There is another story of the desert.
There is more than “leaving” and “journeying to.”
There is a story of “on the way.”
Today we tell the story of curses turned into blessings.
King Balak sent Balaam, the greatest magician in the world,
to curse the children of IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel. so they would die.
Balaam went up to the mountain top.
He made the proper sacrifices
— seven rams and bullocks on seven altars.
He stood above the Israelites, arms outstretched,
ready to pronounce the curse.
He opened his mouth to say the words of death,
the words of power.
The words hung in mid-air.
The curses tumbled, down, down,
and landed as blessings:
“Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishk’notecha, Yisrael.”
“How good are your tents JacobLit. heel Jacob is the third patriarch, son of Isaac and Rebecca, and father to the twelve tribes of Israel. More than any of the other patriarchs, Jacob wrestles with God and evolves from a deceitful, deal-making young man to a mature, faithful partner to God. His Hebrew name is Yaakov., your dwelling places, Israel.”
This is our story today.
Today, many stand on mountains.
Many Balaks stand ready to send forth curses.
May the source of blessing again turn curses into blessing.
Here are the places now cursed and in need of blessing . . . [name the places]
Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishk’notecha, Yisrael.
(based on Numbers 24:5)