Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Shabbat Parashat Balak
June 22, 2013 – 14 Tammuz 5773

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

We all know the popular saying: “Ignorance is bliss!” but what we might well ask ourselves is: “Ignorance may be bliss, but for how long?”

I imagine that most of us know the feeling of wanting to bury our heads in the sand, of wanting to pretend that all is well, even when we have a sense that it may not be so…

That must have been what Bil’am, the prophet hired by the King Balak to curse the people of Israel, must have felt as he journeyed toward the Israelite encampment.

Bil’am had a mission to accomplish and he set out to do it.  Nevertheless, some part of him must have felt that his mission was not aligned with God’s will.

That is why Bil’am said to the angel of God that appeared before him, blocking his path: “I have sinned because I did not know that your were standing in my way.  If you don’t approve, I will turn back.” (Numbers 22:34).

Would it really have been a sin for Bil’am to try to get around the angel if he didn’t know, at least on some level, that the angel was there and blocking his path?

In describing Bil’am’s reaction to the appearance of the angel, the Torah is reminding us that while ignorance may be bliss for a time, in the long run we are held responsible if we hide our heads in the sand and purposely ignore what we sense are God’s teachings.

May we be blessed with the strength to see and with the vision to acknowledge the message of the angels that are sent to help us choose paths of righteousness, of justice and of peace.


Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror