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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Balak (71)

Numbers 22: 20, 21, 22

20) Hashem came to Balaam at night and said to him: "If the men came to call you , then rise up and go with them, but only the thing that I will speak to you , that you shall do.

21) Balaam arose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the officers of Moav.

22) And G-d was angry that he went and an angel of Hashem stood on the road to impede him. And he was riding on his donkey and his two young men were with him.


with the officers of Moav: Rashi: His heart was just like their heart.


Rashi tells us that Balaam did not go with the officers of Moav unwillingly and only as a last resort. In fact, Rashi says, he went with as much as enthusiasm as the officers themselves had.

What is bothering Rashi that led to this comment?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Had not G-d agreed that Balaam could go with the officers of Moav (see verse 20)? Why then was He angry with him? (see verse 22).

How does Rashi's comment deal with this question?

Your Answer:


An Answer: G-d had originally not wanted Balaam to go with the officers. Later He agreed but with the understanding that Balaam would not be free to say what he wants, only what G-d wanted him to say could he say.


A Question: How does Rashi know this? On what basis does he conclude that Balaam went willingly?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The word "with" has two Hebrew near equivalents. In Hebrew "im" and "es" both mean 'with'. But the word "im" implies a closer togetherness. (Like the word 'am' - nation, a group of people who are together). See verse 12 "And G-d said 'Do not go with ("imahem"), do not curse the People." Meaning, do not go with them for the purpose they have in mind. Then in verse 20 G-d says "If the men came to call you, then rise up and go with them ('itam'), but only the thing that I will speak to you , that you shall do." Here the word 'es ('itam') is used. Balaam was allowed to go physically with the officers but not for the same purpose. Then in our verse 21 it says: "and he went with ('im') the officers of Moav." By using the word "im" the Torah implies that Balaam went with them and for the same purpose - to curse the People.

This is Rashi's clue that Balaam's heart (intention) was the same as that of the Moabite officers who escorted him.

Rashi is alert to such subtleties in the Torah's wording.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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