Balak, Numbers 22:2-25:9, Parshat Hashavua for Shabbat, July 16, 2022

How do we see ourselves? Are we objective in our own self evaluation or are we our own harshest critic? Do we have the self confidence to take risks, to try new things and to grow? Or do we talk ourselves out of things without even trying? For much of the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, the Israelites consistently see themselves as weak and incapable. Perhaps this is the legacy of their 400 year enslavement by the Egyptians, but every time they are called on to take a risk or a leap of faith they draw back and complain. Yet others, like King Balak, after whom this week’s Torah portion is named, see them as a threat and fear them. To protect himself he hires the prophet Bilaam to curse them. But, after many plot twists, when Bilam finally sees the Israelites encamped he cannot curse them and instead blesses them, with these words that we all know from the beginning of our service, “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! They crouch, they lie down like a lion, like a lioness; who dares rouse them? Blessed are they who bless you, Accursed they who curse you!” (Numbers 24:5 and 9) Bilaam sees a beautiful and powerful people. How might their lives have gone differently had they seen themselves as Bilaam did? How much less suffering might they have endured, if they had seen themselves with clearer eyes? What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror?