He perceived no iniquity in Jacob, and saw no perversity in Israel” (Bamidbar, 23:21).

The Hebrew word amal, translated here as “perversity,” has a second meaning, “toil.” It is an expression for work, especially laborious and exhausting work. The Ohr HaChaim uses this translation to give a unique interpretation to Balaam's words: “He saw no exhaustion in Israel.” Balaam perceived that even when Israel devotes itself wholeheartedly to the observance of Torah and mitzvot, it does not exhaust them.

It is a well-known fact that when someone has an overwhelming desire for something, he may be tireless in its pursuit. We have numerous accounts of the indefatigable study of Torah of our great scholars. It was not unusual for them to study Torah for eighteen hours each day.

The prophet says, “You did not call upon Me, Jacob, because you became weary of Me, Israel” (Isaiah 43:22). The Maggid of Dubno explained this verse with a parable:

A merchant alighted from a ship and hired a porter to deliver his merchandise to his home. When the porter knocked at his door, sweating profusely and breathing heavily, the merchant promptly said, “Those were not my packages that you brought!”

The porter asked, “You haven't even seen what I brought. How can you say they're not yours?”

“Because,” the merchant said, “I deal in jewelry. My packages are light. They never would have caused you to sweat profusely.”

The Maggid said, “This is the thought that the prophet is conveying. God says, `How do I know that you are not calling upon Me? Because you become weary and exhausted with your praying. You may be just going through the motions of prayer. Praying to Me would not cause you to be fatigued.' ”

Our devotion in prayer, our passion for Torah and our love for mitzvot should be such that we never tire in their performance.