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This week Jews read the part of the Torah with the story of Balaam and Balak (Numbers 22 etc)

Here are some thoughts about what this text can teach us about the immigrants and refugees seeking safety here, now, today.

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The Moabite king Balak saw the Israelites fleeing persecution, saw them in the midbar--the wilderness--the limnal place between danger and safety-- and he said, "they will lick us clean."
He used dehumanizing language--they are so numerous, he said, that they "hide the earth from view"-- in order to justify what he was going to do next.
Balak goes to the seer, the prophet Balaam and demands that he curse the people. Balak doesn't care what happens to them, he just wants them cursed, gone, no mater how they suffer.
But after a series of surprising events, Balaam doesn't curse the people Israel--he blesses them. And there's this moment in the middle of all this blessing when he turns to face the wilderness, this limbo, this howling void between danger and safety.
"As Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped....the spirit of God came upon him.... he said.... 'How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!'"

He looks up and he sees the Israelites.
He sees them camped in their tents. He probably sees families together, children and parents, maybe children playing, maybe groups of friends, maybe couples in love. He sees a people, vulnerable and frightened, yearning to breathe free. He sees them.
The seeing and the blessing are intertwined. When he opens his eyes & heart to behold the Israelites' beautiful, holy selves, created in the image of God, he is able to bless them. When we open our eyes to see the full humanity of others, we are able to bless them.
And when we bless--when we give over of ourselves to others, when we offer something holy and true to another--we also expand our capacity to see them. When we look to see, we can bless. When we bless, we can better see.
We know that the Bible stands on the side of liberation.
We know that the Bible stands on the side of the oppressed.
We know that the Bible stands for safety and hope for all. And we know that the Bible demands that we take risks in the pursuit of justice.
It's easy to look away when things in the news are hard. It's tempting to look away and to stay in our own comfort zones, worry about ourselves. But we have to make the choice to look, and to see--and to take actions that make of this world a blessing.
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