According to Jewish law,1 the Haftorah of a Torah reading reflects the content of that Torah reading, and more precisely, its conclusion.2

Seemingly, the connection between Parshas Balak and its Haftorah is direct. The Haftorah relates3 that G‑d commands the Jewish people: “My nation, remember the counsel given by Balak, King of Moav, and the response Bilaamthe son of Beorgavehim from Shittim.” This relates to the content of Parshas Balak.

It is, however, understood that the connection between the Hafto­rah and the Torah reading is not confined to a single verse but relates to its general theme. This is obvious from the fact that, as is well known, the Haftorah was originally instituted in place of the entire Torah reading.4 According to the recognized general principle5 that a subject’s theme is alluded to in its beginning, it is clear that there is a connection between (the conclusion of) Parshas Balak and the begin­ning of the Haftorah:6 “The remnant of Yaakov will be in the midst of many nations... they will not hope from man, nor expect from a mortal.”


The Haftorah is speakingabout the time at the beginning of the Redemption; the time before Mashiach’s identity will be definitely established. For [to establish Mashiach’s identity definitively it is required that] he complete waging all the wars and “transform the nations... so that they serve G‑d with a single purpose.”7 The Haftorah, by contrast, speaks about how [Mashiach] will [be in the process of] waging wars against the nations, as it is written:8 “The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of the nations... like a lion among the animals of the forest... who tramples and preys.”

Moreover, not only will the era that the Haftorah speaks about involve [conflict] with external evil — [wars against] the gentiles — there will also be internal evil, i.e., within the Jews themselves, as it is written:9 “I will cut away witchcraft from your hand.... I will cut away your idols.... I will uproot your Asherah trees.”10 [Implied is that] the evil will be so powerful that it will be necessary for there to be assistance from Above to eliminate it, as the verse states: “I will cut away.... I will uproot.” [The existence of such evil indicates that] the Haftorah speaks about the time at the beginning of the Redemption when the last preparations for the complete Redemption will take place.

Similarly, the Torah reading, Parshas Balak, speaks of a comparable phase in history, the time directly before the Jews’ entry into Eretz Yisrael for the first time [as a nation]. The Jews were “in the plains of Moav, across from Jericho at the Jordan,”11 ready to enter Eretz Yisrael. [This resembles the Jews’ state] before entering Eretz Yisrael at the time of the ultimate Redemption. In particular, [the connection is apparent] according to the well-known concept12 that had the Jews not sinned, the ultimate Redemption would have come when they first entered Eretz Yisrael.


The preparation for the Redemption is, as stated in the beginning of the Haftorah: “not [to] hope from man, nor expect from a mortal.” Even though the Haftorah is speaking about a phase before the Re­demption blossoms into complete fulfillment, still, we will no longer have to rely on mortals, nor depend on them [for our succor. Implied is that we will not] even [rely on our fellow] Jews, as it is written:13 “Cursed is the human who trusts in man.” [“Man” refers to the Jews, as our Sages state:]14 “You are called ‘man.’” Instead, we will rely only on G‑d, as it is written:15 “Blessed be the man who puts his faith in G‑d.”

Since the verse speaks about a time at the beginning of the Redemption, we can assume that the charge not to rely on man is not intended merely to negate a forbidden course of conduct, one that runs contrary to the Torah’s guideline “Cursed is the human who trusts in man.” Instead, it teaches us to rise above reliance on man even in a manner permitted by the Torah. For in that era, this will not be necessary.

It is written:16 “And G‑d your L‑rd will bless you in everything that you do.” [Commenting on the verse,] the Sifri asks: “Shall one sit idle?17 The Torah teaches: ‘in everything that you do.’” For according to the Torah, it is necessary to make a medium within the natural order,18 since we should not rely on miracles.19 [Hence,] since according to the natural order it is necessary to [work] with others, even gentiles, there is room within the Torah’s guidelines to “hope from man.”

