Monday, July 6, 2009

Born in the U.S.A, Now I'm Making Aliyah Today, I

Going to a place where he can walk in the sand/and play his sax in an Israeli Rock n Roll band. Shlock Rock, Making Aliyah Today.

I departed America to the whizz-bang of the July 4th New York City fireworks display. Not quite the orgasmic greenery of Fitzgerald yet pretty metaphorical all the same. The fireworks, of course, were made in China. But their sense of possibility was all American. As they shattered the late night sky I wanted to believe they were sending me off overseas with that same sense of the possible.

The parsha, the weekly Torah portion, this weekend was Parshat Balak. It is a strange brew, featuring a gentile prophet by the name of Balaam who is called upon by the Moabite King Balak to curse the nation of Israel. Balaam agrees to help Balak in any way he can but notes that he will speak only as God tells him. Three times Balaam tries to curse Israel and three times blessing emerge from his mouth, including the famous words “How pleasant are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!”

The passage that caught my attention as I prepare to make aliyah is the curious incident that takes place as Balaam commences his own journey towards Israel. Despite initially granting Balaam permission to go to Balak, God seemingly reverses course and places a sword toting angel in Balaam’s way. The trick is only Balaam’s donkey can see the otherwise invisible angel, leading the prophet to beat his animal mercilessly when it refuses to lead them into the path of the angelic sword.

When the donkey simply lies down and stops moving after seeing the angel for a third time, something really strange happen. The donkey talks. God opens up the mouth of the animal and it asks Balaam why the heck he is beating his trusty steed. Balaam’s response is not “since when do you know how to talk?” Instead he threatens to kill the donkey. To which the animal replies, “Don’t you think I have a good reason for acting like such an ass?” And just as Balaam is preparing his own wicked repartee, God opens the prophet’s eyes to the flaming angel and Balaam understands his error.

The biblical passage leaves me with the lesson that as I commence my own journey, I need to pay heed to the advice of those around me. Sometimes the people with the clearest vision and the most trenchant advice are those I take for granted. Those like my family and friends with whom I am hesitant to share my future plans with until it is almost too late. Or those who may be below me in age and experience yet nonetheless may perceive events that I overlook. Don’t read me the wrong way: I am not saying that the donkey of Balaam is an apt metaphor for my family, friends and future peers in the army. Okay, maybe the latter but no one else! The point is that I embark on this journey I need to remember that perceptive advice can come from any corner, and it would be a grave error if I ignore all those that are capable of leading me in the right direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment