Oh, the Possibilities!

scrap metal.jpgEver seen a junk yard? I have. In fact if you go down Woodside road, cross over 101, continue and the name changes to Seaport Blvd., aptly named for the deep sea port of Redwood City, that you will find on the left side of the road. One of the specialties of this port is dealing in recycled metal. Junk and scrap metal and steel in all shapes and sizes is trucked there from all over the bay area and hauled onto ships bound for China.

Over there it is delivered to manufacturing plants which take the scrap metal and turn it into useful parts for cars, trucks, planes and who knows maybe even for a building.

When looking at the mounds of junk and scrap on the side of the road, waiting to be loaded onto the ships, I gotta be honest; it looks like a pile of trash. That’s because, It is a pile of trash. This is the stuff that people discarded from their homes and businesses just a short while ago.

Indeed this looks like a pile of trash, but it will be transformed into such useful things as nuts, bolts, axels and doors. And here is the catch. In order to transform this ‘junk’ into something useful, it doesn’t need to be transformed at all. The very scrap metal has all the properties of a useful object, it just needs to be brought to the fore. As it stands now it is junk, but with some minor changes and modifications, it is valuable and useful, and serves its purpose.

This reminds me of what we read about in this week’s Torah portion of Balak. In brief, Balak, king of Mo’av hires the prophet Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. (Of course there is no shortage of anti-Semites over the years that tried to harm the Jews). But when the moment of truth comes, instead of cursing the Jews, Bilaam blesses them instead. The prophet can only state that which G‑d has told him to state, and G‑d, apparently, wants to bless the Jews. Bilaam then goes on to prophesy about the end of days, the times of Mashiach.

But why would the Torah name a portion after our enemy Balak? And why would the prophesy about Moshiach be handed down to us through a non-Jewish prophet? Who set out to curse us no less!

The key is that Moshiach is not something new that will come and break that which we know in the world, rather Moshiach will come and transform and elevate the world. But it is this world that will be transformed. There are people who see so much evil and so many corrupt people in the world and dismiss them saying, ah, the world is full of ‘junk’ it should all be discarded. But just as the ‘junk’ metal does not need to be discarded, it just needs to be purified and recast so that it is useful and valuable again; so too the negativity in this world does not need to be discarded, but rather purified and transformed to shine with its G‑dly potential.

This is the promise of Moshiach. It’s not that we are trying to create a new reality by destroying the old and the negative; rather we are striving to reveal the inherent value and goodness that exists in the current world as it is.

So Bilaam, a non-Jewish prophet who hated the Jews and was ready to curse them, is transformed into a prophet who blesses them instead. Even more, he is transformed into a prophet who shares with us about the coming of Moshiach. Balak, the king who hated us, ends up being a conduit of blessing for our people, and the very Torah portion is named after him.

This doesn’t mean that we should put our head in the sand and ignore the challenges and negativity that is in the world, and the evil people that unfortunately do exist. Just as we shouldn’t imagine that junk metal is useful in its current state. At the same time we should view the selfishness and negativity in the world, for its amazing potential that it is, waiting to be elevated. The junk metal is waiting to be transformed into something useful and valuable. And if you take that new piece of metal and use it to build a homeless shelter, or a synagogue, the metal will actually become holy.

The goal that we are aiming for, and the goal that Hahsem put us down in this world for, is not to bring heaven down to earth…

It is to reveal heaven within earth.

Shabbat shalom