Torah Teaser – Balak Questions & Answers – June 2118

Perplexing Questions From the Malach During Bilam’s journey to Moav his donkey gave him trouble three times as the Malach impeded his path. After the third time when the Malach completely blocked the way and Bilan had an argument with his donkey the Malach appeared to Bilam and asked him why he hit his donkey since the Malach made the donkey stop. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh asks what was the meaning of the question why did you hit your donkey? Bilam hit him because he stopped. Furthermore, the Malach complained that it was he the Malach who stopped the donkey. What was the complaint if Bilam did not see the Malach? The Ohr HaChaim answers that the Malach’s intention was twofold. First he wanted to embarrass Bilam and make him admit with his own mouth that he did not see the Malach. He wanted Bilam who knew Daas Hashem to admit before the whole contingent that his mystical vision is limited. Bilam’s answer to these charges were very sobering. First, he did not see the Malach, and even more embarrassingly his donkey did. Furthermore says the Ohr HaChaim the Malach wanted to show him the heavy price for his dastardly plan. The gemara (Sanhedrin 106a) says that after scheming with Balak, Bilam lost his nevua and became only a Kosem, magician. The Malach wanted to show him how quickly his mystical vision will deteriorate by continuing this mission. Just by embarking on it he already lost his ability to see Malachim.

Bilam Can’t Curse An Akara Avrohom as well as all the Imahos were Akaros and naturally unable to produce offspring. It was only with Tefila and Rachamei Shamayim that they eventually gave birth. Why did Hashem do this? The Ben Ish Chai explains that when someone has a child he effectively gives birth to all the future generations that come out of that child, and therefore, has a stake in each and every one of them. Hashem did not want Bnei Yisrael to be attached to their wicked roots of Terach and the like and, therefore, ended these people’s link to the future offspring. The children of Avrohom and all the Imahos are traced back to them only’ as Avrohom was not given the capacity to produce offspring from Terach. Hashem said to Bilam, “Lo Sa’or Es Ha’am Ki Boruch Hu; You cannot curse them, since they are the children of the blessed Avos. Bilam had a great idea. He will curse the children of Terach, among which Avrohom’s children are included, despite the collateral damage. By cutting off Avrohom from Terach, Hashem was able to spare them in advance of Bilam’s plot. “We see this,” says the Ben Ish Chai, “from the pasuk, ‘Ki Meirosh Tzurim Erenu,'” (Balak 23:9). Bilam’s bracha was, “I only see them from the Tzurim,” which are the Avos and the Gva’os which are the Imahos, and not before that. Therefore, “Hein Am L’vadad Yishkon; They are a nation that is carved out from their predecessors. UVaGoyim Lo Yischashav; they are not part of any curse I give to their forefathers.”

How Did Yisro Get A Piece Of Avrohom’s Eretz Yisroel? “Vayar Es HaKeini Vayisa Mishalo Vayomar Eisam Moshavecha V’Sim BaSela Kinecha,” (Balak 24:21). Bilam prophesized that the children of Yisro, the Keini, will get a part of Eretz Yisrael. How could Hashem give a portion of Eretz Yisrael to Yisro if it had been promised to the descendants of Avrohom of which Yisro was not? The Mekach Tov brings the Tiferes Tzvi that the Rambam paskens that if you give someone a piece of land it does not include the mountains or the rocky areas. Bilam saw the Keini were destined to get a portion of Eretz Yisrael as in the word Kinyan or taking ownership. He said, “Eisan Moshavecha,” but it is the land promised to Eisan, otherwise known as Avrohom Avinu. To this the nevua continued, “V’Sim BaSelah Kinecha; Their place will be in the rocky area,” which is not part of Avrohom’s package.

Do Normal People Argue With Donkeys? After Bilam’s donkey finally had enough abuse, the donkey turned around and verbally complained to Bilam. One would think that Bilam would be awestruck at the sound of his donkey talking. Yet, Bilam doesn’t flinch, and he answers the donkey back, getting into a verbal altercation, as if this is a perfectly normal everyday occurrence. Why? Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers that Bilam was being accompanied by all the most distinguished ministers of Moav, and he didn’t want to look bad. Therefore, he pretended that, indeed, he had a special donkey with whom he conversed on a regular basis. He wanted to show the ministers how he puts his donkey in place. Unfortunately, things did not work out so well for Bilam, as he lost the argument, shaming himself in front of his prestigious guides.

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