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Balak: To Want what He Wants

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“If Balak will give me his house full of silver and gold, I will not be able to transgress Hashem’s Word”

(Bamidbar 22:18)


The Alter of Kelm asks: “What’s the difference between Bilaam and, l’havdil, the Avos? After all, Bilaam also said, ‘I will not be able to transgress Hashem’s Word,’ seemingly an elevated spiritual level.”

He answers: “Bilaam said, ‘I won’t be able to transgress Hashem’s Word.’ He wouldn’t be able to do anything against Hashem; nonetheless, he didn’t forgo his desire to do so, and tried tactics to ‘convince’ Hashem to allow him to do his will. And in the end, Hashem did agree to his will, and allowed him to go with Balak’s ministers. ‘In the way that a person wants to go – he is led.’

But the level of the Avos was different. They nullified their will before His Will. They had no desire of their own, only to do their Creator’s Will. (Rav Yaakov Neiman, Darchei Mussar)

No one wants to act against Hashem’s Will, chalilah. But perhaps it’s possible to cause my will to become Hashem’s Will?

My son wants candy, the giant all-day sucker that changes colors. We’re standing at the checkout counter when he spots it.  At first, he asks. After that, he demands. Finally, he throws himself onto the floor, enraged. Then, right before he breaks into a full-fledged, ear-piercing, kicking-and-flailing tantrum, I whisper in his ear that I’ll buy it for his birthday party next week. He quiets down, and everybody’s happy.

A week goes by. “Remember what I want for my birthday?” he reminds me, in warning tones. “That candy! The one in the grocery store, remember?”

How could I forget?

That candy cost less than any birthday present I’d buy him. But it will fill him full of toxic artificial coloring for two days. What should I do?

“Are you sure that you want a candy? You’ll finish it quickly and be left with nothing. Wouldn’t you rather a pen that changes colors? Do you remember how we went to the dentist’s when your tooth hurt? That’s what the candy will do. Tell me, sweetheart, what you’d rather have: A ball? A new book? That yellow tractor?”

Phew, he wants the tractor. He changed his mind, and we celebrate a small victory having vanquished the candy at the checkout counter.

That’s how we act when others want something that isn’t in line with what we want. We try to demonstrate that what we want is the right thing, and would you please come around to our way of seeing things.

The teacher who wanted me to sit next to Chava, when I wanted to sit next to Rochel. My mother, who wanted me in bed early, when I wanted to stay up late. My mother-in-law, who wanted us to come for Yom Tov, but I wanted to go to my parents’ house.

“Please,” we say, forcefully or pleadingly, “change your wishes for ours.”

We see to what extent tzaddikim are scrupulous that all their deeds should be only for the sake of Heaven. They nullify their will before Hashem’s Will. As it says in Chovos HaLevavos, “Let a person only rejoice in pleasing Him … and let him not ask anything except what is His Will …” (ibid.)

In a moment of truth, I stand poised at an intersection, hesitating over which way to turn. The children, who want dinner? The neighbor at the door? The sale that’s soon ending? The kitchen floor that looks disgraceful?

What now? My eyes lift upwards. It feels good to sense that I have no will of my own. Only the Will of my Creator. “Hashem, what do You want? Then I’ll know what to do.”

But sometimes, my heart is at war. Strong needs and thousands of explanations fill the perspective. “I want … I need … It’s hard for me to give this up.… ”

Where will I find my answer?

It’s written in my heart.

It’s only there that my Creator’s true Will for me is engraved. And only I can decipher what that Will is.

How good is it to bow my head in love, to let the stormy floods pass over me, washing away the shards of egotism along with the remnants of personal desire, leaving me cleansed and purified.

To fulfill my Creator’s Will

To transform His Will into mine.

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