The verse “Cursed is the human who trusts in man” does not represent a contradiction to the above. Although we make a medium in the natural order, we do not rely on the natural order as it exists in its own right (“hop[ing] from man”). Instead, one trusts in G‑d and believes that He will help him through the mediums that he has prepared within the natural order.20

This represents the new development that will come in the time of the Redemption: [Blessings will come] “like dew from G‑d” 21 which “does not come to the world through mortal efforts, nor does man request it. Similarly, Israel will not rely on assistance from man, but from G‑d.”21

{In this vein, Chassidus22 interprets the verse:23 “It is preferable to rely on G‑d than to trust in man” as teaching that “trust[ing] in man” is permitted by the Torah. It is, however, “preferable to rely on G‑d.”

“Trust[ing] in man” refers [not only to man on the earthly plane, but also to] the Sublime Man, [G‑d’s image,] i.e., the Divine energy that “fills all the worlds” (memale kol almin).From the perspective of this level of spirituality, man must endeavor to make a medium within the natural order on which G‑d’s blessings will rest.24 Therefore it is “preferable to rely on G‑d,” on the level of G‑dliness that “transcends all the worlds” (sovev kol almin). At this level, it is not necessary for man to establish a medium in the natural order. Instead, “He will provide for you (יכלכלך),”25 [i.e.,] G‑d will provide the medium (כלי) as well.}24


The ultimate intent is not for the natural order to be nullified but for it to be refined and elevated26 to the extent that it is overtly apparent that nature is one with G‑d. With regard to the concept at hand — not to hope in man — the intent is not to negate the help that a person offers. Instead, the natural order should be so totally permeated with G‑d’s oneness that we see [the help that a man offers] (not as help from man) but only as help from G‑d.

[To explain:] The acts [within the natural order that one employs as a medium] can be conceived of in two ways:

a) One knows that the natural order in and of itself is of no significance; it is merely an axe in the hands of the chopper.20 Nevertheless, since G‑d commanded that a person act and make a medium [for success] within the natural order, he considers the natural order significant. He does not consider the natural order important in its own right, but nevertheless, since G‑d has commanded that it be employed, he grants it a certain measure of importance.27

b) He acts within the context of the natural order only because G‑d commanded him to. The natural order has no importance for him whatsoever. It is only a medium to carry out G‑d’s will.28

This is the explanation29 of our Sages’ interpretation30 of the phrase:31 “The faith of your times.” They say: “‘The faith’ — refers to the Order of Agricultural Laws”; [i.e.,] “one believes in the Eternal Life and sows.”

[Seemingly,] sowing grain is a natural act; one sows seeds and grain grows. It does not matter who does the sowing, a Jew or להבדיל, a gentile. Even if a kernel of grain falls into the ground without being planted by man, the nature of the earth is to cause it to grow. Indeed, this nature is so much a part of the world that it is written:32 “The time of seeding and the time of harvest... will not cease.”

Nevertheless, a Jew does not consider this natural pattern as important. He does not sow because according to nature this will lead to the growth of his crops. Instead, he “believes in the Eternal Life and sows.”33


The difference between these two approaches goes beyond the manner and the extent to which bitachon, trust in G‑d, is felt. [Instead, the two approaches] lead to a difference in one’s actual conduct in thought, speech, and deed.

When a person considers [the medium] that he makes [for G‑d’s blessing] as significant, he views that medium and the Torah and its mitzvos as two different subjects. [Thus it is possible that] he will feel a conflict between his involvement in the Torah and its mitzvos and [the activities mandated by] his involvement in the natural order. For example, if he prolongs his prayers, he may lose business contacts. If he gives generously to tzedakah, he may lack the money he needs for investments.

He will thus find himself in [a constant struggle]; “power will pass from one to the other.”34 He may forego involvement in activities mandated by the natural order (knowing that “the blessing of G‑d brings wealth,”35 and that these natural means are only a medium and a garment for G‑d’s blessing) in order to involve himself in the Torah and its mitzvos. Even then, doing so involves an inner war and [a struggle to] overcome his animal soul. [Moreover,] there is always the possibility that the balance of power will shift and the opposite side will be victorious.

