Haftaras Balak

In this week’s haftarah, the prophet Michah conveys the following message from Hashem to the Jewish People (Michah 6:3): “O My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me.” We presented one of the Maggid’s thoughts on this verse in an earlier piece, on parashas Emor. Here we present another.
Hashem’s question seems puzzling, for our own experience tells us that people find it hard to perform mitzvos. Our Sages discuss this fact, saying (Eichah Rabbah Pesichasa 10): “A whole day a person engages in business without tiring, but when it comes time for him to pray, he feels tired.” People find mitzvos harder than anything else they do.
The reason people find the mitzvos so hard is they do not appreciate them and are distanced from them. A person who appreciates the mitzvos finds them easy and enjoyable. We can draw an analogy to a person carrying a load. Suppose the load is hitched to a pole over the person’s shoulder. If he positions the load far away from him, he will find the load heavy. But if he positions the load close to him, he will find it light. And if, instead of using a pole, he carries the load in a backpack strapped right onto him, he will barely feel it. Similarly, if a person is lugging mitzvos at a distance, he will find them a heavy burden, but if he attaches them to him, he will not feel any burden at all.
People tend not to appreciate mitzvos because they do not perceive purpose and benefit in them. When a person sees the purpose and benefit in a task, he will want to perform it, and will not be deterred by the difficulty it involves. For example, if a person has set out to build himself a house, he will willingly carry heavy stones and beams toward this end. Similarly, if a person feels he can make a good profit by doing business in a distant city, he will willingly endure the demands of travel. And if a person is invited to a banquet with sumptuous food, he will trek through rain or snow to get there. Conversely, if a person is given a task for which he cannot see any purpose, he feels resistance toward it, and the task becomes hard for him, even if the work involved is actually light.
Now, a pure-minded man who walks wholeheartedly with Hashem relies on Him completely for all his needs. He knows that we are Hashem’s flock; he realizes that everything belongs to Hashem, and that the only way to gain anything is through Him. He therefore gladly recites his prayers and observes the established fasts. His attitude toward prayer is like that of a person who come before a king to plead for help – his mind is riveted on what he is saying, and every word is measured. Moreover, a pure-minded man recognizes that Hashem shows him wondrous kindness. As Dovid HaMelech declares (Tehillim 113:5-6), Hashem is enthroned on high, yet He descends to peer upon the heavens and the earth. He grants all beings life and sustenance. Reflecting on Hashem’s acts of kindness, the pure-minded man is filled with awe and love, and he yearns to serve Him, knowing that there is no end to what he ought to do for Hashem in return for what He has done for him. He gladly performs Hashem’s mitzvos, finding the task easy. The more awe and love of Hashem he feels, the easier and more appealing the mitzvos become for him. On the other hand, a person who lacks the sense to recognize Hashem’s watchfulness and kindness considers the mitzvos a meaningless chore. He therefore obviously finds them hard.
Hashem’s question to the Jewish People – “How have I wearied you?” – is a rhetorical question, and Hashem continues by explaining why the Jewish People should not find the mitzvos wearisome. He says (Micah 6:4-5):
For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, and I sent Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam before you. My people, remember, if you please, what Balak, king of Moab, plotted, and what Bilaam son of Beor answered him, [and all the events] from Shittim to Gilgal, in order to recognize Hashem’s righteous acts.
Hashem is telling us that we find the mitzvos wearisome only due to a lack of proper focus. If we would bear in mind the wondrous kindnesses He has done for us, we would serve him with enthusiasm and love.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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