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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 22, v. 3: "Va'yokotz Moav" - And Moav was disgusted - The medrash interprets the words "Gefen miMiotrayim tasia" Yisroel, who are likened to a grape vine, to travel. "T'go'reish goyim vatito'ehoh," You will chase away nations and you will plant her. With the bnei Yisroel coming close to Moav's border Moav feared that it was a "thorn." This is the meaning of "va'yokotz." The fear was that with the advent of the bnei Yisroel he would be uprooted, "piniso l'fo'nehoh," and the bnei Yisroel would be planted in the land in its stead, just as is done when one wants to plant a vineyard where there are thorns growing. (Kli Yokor)

Ch. 22, v. 4: "Kilchoch hashor" - As an ox licks up - The herbivores ox eats grass. This is the process of "chai" elevating "tzomei'ach," a living creature eating and elevating vegetation. Moav told the elders of Midyan that the bnei Yisroel would consume them, an elevation of the heathens through the bnei Yisroel, just as there is an elevation of vegetation through being consumed by the ox. (Sfas Emes)

Ch. 22, v. 5: "Hinei chisoh es ein ho'oretz" - Behold it has covered the view of the earth - "Ein ho'oretz" means the earthy look at all matters. He bemoaned that the bnei Yisroel have changed this and has covered and done away with this coarse, earthy view, and replaced it with a spiritual outlook. (Sfas Emes)

Ch. 22, v. 6: "Oroh li" - Curse for me - These two words can also be translated as "curse me." Indeed, Bolok's sending for Bilom caused himself a curse and brought about his death. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)

Ch. 22, v. 12: "Ki voruch hu" - Because it is blessed - Rashi comments, "Lo miduvshoch v'lo mi'uktzoch," none of your honey and none of your sting. The honey is not part of the bee itself. The sting and its venom are. The blessing the bnei Yisroel have is not from Bolok. However, if there would be a curse invoked upon them it is not intrinsic. It is from the essence of Bilom. (Sh'eiris Menachem)

Ch. 22, v. 18: "Va'yomer el avdei Volok" - And he said to Bolok's servants - This was the second group sent by Bolok, the group of greater stature that the first one. Nevertheless, the earlier group is described as "so'rei Volok,' while here they are given the denigrating appellation "servants." This is exactly because the former group was of a lower stature and the present group of a higher stature. Because the earlier group was not conceited they got a more respectful title. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)

Ch. 22, v. 20: "Im likro l'cho ba'u ho'anoshim kum leich itom" - This is an insight offered in the first Sedrah Selections, then called "e-mailta baTorah," seventeen years ago:

Rashi says that if they offer you payment then you may go with them. This is very puzzling. What bearing does the payment have?

Perhaps it could be answered as follows: It is known in the study of human psychology that people go to all lengths to justify their actions. It has been shown through psychological testing that people who perform an almost meaningless task subconsciously invest it with meaning which is not really there if they are not getting financial benefit. This justifies their guilt of feeling they have wasted their time. If they are getting paid nicely, they have no need to justify the task with meaning that's not truly there.

We know Hashem Yisborach does not give someone a challenge beyond his capabilities. With Hashem's knowledge that Bilom was money hungry, (see Rashi Ch. 22, v. 18) He knew that if Bilom went along with no expectation of getting well-paid, he would have to justify his great investment of efforts and would be left with no alternative but to carry out the cursing, even against the express command of Hashem. However, if Bilom was expecting to be paid nicely, he would have more of a choice to obey Hashem and not curse the Yidden, which indeed happened. (n.l.)

Ch. 22, v. 21: "Va'yokom Bilom baboker" - And Bilom got up in the morning - Rashi comments that Avrohom had already preceded him as per the verse "Va'yashkeim Avrohom baboker." Avrohom had already experienced many stumbling blocks along the way to do Hashem's will, as an angel appeared to him in numerous guises and attempted to dissuade him from completing his mission, both by way of discussion and by physical barrier. Bilom, who is travelling without the intention of doing Hashem's will, will surely come upon stumbling blocks, i.e. the crouching of the donkey, its shaming him in a debate, and the appearance of an angel with a sword. (n.l.)

Ch. 22, v. 23: "Va'teit ho'osone min haderech" - And the donkey turned off the path - Any normal person would begin to wonder why so many hindrances are taking place during a normal trip. The donkey always cooperated as a means of transportation until now. On this trip it turned off the beaten path and crouched numerous times. It even pressed his leg against a wall and lamed him permanently. To top it off the donkey spoke, roundly criticizing him. Then an angel appeared and further chastised him. He nevertheless continued on his mission. He just didn't want to get the message! The one on the donkey was more stubborn than the donkey itself.

