He couldn’t sit so I sort of tried to stand him up.
Everything was good for about 5 seconds.
I understood that babies need to cry to express themselves, that crying exists outside of my efforts to soothe the baby, and that shushing is about the adult, not the kid.
We distort their needs, to fit our needs, and then claim we’re being selfless.
That’s what this Bible portion is about: Stop being narcissistic.
He pays a prophet who knows the Jews are blessed, but takes the money, rationalizing that his prophetic skills surpass God’s will.
When that doesn’t work, he leverages the Jews’ weakness (lust) — just like a predatory adult takes advantage of the emotions of the child.
The nation of Moab is scared of the Jews. Not just God being with them, but the sheer number of them.
So they team up with Midian (Moses’ nation of origin) to think of a plan.
He intentionally uses the same words that would otherwise refer to God in blessing the Jews.
He ascribes God-like power to the messenger.
“For I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is accursed.”
Narcissism —> grandiosity —> irrational self-centered thinking.
“I must shush the baby for his own good.”
What does this teach us?
Num. 22:8 “Spend the night here and I shall give you a response,” he says.
“God shall speak with me.”
“Who are these men with you?”
Balaam replies that the king of Moab asked him to curse Jews, to save the Moabites from being conquered.
God says no.
Balaam sends the officers away.
We now have an elaborate back and forth where the Moabites keep coming back promising more and more money.
Balaam keeps protesting that he can’t disobey God, “my God,” but he somehow also keeps letting them in.
First of all, many people say that they are God-fearing. Few truly are.
Second, that actions speak louder than words. If you want people out, build a wall.
Balaam is a non-Israelite who has the gift of prophecy, and God’s full and complete, direct attention.
So God, having told Balaam not to curse the Jews, comes back to him with a message.
You can go with those guys, but only do what I tell you.
(Midrash HaGadol, citing Midrash R’ Eliezer [ch.10], Stone Bible p. 859)
Our forefather Jacob struggled with the devil and won: In the end, the devil begged Jacob to let him go.
Jacob only acquiesced in exchange for a blessing - this new name.
The Jews were blessed not with a pain-free existence but with the promise that at the end of our struggle to fulfill God’s command there is victory.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Balaam is trying to make it go, but it sees obstacles on all sides including an angel.
“Why are you doing this to your loyal servant?”
The point was to teach this man that he had the power to choose his words. If a donkey could, so could he.
God makes the angel visible, and Balaam apologizes.
He offers to go home.
The angel says to go, but only to speak as directed.
Meanwhile the Moabite says “where the heck have you been?”
And Balaam says “See, I made it! I can say anything God tells me to!” (Num. 22:38)
The next thread will explain how God turns the Moabites’ “cursing opportunity” into a tremendous blessing.
(And how they very sneakily took revenge later on.)