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Balak

In this week's parashah, we read of King Balak's disappointment in Bil'am, the prophet of the Nations. Balak thought that Bil'am could curse the Jews, and Hashem would be obligated to comply. However, Bil'am explained to him that he is only a servant of the Almighty and can only say what Hashem puts into his mouth. Consequently, although Balak had offered to pay him very handsomely, not only wasn't he able to curse the Jews, but he was even forced by Hashem to bless them instead.

At first thought, Balak's wish seems silly indeed. Did he actually think that a human being, a mortal man, had so much influence on Hashem? In reality, though, he was quite right. It says in Iyov (22:28); "You shall decree something and it shall be established to you; and the light shall shine upon your ways." The Gemara (Ta'anis 23a) applies this to Choni Hameagel who was able to cause Hashem to send rains according to his request. Similarly, the Gemara says (Bava Metzia 85a), "One who teaches Torah to the son of a boor, even if Hashem decrees a decree, he can abolish it, as it says, (Yirmiyahu 15:19), 'If you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as my mouth.'" From this we see that Tzaddikim (Saints) actually do have the power to "bind Hashem" by their words. Balak's mistake was in thinking that Bil'am was of that stature.

At our daughter Shevy's wedding, Rabbi Eliezer Rosner told me the following story.

"After our grandson had been married for several years, he and his wife visited me. They told me that since they had not succeeded in having a child yet, they were planning to begin a series of treatments. I asked them to wait a while and to meet me at the Aperion Hall in Jerusalem, at a designated time, when I knew that Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, shlita, Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr, would be there attending a bris (circumcision ceremony).

"Once we were all there, I brought them over to the Rabbi and asked him to give them his blessing. Without hesitation, the Rabbi agreed and began to bless them: 'May Hashem help thatů.' To the Rabbi's surprise, I interrupted him and said, 'Honorable Rabbi. That is not the kind of blessing I had in mind. I don't want you merely to wish them that Hashem should help them. I have done so much to help you make Migdal Ohr the tremendous institution it is today, serving over six thousand underprivileged students from Israel and around the world. I believe I have the right to ask you to say the following: "I, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, hereby decree that by one year from today, you will be pregnant!"' The Rabbi was taken aback, but he knew that I meant business. After giving it some thought, he acquiesced and said what I had requested of him.

"Ten months later, the couple returned to me. She had not yet become pregnant, they said, and they were going to begin the treatments immediately. I asked them why in the world they would want to begin a complicated process, when there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that within two months she would be naturally pregnant. Why didn't they have the patience to wait a little longer, I asked. But they were adamant. They said that they would wait only one more week, and would begin the treatments the following Monday.

"The following Sunday, my granddaughter was informed that she was, thank G-d, pregnant; and my newest great-granddaughter was born today."

Replying, I told Rabbi Rosner that I would like to explain his own story to him.

Chassidim tell of a great Rebbe who was once asked by a couple for a blessing for a child. The Rabbi gave them his blessing and they immediately went out and bought a baby carriage, a crib and other necessities for the blessed event they expected. Before the year's end, the woman gave birth to a child.

Everyone was thrilled with the good tidings, but the Rebbe's personal attendant was very upset. He approached the Rebbe and complained. "Holy Rabbi," he said. "I have been serving you faithfully for over twenty years. Over this period of time, I have asked you often to bless me and my wife with children. And you, indeed, gave us your blessing. Yet we are still childless. How can it be that to a couple off the street you gave such a strong blessing that worked instantly, and to me you apparently gave a much weaker one which still has not worked to this very day?

The Rebbe listened compassionately to his Chossid's complaint against him. Then he replied. "The difference, my dear son, does not lie in me or in my blessings. The difference lies in you and them. Tell me, after I blessed you and your wife, did you ever go out and buy a baby carriage like they did? It is their absolute belief in the power of the one who blessed them which gave my blessing the power to be successful."

"Similarly," I told Rabbi Rosner, "it was because you had absolutely no doubt that Rav Grossman could make such a decree, that he, the great Tzaddik that he is, was able to help you and your grandchildren."


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