Rabbi Label Lam
In Order for Nothing to Happen
The expression "No news is good news" takes on greater proportions of
meaning as we study the events described in this week's portion. The
Omniscient Observer and Narrator of the Torah, unusually so, moves to a
side show beyond the immediate focus of the Jewish People for the first
time since Abraham enters the spotlight as the individual whose family
would be the protagonist of human history. What for?
We are gifted with a box seat to observe in a comedy of errors how the
malevolent machinations of Bilaam and Balak are continually frustrated with
only impasses on their way to attempt the impossible. We can enjoy from a
close distance the volley of folly between two enemies forced into
cooperation. We eventually witness their plans unravel and backfire as the
intended curses are converted to blessings.
All this transpires as the Jewish People sit securely in their "goodly
tents" enjoying the genuine bliss of a G-d centered individual and communal
life together. While from hilltops nearby missiles are ready to reign down
holy terror and the strange bedfellows of politics born nurse their ugly
dreams the innocence of happy Jewish living persists.
Without this perspective we might be lulled into a false sense of security
or be unduly induced into a panic mode. It seems there are more secret
wars than we can ever count that remain forever the stuff of dreams
deferred and damned. We may be more vulnerable than we think and more
secure than we presume. We can never know how many times and to what
extent we are being spared.
Rabbi Yakov Emden writes in the late 18th century: "Many have tried to
injure us, but they were unable to wipe us out. While all the great
civilizations have disappeared or been forgotten, the Nation of Israel that
clings to G-d is alive today! What will the wise historian answer when he
examines this phenomenon without prejudice? Was this all purely by
chance? When I contemplated these great wonders they took on greater
significance than all the miracles and wonders that G-d performed for our
ancestors in Egypt, in the desert, and when they entered Israel. The
longer this exile extends, the miracle of Jewish existence becomes more
obvious to make known G-d's mastery over nature and history."
Cecil Roth concludes in "History of the Jews": "The preservation of the Jew
was not casual. He has endured through the power of a certain ideal based
upon the recognition of a higher power in human affairs. Time after time in
his history, moreover, he has been saved from disaster in a manner which
cannot be described except as "providential". The author has deliberately
attempted to write this work in a secular spirit; he does not think that
his reader can fail to see in it, on every page, a higher imminence."
In the world that we live in, with overt threats abounding, perhaps the
best news we can hope to hear and that which calls for daily recognition
is- no news. Paradoxically, plenty has to happen in order for nothing to happen.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.