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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Power of Zeal

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

G-d instructed Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac, bind him on to an alter, and sacrifice him to G-d. The Torah reports that Abraham “ROSE UP IN THE MORNING” to perform G-d’s will with enthusiasm and zeal.

Bilaam intended to place a fatal curse on the Jewish people. G-d was against Bilaam’s plan of destroying the people of Israel. Bilaam decided to curse them anyway. “And Bilaam ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING to curse the people of Israel.” He rose with zeal.

Bilaam acted exactly as Avrohom Avinu did!

Said the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘ Villain! Their father Abraham has already preceded you - it won’t work!’ (Midrash Rabbah Gen. XXII, 3).

What won’t work?

So Bilaam was an early bird. Did he actually expect G-d to be impressed with the fact that he got up early in the morning? Is G-d impressed with someone who is enthusiastic about sin? What if Abraham would not have preceded him with his with his early rising - would Bilaam have had more success? The comparison between Abraham and Bilaam is astonishing. How can we compare the zeal of doing a Mitzvah to the zeal of sinning?

The answer is - zeal is zeal. With our attitudes and state of mind we create our world.

Einstein wrote that our personal environment is in an organismic state of readiness to respond in a characteristic way to the stimulus we create. If we are success oriented and we behave as if we are successful G-d will grant us success. If we are negative and despondent, our environment will respond in a like way.

I’m fond of quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s advice to me when I asked him whether he thought I should embark on a huge community project; “Tracht Gut-- un es vet zein gut!” he said, “Think good - and it will be good!”

“G-d is your shadow” (Tehilim 121; 5). He mimics and shadows us in all of our attitudes and passions. If we are enthusiastic, even for the wrong outcome, G-d will make it happen. That is the way He wired the world.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

Bilaam knew the secret of the world. The Talmud says regarding Bilaam, “Whichever path a man wants to take G-d will accompany him.” His negative enthusiasm could have been such a strong force that it could have, G-d forbid, annihilated our people.

But Abraham came first. Abraham was enthusiastic about our survival, about our blessings and about our eternity - so here we are to tell the story.

“Tracht Gut - un es vet zein gut!”

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