Take Responsibility: This is the way to move forward financially.

In Parshat Balak, the Torah comes to teach us a very important lesson- dependence and guilt stem from fear. Pointing a finger at the world and not towards ourselves is the basis for our failures and inability to advance and develop. The same is true of our financial issues. Once we take responsibility, we can then address our financial challenges.

The story, in its special way, conveys a message about dependency, guilt and responsibility. Already in the beginning of the Parsha, when the emissaries of the king of Moav wish to call upon Bilam, Bilam leaves it up to G-d to decide if he will go with them or not: “And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian went, with magic charms in their hands, and they came to Bilam and conveyed Balak’s message to him. And he [Bilam] said to them, stay here for the night, and I will give you an answer when the Lord speaks to me. And the Moabites stayed with Bilam.  (22: 7-8)

G-d answers Bilam that he should not go, and so Bilam returns to them empty.

Balak does not give up and again sends messengers to Bilam, this time in the form of ministers, with a higher status than the last. Again Bilam leaves the decision up to G-d, but this time G-d changes his answer: “God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If these men have come to call for you, arise and go with them, but the word I speak to you-that you shall do.” (22:20).

In other words, G-d is saying if you wish to be dependent upon me, I will take responsibility for what you will do there- you will have no ability to influence the situation.

Later on in the story, Bilam goes with his she-donkey that sees an angel in the middle of the road preventing them from continuing. Bilam hits his she-donkey who then asks: “The she-donkey saw the angel of the Lord, and it crouched down under Bilam. Bilam’s anger flared, and he beat the she-donkey with a stick. The Lord opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and she said to Bilam, “What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?” Bilam said to the she-donkey, “For you have humiliated me; if I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” The she-donkey said to Bilam, “Am I not your she-donkey on which you have ridden since you first started until now? Have I been accustomed to do this to you?” He said, “No.” (22: 27-30)

The first action that Bilam takes is blame his donkey, even though it has never acted in this way before.

After the angel reveals itself to Bilam, Bilam apologizes and relies on the angel for the rest of his journey:  “Bilam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing on the road before me. Now, if this is bad in your eyes, I will return.” (22: 34)

Later on, Balak asks Bilam to curse the nation of Israel. Bilam stages the whole process of cursing the nation: “Bilaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams.” (23: 1)

When Bilam comes to curse the nation, G-d switches his words and Bilam finds himself blessing the nation of Israel instead.

This occurs three times, and each time there is a change of place and a change of atmosphere, but no taking of responsibility. Balak attributes his success to Bilam, accusing him of not doing his job. Bilam on the other hand, attributes his success to G-d and relies on G-d that his words will come out good.

The Basis for Failure

The Torah comes to teach us a very important lesson- dependence and guilt are not tools for coping. They stem from fear, as it appears in the beginning of the Parsha: “Moab became terrified of the nation” (22: 3)

The only one who took responsibility here was G-d, and His blessings were successful. Balak put his dependence on Bilam, and blames Bilam when he is not successful. Balak himself feels that he has walked out clean. Bilam, from his side, said from the start that he would do everything only according to G-d’s conditions. When he was not able to curse, he also felt he walked out clean, because the responsibility was not his.

Lack of responsibility – the idea that ‘it has nothing to do with me’ – is the basis for failures and inability to advance and develop. If a person takes responsibility for himself then he can learn from the mistakes made, learn lessons and improve.

Many families point an accusing finger at external factors that affect their economic situation. The banks are guilty of issuing loans without choice, the government is responsible for the high cost of living, the neighbors are to blame for the parking ticket of a vehicle parked outside of their house. The employer, the consumer culture, the social pressure, the media – when the finger accuses, the problem cannot be solved.

When we take responsibility and ask ourselves: how can I deal with the high prices in the grocery store? How can I save on expense? How do I avoid taking a loan? – then we can begin to address our economic issues.

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