19 Yehuda Hanasi St., POB 437, Netanya 4210300, Israel
This imaginary conversation took place between Bilaam and Dr. Joseph the Dream Doctor Fraud.
F. Come in Mr. Bilaam, I am Joseph the dream doctor the son of Fraud.
B. It is ‘prophet’ Bilaam, if you don’t mind.
F. Prophet it is then. How can I help you where your God has not enlightened you, my esteemed prophet?
B. You make jest, but this is serious business.
F. As serious as my own business of dreams.
B. Just one more thing. These sessions are confidential. No one else is to hear what I am about to tell you…
F. Of course. No one. Except when I put it in a book, but then it will be about anonymous prophets…er, patients.
And this is the dream that the Prophet Bilaam recounted to Joseph the dream doctor, the son of Fraud.
B. I was on my way to King Balak, who was offering me a HOUSELOAD of gold and silver if I would come and curse an army of riffraff on his borders. The Israelites they were called. But my God, whom I must serve, said no way, Jose. They are MINE. And they are blessed.
But the truth is I needed the money. And the prestige was nice. And to use my power, which is really HIS power, gives me a high. So I decided to go with Balak’s messengers, to see what would happen. And then it happened. Or it didn’t happen and I just went into a trance. Or I didn’t even get out of my tent and fell into a swoon. Doctor, I don’t know what or when or where it happened! Help me!
F. Where what happened, Bilaam? Calm yourself. The solutions come from God. Just talk to me and everything will become clear in a decade or two of therapy with me.
B. So this is what I saw. My trusty she-ass, my constant transportation companion for as long as I can remember, started to act strangely. First she pulled aside and walked off into the fields. And after I beat her she nearly crushed my leg against a wall. So I beat her again. And then the dumb animal just plopped down in the middle of the road and refused to budge.
F. So you beat her again.
B. You bet I did.
B. Then – don’t laugh – she started talking to me. The ass talking to ME! Asking why I was beating her, as though she didn’t know. And then…and then suddenly I saw. There was an angel of God on the path, holding a sword and threatening to kill me. To let my dumb ass live and to kill ME! God’s prophet.
F. “Excuse me, Mr. Prophet, it seems your ass had more sense than you did at that time.”
B. Whose side are you on anyway? Just listen. The angel said I was going against God’s wishes, but when I offered to go back home, and I should add, give up those piles of money, the angel said, ‘No, no, no, just go on your way but say only what God tells you to say.’
F. “And then?”
B. Then it all dissolved and I was back on the road with my servants and Balak’s messengers, and the day was clear and it was as if nothing had happened. Tell me, Doctor, am I going meshuggeh?
Dr. Joseph the Fraud leaned back and steepled his fingers.
F. No, you’re not meshuggeh. Conflicted. Your heart wants to go but your God won’t let you. A classic case of conflict. Yes, I can see the Oedipal urges seeping through the cracks…
B. Doctor Joseph, stop that Oedipus Shmedipus business. Oedipus hasn’t been born yet.
F. You’re the prophet so you should know.
F. So here’s what I see. You have two opposing urges inside you, let’s call them an angel and a devil. There’s the angel who is telling you to stop and do what your conscience knows is right, and there is the devil who is telling you to go for the money, and you’ll deal with God later.
B. You’re telling me that my ass is my angel?
F. In this case, yes. She certainly seems to have a good sense of self-preservation, if you don’t mind my saying so, while you, my esteemed prophet, are so intent on profit that only words coming out of an ass’s mouth can make you see what’s right. This is a classic case of repression, something I am going to write about in a few thousand years, where you do not let your own true feelings come to the fore, even though you know what you should do.
F. We could also call it self-deception. In fact, you did. You said you knew what God wanted but you went anyway. I shall write about that too, someday.
B. But, doctor, what does it all mean?
F. Ah, what does it mean. Well, you repressed the truth and followed the money. Your ass called you to order. The angel came and said ‘nu nu nu’ but then let you go on anyway.
B. Yes, I know that. That’s exactly what I told you. But what’s it all about, Yossi?
F. It means, my dear prophet, that the choice is and has always been yours. You have understood the options, heard all the arguments, and now YOU have to make your own choice. That will be 500 pieces of silver. No checks, please.
So that’s what it comes down to. We, our children, our leaders, we all know what we should do in most situations. The only question is – will we.
And my thanks to the clinical psychologist Rivka Naaman for the basic idea.