Matching in Passion!
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
ויחבוש את אתונו
And he saddled his donkey
The Possuk relates that Bila’am was so anxious to fulfill his mission of cursing the Jewish People that he saddled his donkey himself. Our Sages say that hatred can make a person behave so irrationally that even a prominent world-famous sorcerer such as Bila’am would reduce himself to readying his animal himself.
Rashi brings from Chazal that Hashem said to Bila’am, "Wicked one! You think that you will be successful because you saddled your donkey yourself? Why, Avraham Avinu already preceded you when he saddled his donkey himself, in preparation for the Akeidah."
What is the ‘merit’ of saddling our donkeys by ourselves, and why would Bila’am think that he has some advantage by doing so?
Rav Moshe Feinstein learns from here an important lesson:
We need to incorporate Torah and Mitzvos into our lives, and treat it as our personal business. As we say every morning in Birkas Hatorah, אשר קדשנו במצותיו, וצונו לעסוק בדברי תורה Hashem commanded us to be ‘engaged’ and toil in the words of Torah. It is not enough to simply learn Torah, it needs to be our עסק - our total involvement - and permeate our very lives.
The barometer for this is how seriously and how engaged we are in the other areas of our life. The importance we give our livelihoods, and the extent to which we engage in our pastimes, we must pursue, to at least the same extent, our Avodas Hashem. We can also measure our passion for Torah and Mitzvos by the passion that the world displays in their worldly pursuits.
Bila’am thought, that if he would ‘saddle his own donkey’ he would actually raise the bar, and create a higher standard of engagement in his goals, that would reflect poorly on us. Our level of enthusiasm in Yiddishkeit would not match others' enthusiasm for their values! To this Hashem replied, "Wicked one, you have it all wrong! The Jewish People already have it in their genes, from Avraham, to dedicate themselves to Hashem on the highest levels!"
We find a similar idea with Haman Harasha, who rejected the king’s offer to finance the extermination of the Jews. He instead offered to pay for the whole thing out of his own pocket pocket. Hashem responded: The Jewish People have already preceded you with their enthusiasm by donating money every year to the Beis Hamikdash!
We see from here how important it is to dedicate ourselves to the service of Hashem, to engage in Torah and MItzvos as our personal business, as least as much as the world at large engages in their pursuits!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!