Helping others with no profit motive or desire for returns finds favor before God and arouses Divine assistance and rewards.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Balak” (Numbers 22:2-25:9) and it centers on the attempts of Balak, the evil King of Moav, to curse the Jewish people through the powers of the equally evil Bilaam, a well-known prophet, wizard, and magic-man whose curses were proven to be effective.
Balak wanted to benefit from Bilaam’s services so he sent messengers asking him to take the job of cursing the Jewish people.
Bilaam asked the messengers to stay overnight and told them he would give an answer in the morning after consulting with God during the night. God told Bilaam, “Do not go with them! Do not curse the people, for they are blessed!”
So that was that, and Balak’s messengers returned to their boss.
When Balak received the negative response, he assumed that the reason Bilaam declined the job was because he didn’t offer him money to do it. So Balak tried again, with a different, more elaborate delegation of messengers, along with a “six digit” contract.
But as evil as Bilaam was, he was, ultimately, a prophet of God, and responded to this second offer with: “Even if Balak would give me all of his silver and gold I am unable [to take the job] … I can only do that which God permits me to do.”
Nevertheless, Bilaam again asked the messengers to remain overnight so that he could consult God and maybe receive a different response this time.
And indeed, a different response he got.
This time God told Bilaam, “If these people are coming for your benefit then go with them–but only speak that which I tell you.”
It appears that God changed His mind! And what’s more, the commentators explain that God changed His mind because he wanted Bilaam to make some good money! Yes. Money talks! The first time Balak sent messengers to Bilaam, he did not offer him any money for his services. So that’s why God told Bilaam not to go … he had nothing to gain! But the second time, when Bilaam was offered big bucks, God gave His OK.
Whoa! This sounds really strange. What’s going on over here?
It is explained that the greatest deed a person can perform is a deed with no ulterior motives. Doing something simply because it is good or the right thing to do is the holiest act. We are told that a person gets Divine assistance when doing something altruistically. Doing something for money, however, while completely acceptable, lessens the value of the act, and by extension the amount of Divine assistance one has the ability to arouse.
When Balak’s messengers came the first time asking Bilaam to curse the Jews, without offering any money, Bilaam was very willing to go because he hated the Jews so much! He was only too happy to participate. He was sincere! He hated the Jews and he wanted to curse them.
As such, there was the real concern that his “altruistic” and “sincere” motives would prove successful … and the Jews would end up being cursed! But when Bilaam was offered big bucks, his attitude changed directions. He was now more interested in the money than in actually cursing the Jews! As such, there was much less concern that he would be successful. So that’s why God then gave him the OK.
We see from here that helping others with no profit motive or desire for returns finds favor before God and arouses Divine assistance and rewards.
We should make time in our lives to use our talents in not-for-profits ways. Just like we give money to charity, so too we should give of our time for charitable efforts.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.