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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 22, v. 6: "L'choh noh orroh li" - Go now curse for me - The Holy Shalo"h derives from these words that a person should be extremely careful with how he expresses himself. Bolok should have said "orroh baavuri" or "baadi," or the like. By saying "orroh li," which can also be understood as "curse me," this is indeed what happened in the end.

Ch. 22, v. 12: "Lo so'ore es ho'om ki voruch hu" - Do not curse the nation for it is blessed - Rashi says that Bilom's response to this was to suggest to Hashem that he would instead bless them. Hashem told him that there is no need for his blessings as the bnei Yisroel are blessed, "ki voruch hu." When Hashem told him to not curse the bnei Yisroel why did he suggest blessing them instead? Did he suddenly become a Jew lover?

The gemara M.K. 9b relates that Rabbis Yonoson ben Asmayei and Yehudoh ben geirim were students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He told his son Rabbi Elozor to go to these two students and receive a blessing from them. He did this and to his great surprise they told him a number of things that seemed as if they were heaping curse upon curse on him. He complained to his father about what happened and when he was asked to repeat their words Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai interpreted each of their statements as something very positive and a great blessing.

Bilom was very money hungry. Once he heard from Hashem that he was not allowed to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel he was very worried about loosing a hefty sum of money offered by Bolok. He therefore suggested to Hashem that he still mouth words of seemingly curses, while all the time in his mind having interpretations of the words as meaning blessings. Hashem responded with, "Thank you, but no thank you." There is no need for your so-called blessings. They are already blessed. (Rabbi Ovadioh Yoseif)

Ch. 22, v. 27: "Vatirbatz" - And it crouched - Targum Onkelos says "u'rvaas." Targum Avrohom explains that this word is sourced from the word "arba," four, meaning that the donkey lied down on all four of its legs.

Ch. 22, v. 27: "Va'yach es ho'osone bama'keil" - And he hit the donkey with the stick - Normally we find the word "ma'teh." Minchoh V'luloh says that this word is used to allude to Bilom's intention was to curse the descendants of our three Patriarch's, whose final letters of their names contain the letters of "bama'keil," YaakoV, AvrohoM, YitzchoK, Yisroel. The Medrash Tanchuma says that Bilom struck the donkey because of the embarrassment it caused him. The R'shash explains that the intention of the Medrash Tanchuma is to translate "bama'keil" as "because of the shame," as we find "Orur makleh oviv v'imo" (Dvorim 27:16).

Ch. 22, v. 27: "Va'yach es ho'osone bama'keil" - And he hit the donkey with a stick - Why didn't he curse the donkey instead? Baal Haturim and Paanei'ach Rozo say that he would have thus used up his power of administering a curse. There seems to be a quota of a curse a day and no more. We find the same concept in reverse, for the good, when Elisha gave Geichazi the power to bring the Shunamite woman's son back to life and he misused it on a dead dog. They both offer an alternative answer, that this was not the moment of Hashem's anger.

Ch. 22, v. 28: "Va'yiftach Hashem es pi ho'osone" - And Hashem opened the donkey's mouth - Rishonim raise the issue of why there was a need for Hashem to create the extreme miracle of having the donkey speak. The Ramban and others raise the general question of why there was any concern of Bilom's casting a curse over the bnei Yisroel. If Hashem feels that they deserve to be treated kindly or ch"v harshly, then, yes curse or no curse, Hashem's wishes will come to pass. This latter issue has been dealt with in an earlier issue of Sedrah Selections. In any case, we view the attempted curse and its being thwarted as leaving the bnei Yisroel right where they started before this whole incident took place, totally unaffected. However, the Meshech Chochmoh says that a tremendous thing was accomplished, namely a potent factor in the bnei Yisroel's vanquishing the thirty-one kings who occupied Eretz Canaan, and this would explain in a most cogent manner the need for the miracle of our verse. Bilom was renown for his sorcery and invoking curses. Bolok sent ministers and then even more highly placed ministers to accompany Bilom to Moav. When they saw that Bilom's attempts at cursing the bnei Yisroel were to naught they realized that Hashem was with the bnei Yisroel and would protect them. But still, why the need for the miracle of the talking donkey? The Meshech Chochmoh explains that there is the possibility to explain away Bilom's non-compliance with Bolok's wishes by virtue of a payoff, namely that the bnei Yisroel got wind of the plans and being loaded with the spoils of Egypt, outpaid Bolok, and asked Bilom to instead issue forth blessings, which he cloaked in blaming it on Hashem. Bilom was renown for his craving of money. Even this explanation is blown away once the ministers witnessed the donkey talking, again a sign of hampering Bilom's attempts to curse the bnei Yisroel. Being highly placed ministers, they surely passed on their experiences, both that Bilom said that Hashem did not want the bnei Yisroel cursed, and that the donkey criticized him, to other highly placed government officials, including in the neighbouring countries, i.e. the lands of the 31 kings in Eretz Yisroel. This brought great fear into the hearts of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel, as expressed by Rochov in Yericho to the two spies, "Vanishma vanomos l'vo'veinu." "And we heard" can refer to their having heard the incident of Bilom's plans to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel being thwarted the miraculous intervention of Hashem. This greatly weakened their courage to do battle with the bnei Yisroel. Thus, the story of Bolok and Bilom is not one of just averting a disaster and no more. The spin-off result was something very positive for the bnei Yisroel.

Ch. 22, v. 28: "Va'yiftach Hashem es pi ho'osone" - And Hashem opened the donkey's mouth - When Hashem opened the earth's mouth by the incident with Korach, the verse says (16:32) "Vatiftach ho'oretz es pihoh." Why don't these two verses align and either our verse should say "vatiftach ho'osone es pihoh," or the verse in parshas Korach should say, "va'yiftach Hashem es pi ho'oretz?" This question is raised by the Holy Zohar. He answers that the default is as we find in our verse, a statement that Hashem acted to bring about a supernatural occurrence. However, in parshas Korach Moshe had already said, and this without consulting with Hashem, that the earth would open its mouth and swallow the rebellious ones. If the verse were to carry through and say that Hashem carried this out, it would convey a message of Moshe's giving a command and Hashem's carrying through. This is most disrespectful, so the verse only expresses itself by saying that the earth opened its mouth, and not mentioning Hashem's involvement.

Ch. 22, v. 28: "Meh osisi l'cho" - What have I done to you - What sort of question is this? The donkey pressed his leg so firmly against the stone wall that he was not able to walk on that leg (gemara Sotoh 10a). Rabbi Gershon Chanoch Henoch Admor of Radzin says that this is actually the intention of Bilom with his words, "Ki hisalalt bi" (next verse), which Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates as, "A'rei chayacht bi," that you have ridiculed me.

Ch. 22, v. 28: "Zeh sholosh r'golim" - these three times - Rashi says that with these words the was an allusion to: "You are attempting to uproot a nation that makes a pilgrimage thrice yearly." This is explained by Pninim Y'korim. The medrash says that Hashem asked Bilom if he were to curse the bnei Yisroel and have them ch"v annihilated, who would fulfill the Torah's mitzvos. Bilom answered that he would. This is why Hashem specified the mitzvoh of "aliyoh l'regel." Bilom could not do this mitzvoh because his leg was so badly injured that he could not make a pilgrimage on his own two feet.

We might add that this fits into the words of the donkey, "MEH osisi l'cho." On the verse in Shir Hashirim, "MAH yofu paamayich banolim," the medrash says that it refers to the footsteps taken for "aliyoh l'regel." This is "MEH osiso l'cho." I have done "MAH yofu " to you, as you cannot make the pilgrimage. (n.l.)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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