When I was a child, Parshat Balak was one of my favorite Parshiyot. It had everything; action, high drama, a talking donkey, clearly demarcated Bad Guys and a sprinkle of sorcery. The other girls in my class in Bais Yaakov, who had never had the benefit (?) of T.V., liked it even better. When I got to High School and learned it with the commentaries, it was a completely different experience. It was not a Divine Technicolor epic. It was one of the most profound glimpses into a world we rarely see.
The Parshah begins with a narrative in which Balak, the king of Moav, hires Bilaam one of history's most enigmatic figures to curse the Jews. Bilaam had achieved a penetratingly insightful view of reality. Through cutting through the layers of self that conceal the spiritual core of reality, he achieved a level of prophecy that was only equaled by Moshe. His ability to reach this level was not just a matter of having learned meditative means of going beyond self. It was G-d's will that a non-Jew reach that far in order that there will never be a justified complaint made that everything would have been different had G-d given the non-Jewish world a prophet like Moshe. Then, they could argue, they would have had a far less materialistic view of life-they would know that there is more. Bilaam isn't exactly a name that you hear very often today, but in the ancient world he was a bigger than life figure. The reason that his curses could have been a real threat can be understood only when you realize that he was using truth as his weapon.
His plan was to draw down Hashem's justice to this world by focusing on the actual and real failures of His people. He had enough clarity to know that every choice has consequences, and that there is moment of judgment daily when Hashem regards the world through His attribute of justice, which in our language would equal anger. The voice of anger always says, "This isn't how things should be",
There is so much that isn't as it should be!
This isn't just then, but now and always. The sin of the golden calf, the betrayal by the spies, the mass hysteria surrounding the episode in which Moshe hit the rock out of fear of being stoned if he didn't provide them with water immediately was on the record. It all was indelible. There was a higher and deeper level of truth. Hashem forced him to see it against his will by making his donkey speak.. It saw an angel blocking its way, while the" master guru" couldn't see a thing. The donkey wasn't blocked by ego and he had to see this. He had to see that he was far less whole than the animal was. He continued his journey together with Balak. They faced Kiryat Chutzot, literally a city with many outdoor market places hoping that G-d would have mercy on the burgeoning population of Moabites that they face. Instead, he was forced to tell the truth: I cannot curse the ones who G-d chose to bless. They are the children of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs who are compared to great mountains and sturdy hills. It isn't only this merit; they are the only people who can elevate the very earth by doing here and now mitzvot that involve even the earth itself. Balak did not give up, which led to Bilaam’s second prophecy. Balak and Bilaam went to the "field of lookouts” where guards watched out for invaders. This is also near Mt. Nebo where Moshe would die in the near future. It seemed like the perfect place - but he was forced to say that "God isn't a man who lies, or a mortal who (ends up) reconsidering his decision. He chose not to look at the actions of His people, He sees no perversity "G-d their G-d is with them, even when they provoke Him, and even when they retain the King's friendship". He pointed out that it was with this commitment in mind that Hashem took us out of Egypt.
The third time Bilaam tried it was on the peak of Peor, overlooking the wastelands, where later they would succumb to idolatry and be punished for doing so. He thought that punishement could equal doom. This time he wanted to give expression to his jealousy ("evil eye”) in order to awaken acussations about their wealth. Instead, he saw that we still retain decency and privacy in our relationships and a level of discretion that he had not seen before. His fourth and final prophecy concerned the future when Moshaich comes. His is the most overt prediction of Moshiach's coming in the entire Chumash!
One of the great ironies is that in the midst of curses and accusations, it seems that everything that we yearned for is fulfilled. What is even more amazing is that Moav, the very people who Balak is leading are Ruth's nation. She is King David's great-grandmother, and ultimately the ancestor of Moshiach.
What all of this tells you is that victory can emerge from defeat, blessing from curses, and what is most relevant to you, is that the opportunities to grow, change, and become the kind of person that you want to be which can happen because of, not inspite of, your defeats.
The three weeks are a time of mourning for the Temple that was destroyed because of our tragic habit of hating each other senselessly. This inevitably is the result of losing track of our common soul, and common destiny. If you take yourself back to your worst moments, you can use them as inspirations to do things differently. See your fellow Jew through Hashem's eyes; the patriarch's and matriarchs are within them and within you. No matter how much you feel "out of it" you can turn the self-imposed curses that may haunt you into blessings.
Love, and still hoping to see you in the Bais HaMikdash sooner than you think,