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Taking the long way home

06/28/2018 10:29:35 AM


Sarah Ruderman Wilensky

There’s a sign at the end of my street that says “DO NOT ENTER BETWEEN 3 AND 5 PM”. For the first 18 months that we lived here, I ignored the sign. It was inconvenient. It was the end of the day. I had just picked up my kids from school, and they were hungry and tired, and I just wanted to get home.
Nobody likes to be told “no.” Not me, not my children and certainly not Balaam in this week’s Torah portion of Balak.
We’re always looking for loopholes. God tells Balaam that the Israelites can’t be cursed because they are already blessed, but Balaam seems to think there’s a work-around. He’s been promised a rich reward if he comes through with the curse, but at every attempt, he’s thwarted. Every time he opens his mouth to utter a curse, God replaces his words with a blessing instead.
I’ve been thwarted, too and by my own children nonetheless. They learned how to read and called me out my flagrant disregard for the rules. How can I teach them that words mean something? That words have the power to create and to destroy, to bless and to curse if I don’t mode that myself? How can I say that “no is no” and then act like no means maybe?
So now when I come to the end of my street between 3 and 5, I take the long way. Even if the kids aren’t in the car.
Sarah Ruderman Wilensky is a member of Temple Shalom.

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780