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Last Friday's Sermon: G-d's Plan

Many of us get into situations and challenges in life that can be trying and frustrating. Often, we will just accept the fact that our plans have been redirected and accept that it is “G-d’s plan”. Such is also our acceptance of the situation when either things don’t work out as we thought they would or should.

This week’s Torah portion (June 30, 2018) is Balak and highlights that concept. Balak was a Moabite King who contracted with Balaam, a wizard and a prophet, to curse the Israelites. Balaam set out to do just that, but HaShem had a different idea.

First a little background. According to some commentators, Israel was the only people with a prophet. G-d gave each one of the 70 nations a similar prophet. This way, none of them could say that Israel had an unfair advantage in battle. Balaam was such a prophet.

He was also, however, a wizard. He supposed knew that one time during the day that G-d meted out judgment and so was able to coordinate his cursing of a people with that time. So this is why Balak hired him and what he set out to do.

Along the way, he was met first by Hashem who inquired what he was going to do, and then by an angel who got in his way and prevented him from traveling. The word that was used, by the way, was “satan”. “Satan” really means obstruction, and fyi, this is the first time we encounter The angel then informed Balaam that he was not going to curse Israel but would bless them with the words that Hashem would put in his mouth.

Balaam then goes through three sets of blessings for Israel. The last blessing was so beautiful that the sages decreed it to be part of the service. “How goodly are your dwellings, O Jacob, your sanctuaries, O Israel”.

So here we have a prime example of a plan that resulted better than the original plan. For us, anyway. For Balaam, consider the fact that even though things didn’t go his way, he ended up doing a mitzvah. Of course, it would have been better for him had it been his idea….

Probably all of us have heard that saying, “G-d answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no’”. Consider probably a better postulate that we would consider in Judaism: “G-d answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no, I have a better plan in mind’”. As He did in the case of Balaam and King Balak.

How many times have we wanted or desired something. We work hard, put all the pieces together, and then it seems like everything goes wrong. We’re frustrated, and we throw our hands up and wonder why G-d doesn’t like us, or what did we do to not deserve this success.

But then, things progress in a different direction and in retrospect, we see that things happened better than we thought. That’s because a mind that is omniscient is in charge. G-d knows better than we do.

Now this doesn’t mean we should just sit back and do nothing and wake up every day and say, “OK, G-d, You’re in charge. Rouse me when you got it all prepared”. Judaism is a religion of action. Our commandments all pretty much start with “do” or “do not”.

So it’s not just OK but expected that we live our lives taking some sort of action, doing some activity. Yes, make plans. But be aware. Be alert to what’s happening, how things play out, and then go with it. Be the CEO of your life and let HaShem be the COO.

Obstructions may be there not to confound your plans but as a sign to change direction. Obstructions may actually save you from pursuing a course of action, that while supposedly leading to success, may end up causing more problems. These obstructions may end up saving us a lot of grief. So while Satan may seem to be an enemy, Satan, as G-d’s prosecuting attorney, might just save you from making big mistakes.

Enjoy your life, make plans, and remember to always be alert to what’s happening and use it to the fullest. That way, you will enjoy success and happiness. And not be cursed.

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