Torah Teaser – Parshat Balak Questions & Answers – July 22 2116-5776
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.
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.
Bilam, a Blind Eye but Perfect Vision
“U’Ni’um HaGever Shisum HaAyin”, this is the declaration of the man of the open-socketed eye (Balak 24:3). Unkelus says this means that he saw very well, while the gemara (Sanhedrin 105) says that we see from here he was blind in one eye. Is this a contradiction?
The Ba’al Shem Tov (Iturei Torah) says no. In order to obtain Nevua one must purify his heart, his senses, and his limbs to a high degree. This is the path that all the Nevi’im of Bnei Yisroel took.
Hashem wanted to give Nevua to Bilam in order to pacify the other nations, but he had a big problem. His entire being was defiled. How can nevua rest on a person without a single pure and unsullied limb? To solve this Hashem gave him one eye that he could not see out of. This eye remained pure through its disuse, despite being in a person of Bilam’s low caliber. Precisely because he was blind in one eye, Shisum HaAyin, he had the ability to see the plans of Heaven with his deep vision, Shisum HaAyin.
Bilam’s Races to Arrive Before Rosh HaShana
What was Bilam’s big rush to wake up early to go to Balak? What was with the waffling decision making by the Malach? Hashem gave Bilam permission to go, and now a malach was stopping him?
Rav Yehonason Eibushitz answers with a Medrash Tanchuma that says that when Hashem is judging the world there is no anger in Shamayim. This refers to the days from Rosh Hashana until after Yom Kippur. Bilam arrived in Moav on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Because of this the Malach let him go, since his curses would be ineffective as there was no anger in Shamayim.
Bilam, realizing that he had to get to Moav and curse Bnei Yisrael before Rosh Hashana, woke up early to beat the deadline. Therefore, although he previously gave him permission, due to Bilam’s hasty departure, the Malach had to come stop him, or at least slow him down, so that he arrives on Rosh Hashana when it is already too late to curse Bnei Yisrael.
Created By Rov Avrohom Sherman