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All of Us Means All of Us D'var Torah for  Parshat Chukkat-Balak

06/27/2023 10:21:19 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin

This interpretation of the Torah narrative is inspired by Rabbinic teachings called Midrash.  

In this week’s Torah portion, those who hate and fear us, in this case, his majesty, Balak ben Tzippur, King of Moab and his allies, hire a major league sorcerer (in modern terms, we’d call him an ‘influencer’), Balaam, to curse us.  

I know that those you curse are cursed, says Balak.  The Moabite King sends a delegation to offer Balaam unlimited funds in return for his services.

So Balaam makes his way to the highlands of Moab.  There in the Negev Valley before him is the encampment of Israel, twelve tribes encamped each in their own area.  Balaam has seven altars erected, offering a ram and a bull at each one.  He raises his arms and awaits the dire words of imprecation to rise in his mind.  He is going to curse this nation that dares to approach to claim the Promised Land with such hate and fury that they will wither and sink into the sands.  The bile begins to build in him

But then, as he looks, he notices that the tents of the Jews are arranged carefully so that no two tent openings line up with another.  As close as the quarters are, as unified and united as the nation is, every tent, every family, every individual has their own privacy, their own space, their own right to selfhood and self-definition within the framework of the community as a whole.  There is a place for everyone and space for everyone.  And in that community where Kavod- respect, acceptance and affirmation interlock, there is no room where the hate and intolerance that we above all other peoples knows must never be allowed to ignite.  Balaam's curse melts away.


And that is when the hatefulness is transmuted.  The words of hate are changed and come out differently- not a curse, but an eternal, immutable blessing:

Mah Tovu Ohalecha Ya’acov, Mishkenotecha, Yisrael.   

  How goodly are your Tents, People of Jacob, your Dwelling Places, Nation of Israel!

And the curse that changed to a blessing continues to this day.  When we are Israel, when we respect each other, celebrate each other, make space for each other, Mah Tovu- we achieve the highest and holiest.   These words of celebration and inclusion are the first words we say when we enter a synagogue.  

In this LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, as Israel celebrates its own diversity and we learn new ways to include, celebrate everyone’s uniqueness and freedom, as we work to educate ourselves and our community, we remember that truth.  To achieve the good, we must include all of us.  And all of us means all of us. 

Shabbat Shalom-



Fri, May 24 2024 16 Iyyar 5784