Choosing Good over Evil

In Honor of Sharona and Josh Halickman’s 19th  Anniversary

In Parshat Balak we read about Bilam, a prophet who on the one hand wants to follow God’s instructions not to curse the Jewish people yet on the other hand wants to follow King Balak’s commandment to curse them.


In Bamidbar 22:12 we read: “God said to Bilam: ‘Do not go with them! You shall not curse the people for they are blessed.’”


A few psukim later, King Balak still wants Bilam to go with Moav’s dignitaries. In Bamidbar 22:20 we read: “God appeared to Bilam that night and said to him: ‘If the men have come to call you, arise and go with them; however whatever I will say to you, you will do.’”


In sentences 21-22 “Bilam arose in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moavite dignitaries. God showed anger because he went…”


If God first told Bilam not to go, then why does God later tell Bilam to go? And once God tells Bilam that he can go, why does He get angry when Bilam actually does go?


Nechama Leibowitz quotes the Rambam in Hilchot Tshuva 6:5 who teaches the words from the Talmud, Shabbat 104a: “He who comes to purify himself is assisted from on high”. The Gemara also states: “He who comes to defile himself, the way is opened for him”.


In other words, God gives us free choice. If Bilam is so set on going with the dignitaries then God is not going to hold him back. It is clear from the way that Bilam woke up early and saddled his donkey that he was anxious to go with them.


If someone wants to violate the Torah or commit a crime, God does not interfere.


However, if someone wants to do a good deed, then God will help them to achieve their goal.


It says in Breisheet 1:27: “And God created the person in His form, in the form of God, he created him, male and female he created them”.


Every human being is created in the image of God. We each have the power to choose right from wrong. In Dvarim 30:19 we are told: “I call to witness against you this day the heaven and the earth, life and death. I have set before you the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life that you may live, you and your seed.”


Although God is not going to choose for us, we know which path He would like us to follow, the path of life.


In Breisheet 4:10, it is clear that God was not happy when Kayin killed Hevel: “God said to Kayin: What have you done? The voice of your brother’s bloods cries out to me from the ground”.


If we make an effort to try to be constructive and make a positive mark on this world then God will help us achieve that goal. However, if someone God forbid wants to do the opposite, the door will be left open for him.


Our task is to teach our children the difference between good and evil so that they will be capable of ensuring that good, not evil will prevail.