Blessings or Curses

A few nights ago, we went to a Sheva Brachot in honor of a couple who recently got married. Sheva Brachot are the seven blessings recited at a Jewish wedding and for 7 days afterwards. This custom goes back to Biblical times where the joy of the wedding lasted for an entire week. The Sheva Brachot request G-d's blessing for the new couple.

Attending the Sheva Brachot made me think of the Parasha this week- Balak. With G-d's help, the Israelites conquered the Amorites. Balak, who was king of Moab at the time, was alarmed at what the Israelites might do to his people. Balak sends messengers to a man named, Bilaam to put a curse on the Israelites, so that he can defeat them. Bilaam tries, but G-d intervenes and tells him to do what he commands him. Bilaam sets out on his donkey, and the angel G-d stood before him to block him from going any further. The donkey could see the angel with his sword drawn and turned the other way. Bilaam, not able to see the angel, beat his donkey to get her to keep going. Each way the donkey turned, G-d would place himself before her, and each time Bilaam would beat her. Finally, G-d revealed himself to Bilaam.

Bilaam continues on his way, eventually meets up with Balak and his people. Balak instructs Bilaam to build several alters, and asks him to curse the Israelites. Bilaam states that he can only say what G-d puts in his mouth. He then goes on to bless them. He says "How fair are your tents, Oh Jacob, your dwellings, Oh Israel. Like palm groves that stretch out. Like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord. Like cedars beside the water. Their boughs drip with moisture, their roots have abundant water. Their king shall rise above Agag, their kingdom shall be exalted" (Numbers 24, Verses 5-7).

Bilaam really wanted to curse the Israelites not bless them, but he also knew the power of G-d. When a couple marries, we offer blessings to them so that their marriage will be filled with light, Torah, Mitzvot, and devote themselves to G-d's glory. We know that only with G-d's help can we have such a marriage.