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Parshat Balak Bar Mitzvah of Lucas Carlson   June 26, 2021 

Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom 
We can talk all we want about Talking Donkeys, blessings, and curses and how to obey what God tells us but there is a very important underlying message in this Parsha that I want to call to your attention. 

Balak is a king who is used to getting what he wants. He also knows that when someone wants him to act on their behalf, they will have to come with some kind of a bribe to convince the king to act. Balak the king is scared. Israel is a large army camped just across his border. They have already conquered two other kings who may or may not have been more powerful than he is. If this Israelite army should decide to attack, he has serious worries about if his army could defeat them.

But Lucas, this is not just about military strategy. Balak is king because his people believe that the gods of Moab have given him power over all the people and the people understand his divine mandate to rule them. He speaks for his gods. Balak is as powerful as the gods of Moab. If Israel defeats Balak, the God of Israel has defeated the gods of Moab, and the people will no longer follow Balak but will follow this new God who is more powerful.

What Balak is trying to do in this story, is to make God do what Balak wants him to do. If Balak can bring a curse on the people, God will have to abandon the Israelites. Lucas, you can argue with your parents all you want, but in the end, you do what THEY say, not the other way around. It is the same with God; Moses may argue with God, but Moses can’t make God do anything. Nobody can tell God what to do or not to do. Balaam affirms this in the parsha when we he says, “How can I curse those that God has blessed?” God is not Santa Claus, giving us whatever we ask for. I heard a story about a young boy who was asking God for all kinds of presents when his mother interrupted and said, “Stop giving orders and report for duty”. God is not about what God can do for you; God is about what you can do for God. 
•    Do you think that God should give you straight A’s on your report card? What are you doing to deserve straight A’s on your report card?
•    Do you think God should give us a clean environment? What are you prepared to do to clean it up?
•    Do you think God should make people more kind? What are you doing to be more kind to others?
•    Do you think that God should bring world peace? What are you doing to bring about world peace?

Lucas, we can’t expect to curse others and believe that God will clean up our mess. God has put you here to see the mess that is all around you and to get your hands dirty cleaning it up. I can tell you; you will be a different person once you put a sandwich in the hand of a person who has had nothing else to eat that day. I can tell you that nobody will forget the time you brought two people together who can’t stand each other and made peace between them. I can tell you, that when a kid at camp drops a tray of food on the floor, and everyone is laughing and cheering about his misfortune, he will never, ever forget you if you get down on the floor next to him and help him clean it up. You CAN look away when someone else is being bullied, but you will be creating a better world if you stand up to the bullies.

Today you do not become an adult. Today you only begin to become an adult and now you have to make some decisions about what kind of an adult you will want to be. Will you expect God and everyone else to do what you command like King Balak, or will you, through your actions, show what it means to be blessed by God? 

Your parents and family have given you the example of living a life of service to others. Now we will wait to see if you will take your place by their side. They have taught you all they can about why serving God is more important than making demands of God. Now you have to decide if you are ready to help. 

I am sure that you are ready to take your place in building a better world. Everyone is waiting for you to start to do your part. God knows we will need your help.

May God bless all that you do as you continue to learn and grow as we say, Amen and Shabbat Shalom
Gifts…… Blessing……Shehechiyanu

Fri, March 24 2023 2 Nisan 5783