Cultivating Emunah through Free Will by Dovi Lederer


In Parashat Balak, the Torah records the difficulty Billam had in his journey to curse the Bnei Yisrael. Through a variety of mediums, Hashem tries to notify Billam of his wrongful nature of his intentions. Hashem appears to Billam in multiple dreams, his donkey stops three times and speaks, and he encounters an angel. Reb Nosson MiBreslov, the main disciple and scribe of Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov, points out that the strength of Billams perseverance in light of these divine interventions is seemingly preposterous. Billam knew that Hashem did not want to him to go; yet, his free will was so strong that completely disregarded Hashem’s message. Billam was blessed with Nevuah, and he still was unable to see the will of Hashem. He instead opted to go on a journey to curse the Bnei Yisrael.

        Reb Nosson, in his Likutei Halachot, describes free will as the strongest force in the world-- the “Koach Bechirah”. He uses this story of Billam to convey the power of free will, and to show how the potential of the Yetzer Harah to sway one from the will of Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that if a person is convinced through miracles or unworldly occurrences about the greatness and the validity of the Torah and Hashem, then he will serve Hashem fully. The Yetzer Harah will also use wonders and miracles as an enticement. Reb Nosson gives the example of someone who wants to travel to Eretz Yisrael. There will be many obstacles in his way, whether it be financial, physical, or emotional. The Yetzer Harah will go to all costs to try to stop them. Conversely, if someone wants to go do something corrupt, then Hashem will create challenges and obstacles to stop them.

        Reb Nosson teaches that there is always a balance between the Yetzer Harah and Yetzer Tov. However, it may not always appear as balanced equation.  He explains that a person should pray for clarity to discern which Derech they are on. If one opens themselves up to Hashem, he will achieve clarity. If not, then a person will remain on his current path, whether it benefit his existence or not. This is the real purpose of the Koach HaBechirah-- it is a demonstration of a person’s choices to Hashem. Part of Bechirat HaChafshit is recognizing that one cannot choose everything on his own, as choices are heavily influenced by external factors and errors. Therefore, one cannot arrive at certain decisions by means of free will alone. The idea of choosing to let Hashem guide us is supported by Tehillim 24, where David HaMelech asks Hashem to show him His ways: “Derachecha Hashem Hodi’eini; Orchotecha VeLamdeini”, “Show me Your ways, Hashem; teach me your paths.

Prayer is the ultimate clarification, and has the strength to help one decide what to do when presented with the paths of the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Harah.

This Dvar Torah was adapted from a shiur given by Rabbi Meir Elkabas, a leading Breslov Rabbi at the Breslov Research Institute.

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