The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all…
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Even science now realizes that the Universe proclaims testimony to God, making the only question whether we are listening.
Our Parsha begins by describing how Balak saw all that the Jewish people had done to the Emori and his response was to become very frightened. We have another Parsha named for a non-Jew who is described as experiencing through a different one of the senses. Vayar Balak, Balak saw, and Va’yishma Yisro, Yisro heard. Not only are they described as employing different senses, but their reactions are completely opposite to one another.
Yisro saw the hand of God guiding the Jewish destiny and was moved to join them on their journey. Balak saw what Yisro had heard, but he had the opposite reaction. He didn’t see the hand of God, he saw a strong Jewish people and set out to eliminate them.
Two people looking at the same phenomenon and story. One sees Hashem and the other sees nothing. We have a choice to be like Yisro or like Balak. We can live our lives looking for the hand of the Almighty or we can peer out and see nothing.
When Bilaam is recruited by Balak to curse the Jews and he is traveling on that mission, his donkey suddenly stops when seeing an angel. Bilaam doesn’t see the angel and so he strikes the donkey. When Bilaam finally sees the angel he says, “chatasi ki lo yadati ki atah nitzav likrasi ba’derech, forgive me for my sin for I did not know you were there.” The Seforno and Shelah wonder, why does Bilaam say chatasi? What cheit, what sin did he violate, if in fact he simply didn’t see the angel? They answer that the sin was not having looked at what was right in front of him, not seeing beneath the surface.
We each are recipients of incredible blessings daily in our lives. Hashem is orchestrating things from above. Yesterday, literally and figuratively, we prayed with all of our hearts for good health or livelihood or many other things. Then, we get what we prayed for and often forget that they come from Hashem because we are distracted by praying for tomorrow’s blessings. We need to pause to recognize that today’s blessings are the result of yesterday’s prayers and we owe a huge expression of gratitude and of thanks for the hand of Hashem in our lives.
But it is not only when things are going our way and are what we prayed for that we should see the hand of Hashem. Rashi describes the angel that blocks Bilaam’s path as – Mal’ach shel rachamim haya v’haya rotzeh l’man’o mi’lachto, he was an angel of compassion and he was blocking the path to prevent Bilaam from making a mistake. When our path seems blocked or we run into an obstruction, that, too, is an angel or the hand of Hashem acting for our benefit, even when we don’t understand it.
Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
God is calling all around us. You can look like Balak or you can listen like Yisro, the choice is up to you.