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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Balak

Parashat Balak

The Power of Good

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Bilam’s trip to curse the children of Israel is delayed by a talking donkey. Why a talking donkey? Sforno explains that God caused such an unusual feat in order to jolt Bilam and cause him to realize his terrible mistake and to repent. If God can grant the power of speech to a mere animal, he can certainly silence a human. Bilam, however, remained stubborn and tenacious, refused to heed this supernatural warning, and continued in his journey to curse the children of Israel. The Talmud (Makot 10a) uses Bilam’s tenacity to demonstrate a wide-ranging principle: "In the way that a man wishes to go, in that way he will be lead."

Reish Lakish, whose illustrious path to Teshuva is documented in Bava Metzia, expounds the Pasuk in Mishle "If to cynics he will act cynically, but to the humble he will grant favor" as follows: "He who comes to defile himself, is provided an opening, but if one comes to purify himself is provided with help" (Shabbat 104a). Negative tactics are made possible, whereas positive ones are promoted. Furthermore, Chazal calculate the power of good as five hundred times that of bad. If a person traveling a harmful course is allowed to proceed without impediment, certainly a steadfast decision to make Aliya will be divinely encouraged.

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