2) I am one of those people who see the Bible as intertwined with life. So I have to share a little bit about today, before getting to the reading.
3) Probably the nicest part of today was that I got to hold a baby in my arms.
4) We met mom in synagogue, and she had her hands full, so I held the baby, and it was unbelievably lovely.
5) As it happened we were having lunch at the same host. The baby was crying. I offered to hold him. Let mom eat.
6) This time the baby was pretty vocally upset and he wouldn’t stop crying.
7) With mom’s permission I took the baby outside, took off my shoes and sat there with him in the grass.
He couldn’t sit so I sort of tried to stand him up.
8) Well let’s face it, I couldn’t calm the kid down. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I tried all sorts of goofy things including singing “So you have a shitty cold, a shitty shitty shitty cold,” as only a homemade song can be sung.
9) When that didn’t work I tried fast-walking through the grass holding the baby.
Everything was good for about 5 seconds.
10) The point is, for the first time in my life I felt absolutely zero need to shush a crying baby.
I understood that babies need to cry to express themselves, that crying exists outside of my efforts to soothe the baby, and that shushing is about the adult, not the kid.
11) Too often, we adults have kids, but we are selfish about taking care of them.
We distort their needs, to fit our needs, and then claim we’re being selfless.
That’s what this Bible portion is about: Stop being narcissistic.
12) In this portion, the king of Moab wants to curse the Jews, although he knows they are God’s blessed people.
He pays a prophet who knows the Jews are blessed, but takes the money, rationalizing that his prophetic skills surpass God’s will.
13) First he tries to distort God’s will.
When that doesn’t work, he leverages the Jews’ weakness (lust) — just like a predatory adult takes advantage of the emotions of the child.
14) And as we see today unfolding right before our eyes, the slide to immorality always starts with words that sound like virtue.
15) Let’s dig in.
16) Numbers 22:2-5.
The nation of Moab is scared of the Jews. Not just God being with them, but the sheer number of them.
So they team up with Midian (Moses’ nation of origin) to think of a plan.
17) The escape of the Jews was supernatural, so the first attack is spiritual. They go to the prophet Balaam with sweet words.
18) Num. 22:6, Moab to Balaam:
He intentionally uses the same words that would otherwise refer to God in blessing the Jews.
He ascribes God-like power to the messenger.
“For I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is accursed.”
19) You might think this is stupid except look how people idolize Silicon Valley “geniuses” while dismissing the notion that God actually created them.
20) The narcissism (you only see yourself as real) in this portion is truly over the top.