Our middah this week is: “Notice what is good about your community.” After such a challenging year, it is good for us to step back and appreciate how our community has supported and sustained us over the past fifteen months. We are indebted to our marvelous Heschel faculty for finding ever new ways to reach children through the narrow windows of Zoom, never losing sight of student learning and wellbeing. We are grateful to the Chevra Committee and volunteers for keeping us in contact with one another through virtual events and for supporting families affected by COVID. We deeply appreciate the understanding and flexibility that families demonstrated as we pivoted back-and-forth between in-person and virtual learning.
In this week’s parshah, a Moabite King named Balaq adjures his prophet Bil’am to curse the people of Israel so that Moav can weaken and defeat them in war. But Bil’am has his eyes opened by God. Bil’am sees that you cannot curse what is clearly worthy of blessing. Peering out on the Israelite community, he offers the well-known blessing:
מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל
“How beautiful are your tents Ya’aqov, your dwelling places Yisrael”
There has been much to curse about this year, no question. Yet speech is often a matter of optics. The mouth is connected to the eye. When we see what is bad, we curse, and thus we undermine ourselves and others. When we see what is good, we offer blessings, and thus we offer mutual encouragement and support.
As we head into summer, my blessing for us all is that we may notice the good in our families, communities, and world. May we all return next year to our Heschel community in good health and good spirits.