Ch. 22, v. 41: "Va'yaa'leihu bomos bo'al" - And he brought him up to bomos bo'al - This is the first of 3 places that Bolok brought Bilom to view the bnei Yisroel in the hope that he would ch"v invoke a curse upon them. The other 2 places are the field "Tzofim" (23:14), and "Rosh Ha'p'ore" (23:28). Hashem protected the bnei Yisroel at all 3 locations and turned the intended curses into blessings. This is alluded to in the words of T'hilim 91:15, "Imo onochi V'TzoRoH," spelled Beis-Tzadi-Reish-Hei. The Beis refers to "Bomos bo'al," the Tzadi to "Tzofim," and the Reish-Hei to "Rosh Ha'p'ore." (Niflo'os Chadoshos) Perhaps we can add that the next words in the verse, "achaltzeihu vaachabdeihu," - I will extract him and I will honour him - also allude to turning the intended curses into blessings. Not only will I extract the bnei Yisroel from the curses, but I will even honour them with the compliments and blessings that Bilom will reluctantly utter.

Ch. 23, v. 4: "Va'yikor Elokim el Bilom" - And Elokim happened to Bilom - The Kli Yokor on the words "Vayikra el Moshe" (Vayikra 1:1) comments on the small letter Alef at the end of the word "vayikra." He says that by diminishing its size, the normal-sized letters of the word spell "va'yikor," - and it happened - i.e. Hashem's appearance to him was seemingly by happenstance, and not by merit of the prophet. This is the intention of the Sifri near the end of parshas V'zose Habrochoh on the words, "v'lo kom novi ode b'Yisroel k'Moshe" (Dvorim 34:10), that although there was no prophet among the bnei Yisroel who was Moshe's equal, but among the heathen nations there was, and this was Bilom.

The comparison is not ch"v that they were truly equal, as Moshe was obviously in a totally different league. Rather, the comparison is in one aspect only, and that is what the above-mentioned verse says, "asher y'do'o Hashem," that Hashem knew him. The verse does not say, "asher yoda es Hashem," that Moshe knew Hashem, but rather that Hashem knew him, meaning that beyond the levels of understanding that Moshe achieved through his own efforts, Hashem bestowed even more understanding upon Moshe. We translate "b'Yisroel" not as "in Yisroel," but rather, in the merit of the nation Yisroel. Moshe as their leader merited receiving a level of communication from Hashem even beyond his self-achieved abilities in the merit of the bnei Yisroel. It is in this aspect only that Bilom was Moshe's equal. He too received prophetic communications from Hashem that were not a result of his effort and merit, but only in the merit of the bnei Yisroel, to show the nations of the world that Hashem is their Protector, and would not allow Bilom to curse them (see Medrash Breishis Rabboh 52:5).

Prophecy that a person receives as a result of his preparations and effort become part and parcel of the essence of the person. Prophecy that is not achieved by a person, but rather, is a present, is considered happenstance and short-lived, "va'yikor." It is in this manner that Moshe was called, with a diminished Alef, "va'yikor," that Bilom's prophecy was equal to that of Moshe.

We now also understand why Rashi explains the word "va'yikor," in two manners, as an expression of transience, "aro'i," and of defilement, "tumas keri." Why wouldn't either of these two explanations suffice to differentiate between a calling of "vayikra" with an Alef and a happenstance calling without an Alef? However, Rashi is explaining that the appearance to Bilom was one based in defilement, appearance at night (see Rashi on Dvorim 23:11). If we were to totally compare Moshe to Bilom in this aspect then the verse should have said "va'yikor" without a letter Alef at all, as it does by Bilom. The appearance of an Alef, but in a diminished form, indicates that the level of prophecy that Moshe received beyond his preparation had no hint of defilement in it, so the word could not appear without an Alef. A full-sized Alef indicates prophecy that Moshe achieved. The diminished Alef indicates happenstance only, which as mentioned earlier, was the only manner in which their prophecies were comparable.

What remains to be explained is why it is necessary for Rashi to repeat this here after he already wrote this in Vayikra 1:1, and also why Rashi adds here that "va'yikor" is a term of "gnai," shame, and did not mention it earlier.



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

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