When, however, he gives no importance to [the medium] that he makes [for G‑d’s blessing,] and involves himself with it only to fulfill the Creator’s will, that involvement becomes an act of Divine service. When he “carries out all [his] deeds for the sake of Heaven”36 and “knows G‑d in all [his] ways,”37 he does not see “all of [his] deeds” and “all of [his] ways” as separate from [the goal to which they are directed]. On the contrary, the perception that they are “for the sake of Heaven” and acts of knowing G‑d, permeates them, [making the deed and the intent] one.

Since he does not conceive of any existence other than G‑d’s will, it is obvious that one mitzvah will not contradict another mitzvah. On the contrary, one mitzvah leads to another one.38


The difference between these two approaches does not begin with a distinct difference in conduct. For, at the outset, [as stated above, both approaches agree that the Torah and its mitzvos are true. Even according to the approach that puts a greater emphasis on worldly matters,] the yetzer hara does not try to convince a person that he should transgress G‑d’s will. Instead, at first, the difference involves a hairsbreadth. The yetzer hara agrees, as it were, that the involvement in finding a medium within the natural order should not be in contradic­tion to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. It merely emphasizes that activities within the natural order should be given their due importance. Ultimately, however, [this approach] causes these activities to be considered of primary importance.

Indeed, as my revered father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, interpreted39 our Sages’ statement:40 “This is the craft of the yetzer hara. Today, it will tell him: ‘Do this.’ The following day, it will say: ‘Do that.’ Until ultimately, it will tell him: ‘Go and worship idols.’” At the beginning, the yetzer hara does not try to convince a person to do the opposite of his true will41 (and violate G‑d’s will, Heaven forbid). On the contrary, it tells the person: “Do this”: observe the Torah and its mitzvos. And it explains to him how that observance makes sense according to the understanding of the animal soul and the yetzer hara. In this way, it penetrates into the person’s observance of the Torah and mitzvos and habituates him to thinking that it is necessary for the yetzer hara to agree to his conduct. [This gives the yetzer hara a position of importance and later enables it] to tell the person: “Do that,” and ultimately to tell him: “Go and worship idols.”

Therefore the way to protect oneself thoroughly from the deception of the yetzer hara is not through Divine service directed by logic and reason. For logic and reason leave room for the natural order [to be given prominence]. Instead, one should devote himself to G‑d’s Will with bittul and mesirus nefesh that transcend logic and reason. On this level, nothing other than G‑d’s Will exists for this person.

{This parallels the distinction made in sec. III between “rely[ing] on G‑d” and “trust[ing] in man.” “Trust[ing] in man,” [Divine service corresponding to the G‑dly light which] “fills all the worlds” (which within the personal world of the soul refers to service directed by logic and reason), requires one’s involvement according to the natural order. For the natural order is significant with regard to this level of G‑dly light.

“Rely[ing] on G‑d,” [Divine service corresponding to the G‑dly light which] “transcends all the worlds” (which within the personal world of the soul refers to bittul that transcends logic and reason) grants no [independent] importance to the mediums of the natural order. Therefore the motif is: “He will provide for you (יכלכלך),” G‑d will provide the medium.

There will be mediums, but they will come from Above. As mentioned previously, even when such a person employs natural means, he does not grant them any [independent] importance. It is not appropriate to say that he receives “help from man,” because the mediums of the natural order are one with G‑d.}

This is the preparation for the Redemption when we will receive blessings “not hoped for from man.” Then the veil of concealment will be lifted from nature entirely and we will see with our mortal eyes that nature itself is G‑dly. Hence the pattern will be that [blessings come] “like dew from G‑d.... They will not hope from man, nor expect from a mortal.”21 {This parallels [the motif] “He will provide for you” [described above].}


Based on the above, we can appreciate the connection of the Haftorah to the conclusion of Parshas Balak,which relates the sin of Baal Peor and the self-sacrifice of Pinchas42 that corrected that sin (as it is written:43 “And he atoned for the children of Israel”).

