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not all honey is sweet

Thursday, 6 July, 2017 - 7:46 am

Mr. Houston was known for raising money for good causes, nudging the Greater Houston Partnership toward modernity and for forging compromises between local feuding fiefdoms. Seems like just the person you would want as part of your social circle, no? It turned out that this Mr. Houston was a fraud; all his good work was just a way to further his greed. The real name of this "Mr. Houston" was Ken Lay, the CEO who led Enron to its downfall in a massive corruption scandal in 2001.

Ken Lay was a taker, he was one of those people who will bless you, shower you with praise, donate and volunteer, all in order to further his nefarious schemes!

I recently read a book called Give and Take by Adam Grant, describes different types of people; givers, takers, and matchers. Ken Lay was a taker.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah warns us about takers. Balaam desires to curse the Jews and G-d says: Don’t go!  Don’t curse the people because they are blessed. Rashi explains that G-d was saying: The Jews do not need your blessing for they are blessed. As we say to the bee; ‘neither your honey nor your sting’.

Honey is a delicacy and a sought-after commodity that sweetens our lives. Most of us have honey in our pantry right now. As well, there are beekeepers who are more than willing to sustain bee stings as a way to procure this food. So can we say that we really do not want the honey because we are afraid of the sting?

Upon deeper reflection, it becomes apparent that the blessing of Balaam is not really honey; it is just another façade to obscure the sting. When an evil person blesses us, beware! It might be a subterfuge that, in the end, will prove to be a curse. Hence, the emphasis: “I don’t want your sting or your honey”. Honey, and even an occasional rebuking sting, from a well-intentioned person, is desirous. However, neither is welcome when it comes from a villain like Balaam. 

Be like the giving bee; nice and giving and people will welcome your honey. Furthermore, the necessary well-intended sting will be sweet.

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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