In this week’s Torah portion, a sorcerer named Balaam is sent by Balak to curse the Israelites. But G-d appears to him and turns his heart saying, “you shall not curse them but bless them” (Numbers 22:12). After protesting to Balak’s people that he can’t do it, Balaam reluctantly agrees to carry out his mission.
But something crazy happens. Balaam is riding a donkey toward the settlement where the Hebrews are, when his donkey sees an angel of the Lord, blocking him from going toward the camp. Balaam doesn’t see it: only the donkey sees it. So Balaam tries, unsuccessfully, to go in different directions toward the camp, hitting the poor donkey over and over again. Finally, G-d gives the donkey the power to speak! The conversation went a little like this:
Donkey: Hey Balaam, why you keep hitting me? What did I ever do to you?
Balaam: Donkey, you’re embarrassing me! If you were a person, I’d freakin’ cut you!
Donkey: Why you playin’ like that? You’ve been riding me this whole time and I haven’t given you trouble at all.
And then, the angel appeared to Balaam and called him out on his awful mistreatment of the donkey:
Angel: Yo, Balaam. Why are you beating down your donkey? Obviously I’m in the way and the donkey can’t go anywhere you want it to!
So Balaam has something of a roadside conversion and the angel lets him know that, instead of curses, Balaam will open his mouth and bless the Hebrews.
Balaam goes back to Balak and lets him know this weird news. And Balak basically says, “heck with this. Let’s go to the Hebrew settlement and try this cursing thing out either way.” Long story short, it didn’t work. Apparently when G-d does something, it happens.
I’d like to ask an honest question: what’s in your way? What is keeping you from getting something done? For Balaam, it was an angel, standing in his way. What is it for you?
And an even bigger question is, “is what you are wanting to do, really that important, anyway?”
Balaam was trying to curse the Hebrews, so G-d steps in his way. And there are angels on Earth who get in our way all the time: the father who locks up his drug addict kid who he won’t shoot up, the nurse who gives out condoms to prostitutes so they won’t get AIDS.
So what’s in your way? Maybe it’s not as self destructive and the examples I gave earlier, but maybe it will take you down a path that you really don’t want. I used to think that every time my old band couldn’t get a show or every time I got fired from a job, that it was just another thing getting in my way. And to be honest, if I had a sword, I’d prolly cut some people up, too.
But then an angel stepped into my life and made me realize, “OK Patrick, maybe you need to evaluate whether this is a good use of your time.” And sure enough, those things weren’t. And now, things are going great. I have a new band, and it doesn’t stress me out at all! And my job…well…PunkTorah is my job!
There’s always an obstacle to every goal. Maybe that obstacle is an angel of the Lord saying, “don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200. You’re going to do G-d’s work instead.”