Rabbi Dorsch is returning from vacation today and I am honored to write this week's D'var Torah in his absence.
My son, Rabbi Adam Rosenthal, and his wife and children recently moved to Los Angeles from Cincinnati. He is now the Ritual Director of Sinai Temple in Westwood. For the past few days I joined him to put together IKEA bedroom furniture for their new home.
I thought it was appropriate that I attempted this task during the week we read
Balak in the synagogue. Balak was a Moabite King who hired the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. Though at first he resisted, Balaam eventually acceded to Korach's request. However, when it came time to do the dastardly deed, Balaam blessed Israel instead of cursing her: "How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!" (Num. 24:5) In the end, Balaam had no choice other than to follow God's will and bless the people.
So what do assembling IKEA furniture and
Balaam have in common: the miracle of turning curses to blessings.
I have neither great fine motor nor mechanical skills. I approach tasks such as assembling furniture from hundreds of tiny pieces with fear and trepidation. Just when I think I am finished, I find several orphaned pieces on the floor or a major component assembled upside down. In general, I spend about 70% of my time working and the other 30% cursing.
This time there was no cursing. It's not that I have advanced my skills. It is rather because I worked in concert with Adam. Before beginning, Adam methodically laid out all of the pieces and read the instructions. Most of the furniture came together quickly and easily. Not one curse issued from my lips. I felt blessed to be able to help.
By following God, Balaam turned Korach's curses into blessings. By reading and following instructions and not taking shortcuts, so did we.
In working with Adam, I learned a key difference between our two approaches: I want to get things done. Adam prefers to get things done
. Guess which method leads to blessings instead of curses?
Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal