"[Bala'am] took up his discourse, and said: '(...) The speech of one who heard the words of G-d and knew the knowledge of the most High'. "(Numbers 24:15-16)
If there is one thing that annoys us is when we are in a situation in which we don't have the opportunity to make a choice. Regardless of the area that it may refer: we think most often that one of the essential foundations of our freedom is one that leaves us the choice to say "yes" or "no", to do something or not to make it ...
The absolute free will
While we cherish our right to choose - that is to say, our free will - we frequently deprive people of it. In fact, we often make choices instead of our children, rather than letting them decide what they want. If we do so, it is in their own interest: a child does not have the intelligence to make the best choices and it is in our quality of adult that we make them for him or her.
This is exactly for the same reason that G-d gives bad people the power to deceive us, G-d forbids. Superficially, this could surprise us: what justification the Creator may have for not showing us the path of the Torah, in a clear way and without the doubts that put a significant number of confusions in our minds?
In truth, this is the world we would like to live in: one in which the temptations would not exist, where we would be attracted only by the Divine will and where we would want to do only good. However, this idyllic vision doesn't exist and it is ... for our benefit! Rabbi Nachman uses the example of the wicked prophet Bila'am to make us understand why.
Bila'am wanted to curse the people of Israel. Although the initial request didn't come from him, he was nevertheless delighted to play that role. If his curses could have reached cruelly Bnei Israël, it is because Bila'am was a prophet of a very unique style. Not only was he not Jewish, but his knowledge of the Divine was equal to the one hold by the greatest prophet of all time among the Jewish people: Moshe Rabbeinu.
Rebbe Nachman learns that from the very name Bila'am. In Hebrew that name is written with the letters Beth (ב), Lamed (ל), Ayin (ע) and Mem (מ). From each of these letters we can infer the extraordinary powers possessed by Bila'am. In fact, his knowledge of Torah was very profound and huge.
We know this from the letters Beth (ב) and Lamed (ל) which are respectively the first and last letters with which the Torah is written. On the other hand, the letter Ayin (ע) - whose numerical value is equal to seventy - is the symbol of the prodigious strength of inference Bila'am had; in fact, our Sages taught us that the "Torah has seventy faces ", that is to say as many ways to be understood and taught. Finally, the letter Mem (מ) - whose numerical value is equal to forty - is the symbol of the forty days Moshe spent at the summit of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
Thus, we learn from Bila'am that in all situations, the Master of the world wants to reward us for the good choices we make: those that allow us to get closer to Him. However, the Heavenly reward becomes meaningful only because it is our responsibility to make the right choices. This can be compared to a father who rewarded his son because he did a good deed. If the father rewards his son, it is because he knows that it was possible for his son to choice not to do this good deed; otherwise what would be the meaning of this award?
We now understand why so many things try very often to push us away from Hashem. It is the Creator Himself that invested them with this power to test our free will; it is up to us to say "yes" or "no". This logic also applies to people: if some persons seem to inspire us greatly, we must check if this is not to go in the opposite direction of the Divine. Should they seek to lead us away in a unveiled manner: we know what we need to do. On the other hand, if their message is more subtle and it is by trying to convince us that we are coming closer to G-d that they actually want us to push us away, we must further increase our prayers not to be deceived.
In all cases, we should never be surprised or irritated by the difficulty of the situation. It is because we have free will that we can expect to be rewarded for our efforts to seek G-d. An advice: it is good to call the Creator in our prayers and to ask Him to help us to make the right choices.
Adapted from Likutey Moharan I, 32:2 by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.