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Parashat Balak

My life’s passion is helping kids from all over the world, of all ages, to improve their reading skills in Hebrew and English. Helping them to focus, to enrich their comprehension, increase speed and to acquire a burning thirst for learning. One of the biggest problems of the orthodox education system is that too many who graduate don’t know Hebrew Grammar, or the laws of Dikduk of Lashon Hakodesh. (There are only 250 Shoreshim in the whole Lashon Hakodesh!) Dikduk is a complex subject, one that is challenging to study.  Many educational systems attempt to introduce Hebrew grammar when children are not yet ready to grasp it.

One of the perks that came along with my life’s mission of helping people with their Dikduk and reading is that there are things that I started to notice in my own personal learning and praying. This is what I realized this week.

פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת יָדֶךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חַי רָצוֹן. Opens Your Hand(s) and satiates the desires of all living beings. There is somewhat strange in this passuk. פּוֹתֵחַ means He opens. יָדֶךָ means Your Hand(s). It would have been more precise to say אתה פותח את ידך, if the one who opens Your Hands is You. Also, what in the world does the passuk mean, when it says all living desires? This bothered me, so I looked it up. And BAM! There it was, in the Malbim!

This is what he says: What opens the hands of G-d, to satiate all living beings? Ratzon! The word that is at the end of the passuk!  Willpower opens the hands of G-d! If you are not having blessing in your life, if you are stuck in life, it is because there is something missing in your will, in the intensity of your desire. What does this even mean?

I am not sure. But as I researched the power of willpower, I saw that deep-set determination can do amazing things. We are taught this in life coaching. In Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, he writes that the first and most important element of success is a burning desire. The Maharsha learns from the words בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך מוליכין אותו  In the path that a person wants to go, “they” will take him. Who is “they”? Every time you want something, good or bad, you create an angel that will take you in that direction. (Maharsha Makkot 10b) Bilaam actually created an angel that told him, Get up and go with the people to curse the Jews. R’ Chaim Shmulevits learns that this angel can even come to a person in the night and plant information in his mind and empower him to do good or evil! (See Yoma 83b. The “father” of the thief tells him, while he is sleeping, where the money is hidden, and thus empowers him.) G-d did not bring the first rain to His Creation until Man was created, until there was Man who wanted it. We have heard stories of how, when people really, really want something, like saving the life of their own child, they somehow, suddenly, acquire superhuman strength.

Why did Balaam’s curses have so much power? Who was he, anyway, that his blessings or his curses should have any consequence, whatsoever? And what lesson are we to learn from the whole episode?

קָרוֹב יְקוָק לְכָל קֹרְאָיו לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָאֻהוּ בֶאֱמֶת. G-d is close to all those who call out to Him, to all those who call Him, in truth. What does it mean, to call out in truth? It means that you really, really, really want something. And you really, really, really know that only G-d can give it to you. This power of will is the power of the blessing of a father or a Talmid Chacham, or a prayer from a Talmid Chacham. Because when these people pray for you, when they bless you, they mean it with their whole heart. The Chafez Chaim said that the reason why Mashiach is not yet here is because we do not really want badly enough. A scary thought.

R Tzaddok says something amazing. This power of really wanting something was the secret to Bilaam’s power. As much as he wanted all the money from Balak’s storage houses, he wanted, even more, to be rid of the Jews. His power lay in his getting up early in the morning to saddle his own donkey, to be up, bright and early, to do what he really wanted to do. The only power in the universe that was able to save us was the intense desire of Avraham Avinu to heed to G-d’s request to sacrifice his only son, Yitzchak, and his getting up, early in the morning, to saddle his own donkey. (See Rashi)

כל מילין דעלמא לא תליין אלא ברעותא. All of the things in the world are dependent only on willpower. (Zohar b 162) The Chida was quoted by the Gerrer Rebbe as having said the words  אין לך דבר עומד בפני הרצון. Nothing stands in the way of willpower. (There is no other source for those words) The Imrei Emet was quoted by the Gerrer Rebbe as having made a most powerful statement: We are judged in the Next World, not on what we did or what we did not do. אונס רחמנא פטריה. We are judged on what we really wanted to do, or what we really wanted not to do.

וַיְגָ֖רֶשׁ אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּשְׁכֵּן֩ מִקֶּ֨דֶם לְגַן־עֵ֜דֶן אֶת־הַכְּרֻבִ֗ים וְאֵ֨ת הַחֶ֙רֶב֙ לִשְׁמֹ֕ר אֶת־דֶּ֖רֶךְ עֵ֥ץ הַֽחַיִּֽים׃ The Shem Mishmuel on parashat Vayeshev writes that the reason why people cannot  reach their personal paradise is the לַ֤הַט הַמִּתְהַפֶּ֔כֶת. What does this mean? להט  has another definition aside from sword. It also can be referring to burning emotion when someone has a great desire, being all intent on his goal. When the “wants” are contradictory, when they are wishy-washy, or מתהפכת, a person loses all serenity and ability for creativity. People cannot judge which “want” is the most important between conflicting issues. This is what holds people back from getting to the Eitz Hachaim, to Yishuv hada’at.

So how does one access his deep-set desires?

Here are the Selfie Steps. The Self-Help steps that you can immediately take to access your inner desire and its powers. It has a lot to do with your inner lexicon. The words you use in the back of your mind when you think.

  1. Only use positive inner lexicon.  I want, not I should, I should not.
  2. Use the word NOW.
  3. Be realistic. Be specific. Make your inner statements time bound.

Examples. I want to eat a nutritional breakfast this morning. NOT I want to lose weight. Or, I should not be so fat.

I want to think Torah thoughts now, and NOT I should not be looking at things I am not supposed to look at, or I should not be wasting time in my day.

I want to give attention, affection, appreciation to my loved ones. And NOT I should stop being the person I am in this relationship.

I want to get up at 6 am tomorrow morning. Not I can’t wake up late again.

  1. Repeat what you want to yourself again and again and again.
  2. BEWARE conflicting wants. You need to choose: health vs. food freedom, saving money, saving time.  Learning Torah vs. Making money, freedom, materialistic desires. Financial stability vs. living a relaxed lifestyle, living without a budget.
  3. PRAY FOR IT!!!

About the author, Yosef

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