Life has two main goals: to do good, and to change bad into good.

This is expressed by the division of the Jewish week into Shabbat and the weekdays. Shabbat, the sacred day, directly expresses goodness. By contrast, the days of the week include negative possibilities—the many false options of the daily world. However, these can all be transformed into good. We realize that a certain step was an error, and we find a way to make it good.

These two goals in life are also expressed in the two parts of the double Torah reading we read this Shabbat, and particularly in their names.

This we we read two Parshahs as part of the annual Torash reading cycle. The first—Numbers 19:1-22:1—called Chukat, a word which means "law," "decree" or "statute" and also implies "engraving."

Words of Torah can be written with ink on parchment, or engraved in stone. When they are engraved, they are totally one thing together with the stone. For the individual this means that the Torah is truly part of him or her. This is the atmosphere of the holiness of Shabbat and also of the dedication to do good things. You may know people who are distinguished for that, and at times, we might be like that ourselves. This is the first goal in life, to be purely positive, doing good, like Shabbat, and the first portion: Chukat, goodness engraved.

The second goal is more complex. We see this in the name of the second portion, Numbers 22:2-25:9. It is called Balak, the name of the non-Jewish king of Moab who tried to harm the Jewish people. He hired the heathen prophet Balaam to curse them. In fact, this makes it quite surprising that Balak's name should be chosen as the name of a portion in the holy Torah.

However, Balak had some positive features: our Sages tell us that Ruth the Moabite was descended from him.1 Ruth converted to Judaism and became the great-grandmother of King David, the ancestor of the Messiah. In the portion named Balak there is, in fact, an important prophecy about the Messiah. Although Balak acted badly, great goodness was hidden in him, which is revealed in his illustrious descendants, no less than the line of Jewish Kings including David, Solomon and the Messiah.

Hence the portion of Balak signifies bad which contains hidden good, and this good is ultimately revealed for the benefit of all.

The idea that bad leads to good has two important applications in our lives. The first concerns how we look at ourselves. Many people are very unfair to themselves and have a low opinion of their achievements in life. We should be more generous to ourselves, see our positive possibilities, and work to try to let them be expressed.

The second application concerns other people. Some people seem to have very negative qualities. Yet the teaching of the portion of Balak is that these can be transformed into good. Further, perhaps we ourselves can help in that process.

So, whether in the contrast of Shabbat and the weekdays, or the two halves of the double portion, we see that in life there are two main goals: doing good, and making bad good.2