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Michael J. Fox vs. Bila'am

Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

Michael J. Fox vs. Bila'am

Yechiel Shaffer

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, July 17, 2016. Special guest Michael J. Fox on guitar.

As we are in the throws of campaign season, we read about Balak's attempt to solidify his political power. 

He hires Bila'am to curse the Jews. They cannot be defeated with just physical might (see here (Hebrew) & here (English) for more on this). Balak needs Bila'am 'the curser' for his skill to use words in defeating an enemy. 

And yet we see Bila'am saying to his donkey: 

וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם לָאָתוֹן כִּי הִתְעַלַּלְתְּ בִּי לוּ יֶשׁ חֶרֶב בְּיָדִי כִּי עַתָּה הֲרַגְתִּיךְ

Balaam said to the she-donkey, "For you have humiliated me; if I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."

Bila'am, the most skilled orator of his generation, the most powerful 'curser' of his time, was incapable of pronouncing a curse against his donkey. He could only cause physical harm if he had a sword in hand. 

We can only recognize our talents, and thus use them, when we have a clear mind and when we have a self-awareness of who we are. Bila'am in a moment of anger forgets his skill as a 'cursor' and threatens death by physical violence. 

Michael J. Fox, in his well-publicized fight against Parkinson's Disease (donate here), represents so much for the generation that grew up in the 80s. With inspiring self-awareness, he has not shied away from the spotlight. He uses his incredible talents, to elicit a powerful emotion. He is aware of his limitations, he is in touch with the impact of his disease, and yet understands he has so much to contribute.

As Bila'am, this week, identifies the core principles of the Jewish people, as he perceives them (see here), it is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves that we are a good people. We are generous and kind. We love humanity and are all working towards the same goal: To bring more Godliness into this world.