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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2006 / 20 Elul, 5766

A Prophet heard from

By Paul Greenberg


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | IN THE WILDERNESS — It wasn't easy finding him after all these centuries.


It took journalistic enterprise, confidential sources, biblical research, a good roadmap and mainly imagination.


But eventually, somewhere east of the Jordan and west of the Euphrates in the land of Moab — security regulations prevent me from pinpointing his exact location — there he was, Balaam himself, the fabulous prophet of Hebrew Bible fame, or rather infamy.


The old man seemed comfortable enough in anonymous retirement, much like a crime boss in the Witness Protection Program. He seemed surprised to have a visitor but not inhospitable. Dressed in comfortable shorts and one of those garish Hawaiian shirts, he put down the gin-and-tonic in his hand and swung open the door to his screened porch. The ceiling fan hummed soothingly, the old-fashioned glider in the corner beckoned.


"Balaam, son of Beor, I presume?"


"Call me Balaam," he said. "All my friends do, not that I have any left. I don't get around much anymore. It's been centuries since I lived in Pethor, and I certainly didn't leave any forwarding address. Between disappointed customers and jealous husbands, a man can't be too careful. I'd just as soon folks believed that story about my meeting my end with the Midianites. Think of it as another failure of Israeli intelligence. Reports of my death, as you can see, have been greatly exaggerated."


He was shorter and thinner than one might have expected, and not at all imposing. Could this be the great Balaam, mighty prophet and seer known to all the peoples of the ancient East? This leathery old coot? It was if he'd hung up his prophet's girth and garb for the duration. His voice, which must have been stentorian in his heyday, now was just high-pitched.


"Haven't had any company in a couple of millennia," the old man mused, easing himself into a rocker next to the aspidistra. "Except on business, of course. There's always a market for a hired prophet. Political pollsters, market analysts, racetrack touts, weather forecasters, commodity traders . . . I hear from 'em all. Even when I tell 'em I'm strictly a Death-and-Destruction man, it doesn't put 'em off. There's always a market for D-and-D. Or at least a fascination with it. Had some Hollywood types come by to ask if I'd consult on their next disaster flick, but I'm not much on high-tech. Your standard earthquake or flood is good enough for me. Although I used to do a good business in blight, too.


"Yeah," the old man mused, looking off into the middle distance, as if remembering old times. "But some things never change. Come, curse me Jacob, they keep repeating, come, curse me Jacob. It's one of my stock numbers, and it never goes out of fashion. Like slacks-and-a-blazer or the simple little black dress. Now it's all I hear — from Tehran to Damascus. The more this business changes, the more it stays the bloody same. Anybody I can curse for you? The price is right."


Not that I wanted to seem ungrateful, but I had something else in mind. I wanted to know how the current unpleasantness in the Middle East would turn out, and what it would mean for the future of the region, in the event it had one. Was this just a lull, or the beginning of a real peace?


"You still don't get it, do you?" the old boy said, not unkindly. "It may surprise you, but with me it's not the money. The money is just for openers, a sign of respect, earnest money, just to show you know you're not dealing with some two-bit hexer. I'd do this pro bono. It's when I'm most alive, when I'm prophesying. Like a Rembrandt at the easel, that's me on the high places before the altar. It's what I do, what I have to do. I was — I am! — an artist. Not just a prophet.


"Even when I came to curse the Israelites and blessed them instead," he continued, "the words — the words! — would become one of their prayers for a thousand, two thousand years. Forever. How beautiful are thy tents, O Jacob/thy dwelling places, O Israel. But all you people want is political analysis, some kind of fortune-telling. Well, you've come to the wrong place, my friend. You're looking for a magician, or maybe a visiting expert, somebody Charlie Rose might interview in that terribly serious way of his. What I do is art ."


"That's all? That's it? Can't you tell me how this is going to turn out? What will come next? War or peace? Neither or both? The world wants to know."


"You might try the witch of Endor down the road," the old man suggested. It's right on your way, and I get a small finder's fee. But be prepared: You might not like what you hear, or rather see."


I told him I'd pass. Consumer Reports said there'd been some customer dissatisfaction with her.


I thanked him for the interview, much good as it did me.


"No trouble," the old prophet-despite-himself said, pleasantly enough. "It isn't the first time an ass has insisted on talking to me."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. An earlier version of the events referred to in this column appears in Numbers 22-24 and 31. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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