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ויאמר מלאך ד' אל בלעם לך עם האנשים

The angel of Hashem said to Bilaam, “Go with the men.” (22:35)

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Hashem originally instructed Bilaam not to go with the Moavite emissaries. Then, He changed the message. He could go with them. Rashi explains this based upon the Talmudic dictum, B’derech she’adam rotzeh leilech bah molichin oso, “The path that a person chooses to follow, they bring him (and allow him to go) down that path.” In other words, Bilaam indicated that he would like to join the officers of Moav. When Hashem saw that Bilaam yearned to accompany them, He said, “Go!” Chazal’s statement leaves us with a question about the text. What is the meaning of the word bah, it?

The Maharsha wonders who the “they” is that lead him on his selected path. He explains that, when one has a good machshavah, thought, he creates a good malach, angel. When his thought is bad, when he plans to do something that runs counter to the Torah, he creates a bad malach. It is those malachim, angels, whom he created with his positive or negative thoughts who lead him on his preselected path. The path one chooses for himself is not one that he travels alone. The angels that he created guide him along his selected path. Thus, the Tanna of this Mishnah teaches: On the path that one selects for himself – bah – it, the choice he made leads him. How does the choice lead him? He created angels that accompany him. They are his choice, and they are the ones who are molichin oso, bring him down that path.

Alternatively, bah means specifically “it,” with complete adherence to his will. Horav Chaim Toito, Shlita, relates an incident that occurred concerning Horav Moshe Aharon Stern, zl, Mashgiach of Kaminetz, Yerushalayim, which underscores this point. When Rav Moshe Aharon was a lad of eight years old, he became deathly ill. His parents took him to the finest doctors, the biggest specialists. They responded, “Say a prayer.” Tehillim was all that was left for them to do. People recited Tehillim for him around the clock. One day, his father looked at him and said, “Look, everyone is reciting Tehillim for you; everyone is petitioning Hashem for your speedy recovery – everyone – but you.” The young boy asked his father, “What should I do? I, too, am reciting Tehillim. Is there anything else I can do?” His father replied, “Accept upon yourself a hanhagah tovah, good practice, a special deed to which you will commit yourself, regardless of the circumstances.” “Does Father have a suggestion for me?” the boy asked. His father thought a moment and replied, “Yes. Accept upon yourself that, upon being cured from this illness, you commit yourself to always daven with a minyan.” The young boy agreed to accept this policy as a commitment for life. Indeed, he doubled down on his learning, his yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, and strengthened his minyan attendance. He would go out of his way to see to it that, under all circumstances, he would daven with a minyan.

Once he became Mashgiach of Kamenitz, his duties changed commensurably. He now had to shoulder responsibility for maintaining the fiscal obligations of the yeshivah. As the yeshivah grew in size, his obligations also grew. It meant taking off time from the yeshivah to travel to the diaspora to raise funds for the yeshivah. While this presented a problem concerning the time he spent with his students, it also presented a logistical nightmare with regard to his commitment to daven with a minyan. Therefore, whenever he purchased a ticket to travel out of the country, he made sure that either there was a minyan on the plane or he took a flight that had a layover which afforded him the opportunity to locate and daven with a minyan.

Once, on a trip to America, he asked the agent if there would be a minyan at the airport. The response was to be expected, “It is an airport, not a shul.” He could not promise him a minyan, but, if there were enough observant Jewish travelers (which there are at Ben Gurion airport), there would be a minyan. If minyan was so important to him, however, the agent suggested that the Mashgiach take a stopover flight which would allow him a few hours to leave the airport, locate a shul and daven before returning for the continuation of his flight. Thus, on his next flight to the United States, he booked a flight that had a layover in Amsterdam. He figured he would have sufficient time to take a taxi from the airport to a shul, daven and return in time for his flight to the States. The plane landed in Amsterdam for a two-hour layover. He walked outside the terminal and searched for a taxi/car service. He had been standing there a few moments when a car pulled up, and the driver asked him in Ivrit, “Where is the Rav going?” Rav Moshe Aharon replied, “I require a minyan.” During the trip, the driver informed the Mashgiach that he lived outside of the city, and every morning he drove into the city to daven and go to work. After a short while, the car came to a stop in a small alley. They alighted and went into a small shul, in which were assembled eight Jews, who were waiting for two more Jews to complete the minyan. The Mashgiach davened and returned to the airport in time for his flight. He did not miss davening with a minyan.

When the Mashgiach related this story, his eyes shone brightly as he would say, “Imagine, eight Jews arise in the morning prepared to daven, knowing that they are eight; number nine must drive in from the suburbs and they must hope that number ten will somehow, from somewhere, materialize. This time they were “gifted” a Jew who was traveling to the United States whose commitment to minyan was so strong that he was ‘availed’ the opportunity to join their minyan that morning.”

We derive from here that just, rotzeh leilech, wanting to go in a certain direction, is insufficient. One must commit strongly to this path. Then he can be assured that, if he commits bah, to it, with strong intention, he will be led there. He must, however, have a bah,” a specific, unequivocal commitment to “it.”

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