Friday, July 11, 2008

Dear Mr. Ahmadinejad, can’t you say something nice for a change?

Ali Shirazi (he’s the Iranian guy who threatened to “burn Israel” if provoked) chose the right week to open his mouth- only he doesn’t know it.

As Ahmadinejad oversees missile tests and Iranian clerics spew hate-speech, Jews are studying details of the same story, set in a similar region, at a different time.

Balak, king of Moab, was afraid of the Jews. He had witnessed their miraculous victories against mighty armies, his own neighbours and allies. He had seen this band of refugees become a powerful nation. Balak appreciated that conventional warfare had failed against these people in the past, and that he needed a special weapon.

Balak hired Balaam, a deeply spiritual man; a prophet renowned for his unique ability to harm with words. Most importantly, Balaam was an avowed anti-Semite.

Together, they chose a prime vantage point from which to launch their barrage against the Children of Israel. With the entire Jewish nation in his sights, Balaam set about preparing his unique ammunition- inescapable curses that would destroy the People more effectively than any army could.

Balak looked on smugly, impatiently waiting to see the Jews’ certain fate unfold before his eyes.
It never happened.

Balaam, who could only curse, only see the bad, only spout evil- blessed the Jews! Balak was beside himself, but Balaam was unstoppable as blessing after blessing spilled from his mouth.

What went right? How did this wholly toxic human being turn benevolent?

Balaam himself answered that in his blessing: “Mah tovu oholecho Yaakov, mishkenosecha Yisroel- How good are your tents, Jacob; your dwellings, Israel”. Words that are so potent, we repeat them daily in our prayers.

As Balaam’s hateful eye focused on his intended victims, he was overwhelmed by their unusual camp-formation. Each tent was positioned so that everyone had complete privacy. Their unity and mutual respect made the Jews immune to Balaam’s verbal assault.

Love and respect for every Jew is potent stuff. It not only protects us from harm, it transforms our enemies and even causes them to bless us.

Let’s do more to show respect and concern for each other, to allow people their space and privacy, without ignoring their needs.

Let’s see what Shirazi and Ahmadinejad have to say then. It might be quite miraculous.

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