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Blessings and Curses

07/14/2022 10:24:45 AM


Rabbi Sam Trief

Each evening, as we are driving home from Temple Sinai I ask Rafi,  “What is your rose?” and “What is your thorn?” Roses and thorns, the more child-appropriate way of saying blessings and curses. 

As I ask Rafi these questions, I too ask myself, “What is my rose and what is my thorn?” I try to take a mental inventory of some of the most poignant images, both good and bad. This week, it was easy to pinpoint the opposing images.

Many of us have seen the surveillance video of the recently-released Uvalde school shooting. Rightfully, many of us feel horrified and dumbfounded by the images; the police, paralyzed and retreating in the hallways, as the gunman opened fire in a classroom. The utter inaction of those charged with protecting our most vulnerable is incomprehensible. 

Yet, the other image engraved in my mind reminds me of all the goodness that coexists with these horrific curses. President Biden landed in Israel yesterday for his first presidential visit to the region. As both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "HaTikvah" played, I felt goosebumps popping up. As Joe Biden declared himself a proud Zionist on live television, and as he embraced and honored two Holocaust survivors, I forgot for a second all that was troubling me, and I felt a profound sense of pride and belonging. 

Two very different images. Two very different messages. Our Torah portion this week, Balak, reminds us of the coexistence of blessings and curses. As the Moabite king Balak hires the rent-a-prophet Bilaam to curse the Israelites, blessings come out of his mouth instead of curses. We learn that blessings abound even when danger lurks. It is up to the Israelites to distinguish their true friends from their enemies and to acknowledge the blessings even when they come in surprising ways.

In that tradition, we continue in the footsteps of our ancestors, thankful for true friendships, and the ability to persevere despite the many stumbling blocks. As the sun sets on another intense week and as the beauty of Shabbat soon descends, may we focus on the myriad blessings that surround us, and may we gain strength and wisdom from this perspective. 

 Shabbat Shalom

Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783