This week’s parsha, or Torah portion, comes from the book of Numbers and is called Balak, so named for the king of Moab who features prominently in this particular story. The Israelites had settled in Moab and Balak, intimidated and disgusted by their numbers, sent for the prophet Balaam to come to Moab and curse the Jews. When the first messengers come to call Balaam to Moab, G-d commands Balaam not to go. But when a second group of messengers come for Balaam, G-d allows the prophet to travel back with them but tells Balaam that he will only say what G-d tells him to. And so Balaam becomes an instrument of G-d: Every time he opens his mouth to curse the Jews, he instead ends up blessing them.
As Balaam is on his way to Moab, riding upon his donkey, an angel appears before him, wielding a sword. The donkey, which can see the angel while Balaam cannot, veers away, only to be beaten by Balaam. This happens three times before G-d opens Balaam’s eyes to the angel’s presence. Meanwhile, G-d speaks to Balaam through the donkey, asking why he has beaten the mule that he had trusted completely up until that time.
When I thought about the donkey being able to see something so clearly that Balaam could not, I thought about how often we are so set on a following a certain path that we miss clear signs indicating another path might be the right one for us. Or that something we’ve been seeking is actually right in front of us, we just hadn’t been able to see it. There are many things that give us such blinders: fear, stress, anxiety, or just plain stubbornness. Maybe we’ve invested so much of ourselves in the path we’re on that it’s too much of a blow to admit it’s not working. Or maybe we are so frustrated or discouraged from striving for something for so long that we can’t picture things being any other way.
Recently when I’ve been grappling with a problem, or trying to figure out what it is that I really want, I remind myself that I do know the answer, deep down, I just need to sit quietly until I can hear it. Even just meditating for five minutes every day can help me quiet the anxious, scared, or angry thoughts in my head and hear more positive and self-confident thoughts that had previous been drowned out. The more I clear my head of negative thoughts, the more my outlook on my life changes, and I start to think of different ways to achieve what I want, or notice that some things I was looking for I already had.
So my kavanah, or intention, is that our meditation practice help to open our eyes and see things more clearly. Maybe we’ll see something that was right in front of us all along.