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    The parashah begins by describing the immense fear that befell the nations as Klal Yisrael approached the outskirts of Eretz Yisrael, as it states, “Moav was afraid of the nation…”TorahWellsprings- B al ak Rashi writes, “Moav and Midyan always hated one another…but because they feared Bnei Yisrael, they made peace… When they saw Yisrael winning wars miraculously, they said, ‘their leader grew up in Midyan. Let us ask Midyan what is his strength? [Midyan replied] ‘His strength is solely in his mouth.’ Moav said, ‘We will also confront him with someone whose strength is with his mouth,’” and they hired Bilam. The strength of the Jewish nation at that time, and always will be, is their tefillos. The nations of the world recognized that, and therefore were very afraid of the Jewish nation.

    On the passuk, “Balak saw everything that Yisrael did to Emorim” the Trisker Magid zt’l explains that “Emorei” means prayer. Balak saw that everything the Jewish nation does is because of Emorei, their speech, their prayers to Hashem. The passuk continues, “vayigar moav mipnei h’am”. H’am refers to the Yidden who are on lower levels. Moav was afraid of them, too, because Moav knew that even they have the power of tefillah. Similarly, the Noam Elimelech zt’l writes, “Balak understood that the Jewish people can accomplish whatever they desire with words. As Chazal say, ‘A tzaddik decrees, and Hashem complies,’ (Moed Kattan 16). This is the explanation of the words, v’yar, Balak understood, what Yisrael accomplishes is because of their prayers.”

    The strength of the Jewish nation, both on a communal or on an individual level, is due to their tefillos. We do our hishtadlus, we do the best we can, but we never forget that our primary strength is tefillah. One of Bilam’s brachos was, “who can count the dirt of Yaakov?!” The Be’er Maim Chaim zt’l explains that (as stated in the holy sefarim) every person is comprised of four elements: fire, water, wind, and earth, which are the core of a person’s personality and character. The earth element in man is what draws a person towards feeling down, depressed, lazy. A happy person is able to pray with kavanah, but when one is sad and lazy, it’s very hard for him to focus on his prayers. The earth factor in mankind is therefore one of the primary detriments to tefillah. The Gemara says, “Woe to the beauty that is buried in dirt” (Brachos 5:). The Be’er Mayim Chaim zy’a explains, Woe to the beautiful tefillah that is ruined and buried due to the dirt element, which is laziness and sadness. Nevertheless, Bilam blessed the nation, “Who can count the dirt of Yaakov.” This means that even those tefillos said with depression and laziness, who can count them! Who recognizes just how precious they are to Hashem? Even those tainted tefillos accomplish so much! Bilam also prayed, “Let me die the death of the righteous [Jews]” (23:10). It seems that this tefillah was also answered (to an extent) because the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:2) lists four people who don’t have a portion in Olam HaBa: Bilam, Doeg, Achitofel, and Geichazi. Bilam is the only goy on this list; the other three were Yidden. What merit did Bilam have that he should be counted together with Yidden? It was because of this prayer. We learn a kal vechomer from this that if Bilam’s prayers had an effect, certainly our tefillos are very powerful and we should appreciate the power of all our tefillos.

    Tefilah B’tzibur

    We are encouraged to daven at an eis ratzon, a time when the tefillos have a better chance to be answered. As Dovid HaMelech said, ‘My prayer to you Hashem is at an eis ratzon’ (Tehillim 69:14) and the Gemara says that an eis ratzon is when the tzibur is davening, because “Hakadosh Baruch Hu never despises the tefillah of a congregation” (Brachos 8). So therefore, yes, we have the power of tefillah as individuals, but strive to use that strength with a minyan, since at those times the power of your tefillah is multiplied manifold. The Beis Ahron taught, “ Of this, I’m certain: tefillah b’tzibur helps for all matters. Tefillah b’tzibur is as powerful as the tefillah of the greatest tzaddik of the generation.”2 On the passuk (Devarim 11:13), “To serve Him with all your heart” Chazal say, “What is the definition of serving Hashem with all one’s heart? That’s tefillah.” After establishing that avodah means prayer, the Rebbe of Radishitz zt’l added that the passuk “Serve Hashem and Hashem will bless your bread and your water and He will remove illnesses from you,” is also referring to tefillah. The passuk is referring to tefillah b’tzibur, as it states v’avadtem in plural, and the passuk implies that when you daven with a minyan, you will have parnassah and health. Similarly, the Ksav Sofer zt’l taught that tefillah b’tzibur is mesugal for parnassah. He learns this from the passuk, “v’lavdo bchol l’vavchem ub’chol nafshechem v’natati matar arzechem bato. This passuk is discussing tefillah b’tzibur, as it states lavdo bchol l’vavchem and l’vavchem is plural (see Rashi on Devarim 11:13). Thus, the passuk is saying that one who davens with a minyan will merit matar, rain, which hints at parnassah. The Ksav Sofer explains that at times, being cautious to daven with a minyan seems to cause people to lose parnassah. For what if a great business deal comes up just at the time that there is a minyan? He will forfeit the deal to daven with a minyan. The passuk encourages us not to be concerned about that, because being cautious to daven with a minyan will grant you even more parnassah. So whatever you lose by davening with a minyan, you will gain even more so because of your devotion to daven with a minyan. In a letter to his chassidim, the Yismach Yisrael zt’l writes, “I encourage the businessmen to daven in the beis chassidim (beis medresh) every morning and every evening with a minyan. Even if they must wait until the minyan gathers, they should wait, and in the meanwhile they can learn something. I promise they will not lose money because of this. On the contrary, they will be blessed with parnassah.” After a successful fundraising trip, the Ponovezher Rav (Rav Kahaneman) zt’l told the students of Ponovezh yeshiva that he accredits his success to his caution to daven with a minyan. He said, “A wealthy person told me that the only time I could meet with him was early in the morning, at the train station. This wealthy person was taking the 8:30 a.m. train, and he asked me to meet him there fifteen minutes beforehand. “That morning I woke up late, at 7:00 a.m. (I don’t think I ever woke up so late before.) I realized that if I daven Shacharis with a minyan, I wouldn’t be on time for the meeting. I debated what to do. My first thought was to daven beyichidus, and to meet this wealthy person at the train station. After all, it was for a mitzvah, to support the yeshiva. But after thinking about it some more, I realized that I should daven with a minyan. To do otherwise, was just the yetzer hara. “It was very late when I finished Shacharis, but I decided to go to the train station, regardless.” The Ponovezher Rav continued, “Five minutes after I got to the train station that wealthy man arrived. He thought I waited for him almost an hour. He apologized effusively, and gave me a large check.” The Ponovezher Rav waved the check in front of the bachurim. It was sufficient to support the yeshiva for a half a year. The Ponovezher Rav said, “The Midrash states, ‘no one ever listened to Me, and lost out.’ It’s obvious and simple that I wouldn’t lose money by being cautious to daven with a minyan. The reason I’m telling you this story is so you should know that in addition to not losing out, one also gains by being cautious with Torah and mitzvos, and with davening with a minyan. Imagine what would have happened had I davened by myself and come on time to the meeting. After waiting for several minutes at the train station, and the wealthy person didn’t arrive, I would have left. I wouldn’t have waited for him for nearly an hour. But because I davened with a minyan, I got this generous check.