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The Zohar, in Bechukotai, makes an amazing statement concerning the portion of Balak. It begins by quoting a verse from the Haftorah we read on the Shabbat of Balak, from the Prophet Micah, in which the Creator is speaking to us, saying, “Remember what Balak did, and what Bilaam wanted to do.” The Zohar tells us that when we call to the Creator and say, “Look at us, remember us, answer our prayers,” but our prayers go unanswered, the reason is because we’re not remembering what the Creator is telling us to remember: the whole story of Balak and Bilaam.
“The Creator does miracles, and only He knows about them."
Briefly, the story is of Balak, the king of Moab, and Bilaam, who were both great sorcerers. Balak feared and hated the Israelites, and knew that by himself he was not powerful enough to destroy them, because they were protected by the Light of the Creator. He therefore convinced his enemy, Bilaam, to help him in his quest of cursing the Israelites.
So, the Zohar tells us there is a very important lesson in the portion Balak that is the cause of why prayers go unanswered. In the Zohar portion of Balak, there is a beautiful discussion concerning the verse that says, “The Creator does miracles that only He knows of.” Balak and Bilaam came close to completely destroying all of the Israelites in the desert, and nobody was aware of it. Not Moses, Aaron, or any of the Israelites. When we read the story we see that there was never any interaction between them at all. The Israelites were living their lives like everything was fine, while at the same moment, Balak and Bilaam, the two most negative forces in the world, were getting closer and closer to completely destroying them.
But the miracle here of the Israelites being saved was unlike any other miracle, greater even than the Splitting of the Sea, and the going out of Egypt. Why? Because none of the Israelites knew they needed this miracle. Nobody was praying for a miracle, nobody was asking for a miracle, nobody was worried about it. “The Creator does miracles, and only He knows about them.” The great secret of this portion, therefore, is that we are actually in the most danger when we have no idea we’re in danger, and that we actually are in need of the most assistance when we have no idea that we need assistance.
When everything’s fine with ourselves and our families, when everything is going right, do we remember the story of Balak and Bilaam? When everything is fine, are we as concerned in those moments as when a doctor, lawyer, or anyone else tells us we have something to be worried about? No. We see that everything’s fine and don’t think we have to worry, so we don’t push ourselves in our spiritual work or connections. And then, when something happens, that’s when we push. If we think like that, however, the Zohar says our prayers don’t actually have power and our connection to the Light is not strong.
"We actually are in need of the most assistance when we have no idea... "
If we want our prayers to be answered, if we want a true connection to the Light of the Creator, we need to realize there are endless forces of negativity in this world, and the only way to be protected from them is by knowing this. If we can really live our lives this way, knowing that just because everything seems to be okay now, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a negative force outside, then we can be protected. The Zohar tells us that every day when we wake up, there are forces trying to inject negativity. And so, every day, we have to fight, pray, and connect to protect ourselves from the forces that we have no idea are trying to harm us.
Therefore, it is important to try to live our lives in this way, knowing that in every single moment we cannot be lax in our connections and spiritual work, because that might be the moment when the forces of Balak and Bilaam, the forces of negativity, will try to come in. And if in every moment, regardless of how well things are going, we are always pushing ourselves in our connection to the Light, and in our prayers, then prayers are answered, and we can truly be connected to the Light of the Creator.
There is a story my father, Rav Berg, would often tell. Somebody came to him and said, “You’re not going to believe the amazing miracle that happened to me today! I was on my way to The Centre, and a car hit me, and his car was destroyed, but I only had a scratch on mine!” To which Rav Berg would reply, “Really? I had a greater miracle today. I drove here and nothing happened.” Why? Because the Creator is constantly creating miracles for us that we don’t even know about. And if we can understand that, then we can draw those miracles and that protection into our lives regularly.