Balak – Numbers 22:2 – 25:9 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, July 5

A blessing in Hebrew is a bracha. It is the building block of Jewish prayer. Maimonides (Egypt 12th century), said that every Jew should recite 100 blessings a day. This isn’t so hard if you pray the statutory services in the evening, morning and afternoon. Why this focus on blessings? One reason is that blessings can help us be fully present to the moment, such as when we say the blessing over bread before we eat. Another reason is that blessings help us focus on the needs of others, as when we ask for God’s blessing and healing for those who are ill. This week, King Balak of Moab hires the prophet Bila’am to curse the Israelites. But despite Balak’s promise of generous financial compensation, in the end Bila’am just cannot do it. When he sees the camp of the Israelites, he blesses them instead. We know this blessing, “How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places Israel,” because we recite them at the beginning of every morning service. Blessings can be a reflection of reality, as in the case of Bila’am whose blessing recognizes the holiness of the Israelites or it can create a more positive reality like when we see the best in others when we bless our children, or bless one another.