In the portion Balak, we learn that if prophecy is available for Bilaam, who is considered a very low human being, then it must be available for everyone. Therefore, the Light that is available on Shabbat Balak is that of prophecy, of how we can all live our lives connecting to the Light of the Creator in such a way that our direction, decisions, and actions are so clear that we never have any doubt.
So, I want to share a teaching from Maimonides, the Rambam, where he talks about prophecy. There are four very important prerequisites for the highest level of prophecy, he tells us. The first three are: to be a wise person, to be a strong person, and to be a person who can always rule over his negative inclination, never swayed by his Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. And the fourth prerequisite, I think, might be the most important one that we need to either continue or begin working on: to have a wide, or expansive, consciousness.
A person who has the perfection of these four prerequisites is at the highest level of prophecy, like Moses. However, if we are working on the four, and are not at perfection yet, we can still be getting levels of direction and prophecy; as we develop these four parts of ourselves, we get higher, and clearer direction. Often, when we are trying to gain clarity about something we should or shouldn’t do, we ask for assistance, and then become maybe 60% clear, so we go in that direction. But the ultimate level, and this is really what all of us should be striving for, is complete clarity about everything, all of the time. But like I said, it is important to remember this is not a zero sum game; it is not that we are either a prophet like Moses, or we have no direction. It is actually that all of us are on some level within the frame of prophecy, and we are directed to whatever level we are on.
That is the beginning of the understanding of the concept of prophecy. These are the four qualities that one needs in order to have ultimate prophecy, or to be growing in their ability to be a prophet. A person who has these four qualities, then, has the consciousness, the mind, and the ability to understand and comprehend… and when we have more prophecy, meaning we have clearer direction in our life from the Light of the Creator, we are becoming more elevated all the time. And on Shabbat Balak, we have the opportunity to ask how we can grow more in these four categories so that we can become clearer and more certain about the actions the Creator wants us to do and the direction the Creator wants us to take.
In addition to these four prerequisites, to be able to receive more direction, we need to stop using our mind to think about things that are silly, not real, or of the ego, because that mind-space limits the amount of prophecy space. The Rambam tells us, therefore, that the mind has to prepared. How do we prepare our mind? By allowing it less leeway to be thinking about these false and ego-driven things. The less of that, the more space there is for real prophecy, for real direction. And when a person develops his mind so that more of it is focused on the Light of the Creator, that person elevates. In fact, when that moment of prophecy comes to us, when “the spirit rests upon us,” we become a different person, and come to a state where we are more elevated even than those who have wisdom.
And yet, it is possible for someone to have the four prerequisites and also have prepared their mind, but still not receive prophecy. Why is that? Because there is one more piece, we are told, needed in our preparation to receive prophecy. Prophets do not wake up in the morning and say, for example, "Today at 2:30, I am going to ask for prophecy." It does not work like that; the real prophets do not know when the prophecy or clarity is going to come. Rather, they focus on their desire for the moment when the spirit will rest upon them, for the clarity to come. But in order to receive it, they, and we, have to be in a place of joy. Which means that a person can have the four qualities, or at least is trying to develop the four qualities of which we spoke, and have prepared their mind, but if they are not putting themselves in a place of joy, the prophecy cannot come down to them. Prophecy cannot come to us when we are either in sadness, or not pushing ourselves to grow.
If we work on ourselves spiritually to attain these four prerequisites - to be wise, strong, never swayed by our negative inclination, and have an expansive consciousness - and do what we can to both prepare our minds and be in a state of joy, prophecy can come down to us, and we can begin to live our lives constantly directed by the Light, without any doubt. And the assistance to prepare ourselves in such a way to be able to receive these ultimate levels of prophecy is available to us on Shabbat Balak.