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Health, Nutrition & Torah: Balak

| June 23, 2010

The Text:

Numbers 24:5-7 “How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!”

The blessing was intended to be a curse by Balaam but it emerged instead as a blessing.  It is the source for the prayer Mah Tovu, recited daily upon entering a synagogue.

The Context:

This Torah portion recalls the unusual story of the prophet Balaam and King Balak.  The King sends Balaam to curse the Israelites three separate times.  Each time Balaam tries to curse them, a blessing comes out of his mouth instead.  The blessing was intended to be a curse by Balaam but it emerged instead as a blessing. This reversal of fortune confirms that God continues to watch over Israel.

What it Means for Advocates:

The daily ritual of Mah Tovu is a way of recognizing the blessing of each day and the beauty of community praying together.  How might you incorporate daily rituals to educate members of your community about hunger and poverty?  Consider using a tzedakah box as part of your daily minyan, and send the proceeds to a local food bank.  Incorporate hunger facts into your email signature, and link to mazon.org, encouraging your friends and family members to visit the site to learn more.

A metaphor that emerges from this portion is the concept of turning a curse into a blessing.  Interview people who were once hungry to learn how they survived and whether they believe they turned curses into opportunities.

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