Chayim is in regards to Balak's urging for the curse on the Israelites and Balaams persistent relaying of G-d's message that you cannot curse those who are blessed.

The text cites the Baal Shem Tov, who said "A Jew is never alone. G-d is always with every Jew." Then there is Abraham Joshua Heschel (not cited here, but all the same), who said "The Jew is never alone in the face of G-d; the Torah is always with him." Is G-d with us? Torah with us? Neither? Either? Both? Are they one in the same?

I was watching this episode of "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?" on Style last night, and I was taken by one of the stories. It was a couple who had hastened their wedding vows after they'd started dating. Why? Well, she was diagnosed with an incredibly rare form of leukemia (.5-two people diagnosed each year worldwide) and given three-five years to live. She surpassed the time frame and six years after the diagnosis met the man. His story was that he'd been in a horrible car accident on an exit ramp on the freeway and had walked away. Less than a week later, because of a concussion and emotional trauma from the other accident, he rammed his car into the back of a city truck, completely decimating his vehicle and causing his near death. Then they met, realizing that they both were sort of knocking on heaven's door, fell in love, and got engaged. I don't consider it a miracle or necessarily a gift from G-d that either of them are bright, shining people who are giving back with a cancer scholarship and countless philanthropic activities -- they are the epitome of the perfect romance. However, I have to think that perhaps the everyday presence of G-d maintains some balance, some equilibrium. Then again, I don't even know if these two people were religious -- let alone Jewish (not that that matters).

If you Google "A Jew is never alone" ... you receive (at present) 76 entries (though only about 20 *really* show up). Many are variations on the Baal Shem Tov's famous words. Then there's random expressions of the Jew and his loneliness: "The Yarmulke is a constant reminder that a Jew is never alone. He walks with G-d. It is a feeling of assurance and comfort" (

It would seem that the Jew is never alone -- be it G-d or the yarmulke as a reminder of G-d or the mitzvot and laws of G-d in Torah. I imagine it is whether we accept or deny this as such. Does the denial of the constant presence make those moments in which we pray hard and fast for the protection of a sick relative or lover that much more effective and strong -- in OUR eyes? I often look at the religious Jew, he who is constantly swimming in Torah and wonder if -- when there are moments of desperation -- he feels as effective and firm and hopeful in his prayers as he who perhaps only calls on G-d in moments of crises. The constant presence may dull the effectiveness (in our minds, that is), nu? On the other hand, acknowledging the constant presence might allow us to take G-d for granted, to not appreciate the peace of mind.

Okay, so I lied. I had plenty to say about this tiny little quip of the Baal Shem Tov. I just didn't anticipate it.
For what it's worth, about 200 results come about today. That's quite a few more than three years ago. It's an interesting reflection on who I was three years ago, saying "I often look at the religious Jew ..." and here I am, now, a religious Jew. I think I can answer that question: Yes. Yes she does feel as effective and firm and hopeful in her prayers as those individuals who only call on G-d in moments of crises. That she is me, and I know how it feels.

I will add, however, that I feel quite blessed with all that I have in life. Those who once cursed me for who I am and how I choose to live my life be damned, because you can't curse the person who is blessed!

Here's an early Shabbat Shalom to you all. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the illustrious Susanne Goldstone-Rosenhouse, recently named one of the awesome 36 Under 36 by The Jewish Week, as well as a blog post on Jewish truckers (yes, you read that right, it's an intrigue that I have after my many days of highway time these few weeks).