Friday, July 4, 2014

Balak- Tunnel Vision

Vayomer Bilam la’aton ki hit’a’lalt bi lu yesh-cherev b’yadi ki atah harag’tikh.
And Bilam said to the donkey, “Because you mocked me. Had there been a sword in my hand, thus I would have killed you.” (B’midbar 22:29)
We all know the story of the prophet Bilam. Sent by Balak and other princes of Moab to curse the Israelites, he is visited by God in a dream, and told to say only what God tells him to. Bilam still goes with the princes of Moab. God is angered, and an angel comes to kill Bilam. Bilam’s donkey, more perceptive than Bilam, sees the angel, and saves Bilam’s life. For this act, but without knowing the reason for it, Bilam beats her. When questioned why, he claims she mocked him, and for that he would have killed her.
Bilam is a prophet, but he cannot see something directly in front of him. He cannot see a thing that even his donkey has the sense to avoid. Not personally involved in the disagreement, to her, the angel of God is clearly visible. She sees its form. She sees its weapon. She sees its intent, and, caring about Bilam, she seeks to save him. At first she merely tries to turn him aside, but is thanked with a blow. The second time she thrusts herself into a wall, trying to force her way away from the danger. Again the thanks come as a punishment. The third time she merely sits down, refusing to be part of this charade any longer. And once again Bilam strikes her. Even when God opens her mouth, Bilam is not struck by the miraculous nature of the experience. Only when forced to confront the truth of the situation does he finally acknowledge the strangeness of her behaviour and suddenly recognize the danger before him. Only when God opens Bilam’s eyes, does he realize that she saved his life. Bilam overreacts to the help offered by his donkey. So focused on his goal, he neglects to see even that which is obvious to a donkey. Instead, he was ready to yell, to beat, and even to kill her.
How often do we spurn help offered to us by others? How often are we so involved in a project or a process that we are unable to realize what frustrates us is actually an attempt to help us succeed? It’s a common occurrence. Human beings are notoriously bad at taking criticism. Even if we are able to listen to the criticism, we often discount it rather than using it to better our actions and ourselves. Often it is the outside source that can read a situation for us to see beyond our own tunnel vision and glimpse the wonders and details of the greater world.

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