Baal Peor was served by defecating in the idol’s presence.44 It is explained in Chassidus45 that the source for this sin is that one grants importance to physical pleasures which are [in truth] the waste product of the sublime pleasure.

What would cause a person to consider waste products (physical pleasures) of primary importance? This comes from the fact that he considers the natural order as being important. [Making this initial error] leads him to be totally absorbed in material matters.

On this basis, we can understand our Sages’ statement46 that the atonement [brought about by Pinchas] is still an active force and will continue to exert positive influence [in this world] until the Resurrection of the Dead. For the purification and atonement for the sin [of Baal Peor]will not come until that time. At that point, nature will be consummately refined and it will be obvious that nature is completely at one with G‑dliness. Thus it will not be possible to give primacy to material concerns.

Therefore the atonement [for this sin] was brought about through the self-sacrifice of Pinchas. [Torah Law does not mandate] such self-sacrifice. [Indeed, were Pinchas to have asked whether to have taken action,] he would not have been instructed to do so according to Torah law.47 Nevertheless, Pinchas remained steadfast and was willing to sacrifice his life. This reflects self-sacrifice that transcends logic and reason, even [logic and reason] within the realm of holiness. As explained above, it is through bittul that transcends logic and reason, (even [logic and reason] within the realm of holiness) that it is possible to protect oneself and not make a division between nature and G‑dliness even though [one carries out in nature] the Torah’s directive: “And G‑d will bless you in all that you do.”


On this basis, we can also understand the connection between the above concept and the entry of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael. (As explained in sec. II, the events described in Parshas Balak occurred shortly before the entry into Eretz Yisrael.)

In the desert, [the people were sustained by] manna, i.e., a miraculous pattern [of existence]. It was not possible to err and think that human input could have any effect on [one’s fortunes], as reflected by the verse:48 “The one who gathered more did not have more, nor did the one who gathered less have less.” Moreover, only enough manna for one day descended, emphasizing how one must have absolute trust in G‑d that He will provide for his needs day by day.49

In contrast, the entry into Eretz Yisrael brought about the beginning of a new phase in Divine service,50 [serving Him in a way] appropriate for “a settled land.”51 Hence, [as a preparation,] it was necessary to confront the issue of Baal Peor, [to emphasize that] even though one begins to live according to the natural order, one should not “hope in man.” [Instead,] he should appreciate that nature is not an independent entity and the same utter reliance on G‑d that prevailed in the desert is still necessary.


This lesson is also appropriate in these, the last days of exile, when we are preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael led by Mashiach. We are living in an era characterized by the double and redoubled darkness52 of exile, the very opposite of the beginning of the Redemption,53 as is plainly seen. Nevertheless, all the revelations of the Future Redemption are “dependent on our deeds and Divine service throughout the era of exile.”54

In particular, this applies in the present generation when we are making the final preparations for the Redemption to be led by Mashiach. As the Previous Rebbe states,55 Mashiach is “standing behind our wall.”56 Moreover, the walls of exile are already burning.57

[At this time,] every person must have (at least) a foretaste of the approach of “not hop[ing] in man” in his Divine service. He should not grant the mediums of the natural order any [independent] importance and instead, place his trust in G‑d alone.

Through this, everyone will be redeemed from the worries and problems that disturb him. For when he carries out “all that you do” only for the sake of fulfilling G‑d’s will, he will not be worried, nor will he be disturbed, for all that will concern him is carrying out G‑d’s will.

This individual redemption that will be experienced by each person58 will serve as the preparation and the medium for the all-encompassing Redemption led by Mashiach, and to the era that will be “only Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.”59

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5723)