In this portion the Moabites, one of the Canaanite nations, and the Midianites appeal to the wizard Balaam to curse the children of Israel. Both peoples are related to superstition and divination which always distort the Truth of life: “And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam (…)” (Numbers 22:7).
Balaam represents ego’s destructive inclination and wicked approach to life in order to subjugate it to negative traits and desires. And what are the main rewards of ego? “Because I will promote you onto very great honor, and whatsoever you say to me I will do (…).” (22:17). Honor and commanding control are ego’s main pursuits and rewards.
Balaam enjoys the same access to God that the Hebrew prophets have, and obvious questions arise. If God is good by Essence and does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes, how is it possible that He doesn’t deny access to a wicked character such as Balaam? Before we answer the question, we have to remark some of the fundamentals of Judaism.
God is One and does not have any form, body, image or shape, and His Essence is beyond human comprehension which means that we can’t grasp the ways He directs His Creation. The little we know about Him is by inference of what He is not; and though that still is insufficient, Judaism conceives Him as good and Doer of goodness, and His Creation is the resounding proof of this absolute principle. Judaism also believes that He rewards the good-doers and punishes the evil-doers, which is a reaffirmation that He is good.
This means that He is on the side of those who do goodness, and not on the side of evil doers. In this context we understand what we said many times: God does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes. We define His ways as His Commandments, and His attributes as those mentioned in the Torah (Exodus 34:6-7), all-positive and all-encompassing.
We also have mentioned that He created evil in order for us to have free will. Hence evil is only a reference to discern good from something not good. Evil and its negative derivatives are two-folded expressions or reflections. One aspect of evil is what conceals Love and keeps it concealed, and the other as the result of separating our consciousness from the unity of love: the result of choosing ego’s fantasies and illusions instead of love’s ways and attributes.
This is the inner and outer struggle that defines the connection between Israel and God: by choosing Him, His ways and attributes, the Israelites are able to conquer the “nations” that represent the negative tendencies in consciousness.
With this necessary preamble we can put in perspective Balaam and what this parshah says about him. Another fundamental aspect of Judaism is that God has absolute control of His Creation and directs it according to His will, and this includes the evil He created in order for us to enjoy free will, with such evil doers as Balaam included. We have to highlight from this episode that evil is always subdue to love. This means that evil can’t curse, endanger or harm love’s ways and attributes.
The passage tells us that the times Balaam tried to curse Israel, only blessings came out of his mouth because love as the material manifestation of God’s love subdues evil. Love always blesses not only those who choose its ways but also those who have the potential to be and manifest its attributes.
We all are blessed as long as we remain in the tents of love: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!” (Numbers 24:6). If love is for us with the power of God’s blessings, what could be against? “How shall I curse whom the Lord has not cursed? And how shall I execrate whom the Lord has not execrated?” (23:8). With love in our side all illusions and fantasies of the material world are destined to disappear. We said already that God’s love endowed us with free will, and He gives us not only the choice between the blessings and the curses but the Commandment to choose life which by itself represents His blessings.
The episode with Balaam teaches us once more that love empowers us to transform all evils, superstitions and curses into goodness and blessings as long as we live in love’s ways. The choice is always ours. After all, we are the ones endowed with free will by God’s love. Let’s celebrate living in love’s blessings:
“For from the top of the rocks I see him (Jacob/Israel), and from the hills I behold him: lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who has counted the dust of Jacob, or numbered the stock of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (23:9-10).
Israel represents the realized consciousness of God’s love we are destined to achieve in life. This is part of our mission to reveal the Divine Presence in all Creation we have concealed in the darkness of the illusions of the material world. The complete awareness of God’s love is perceived and achieved from the high levels of consciousness (“from the top of the rocks”). In that sublime place we are alone, all-One with love, and the negative aspects of consciousness (the nations) are not with us (we are not counted among them).
In this realization of love we want to live and to die because it is the material manifestation of God’s love: “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent: when He has said, will He not do it? Or when He has spoken, will He not make it good? Behold, I am bidden to bless; and when He has blessed, I cannot call it back.” (23:19-20).
The blessings continue reaffirming that when we live in God’s ways and attributes we can transform darkness into light, and revealing love whenever and wherever concealed:
“None has beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has one seen perverseness in Israel; the Lord his God is with him, and the shouting for the King is among them. God who brought them forth out of Egypt is for them like the lofty horns of the wild-ox. For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel; now is it said of Jacob and of Israel: ‘What has God wrought!’ Behold a people that rose up as a lioness, and as a lion does he lift himself up; he shall not lie down until he eats of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” (23:21-24). It is essential to reiterate again that Love does not cohabit with ego’s fantasies and illusions to control and manipulate (enchantment and divination) all aspects of life.
Among the blessings that followed (23:5-9, 24:17-24) there is a significant sentence: “Blessed be every one that blesses you, and cursed be every one that curses you.” This may sound like an excluding, separating and retaliating statement. Although it may, it is not about that. Love is all pervading and all encompassing, meaning that Love is inclusive and not excluding. Ego’s illusions exclude us from the unity of Love, therefore when we curse our consciousness with them we are indeed cursed.
The parshah ends with the sad fall of thousands of Israelites into the seductive arms of lust during their conquest of Moab. Our permanent awareness of God’s ways and attributes liberates us from the illusions and fantasies of the material world. Falling into ego’s rule make us lose our connection with the Creator, and ego’s illusions become our own punishment: the plague that killed 24 thousand Israelites at that time.
As many wisely say, “sin is its own punishment”. In conclusion, the message is reaffirmed again: When Israel realizes his Oneness with God, His love can be revealed and manifest with His Glory.