The Torah conveys an amazing story about a donkey acting like a human and a human acting like, well, a 'donkey', to teach a lesson about humans appropriately using the power of speech, a trait that distinguishes us from animals. Parashat Balak is named for Balak, King of Moab. Fearful of the approaching Israelites and their military power, Balak hired a magician (Balaam) to curse them (in biblical times, curses were considered to be real and powerful weapons). As Balaam became aware of God's presence in the 'everyday', his curse became instead a blessing: blessed be everyone who blesses you and cursed be everyone who curses you....Balaam's words form the opening of the morning service, part of our siddur/prayerbook from the early middle ages: Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov....How goodly are your tents, o Jacob, your dwelling places, o Israel!
A kavannah for candlelighting on Shabbat Balak
Dear God, let me feel Your Presence and hear Your voice, even in the most unexpected places and from the most unexpected sources.