Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 22, v. 20: "Im likro l'cho ba'u ho'anoshim kum leich itom" - Rashi says that if they offer you payment then you may go with them. This is very puzzling. What bearing does the payment have?

2) Ch. 22, v. 21, 22: "Va'yeilech im so'rei Moav, Va'yichar af Elokim ......" - There are six difficulties to be raised in the simple understanding of these two verses.

A) Why mention that Bilom was escorted by the ministers of Moav?

B) Why was Hashem angry that Bilom went? Had Hashem not granted him permission to go in verse 20?

C) The words "ki holeich HU" seem to indicate that he went alone. However, in verse 21 it says that he was accompanied by the ministers of Moav.

D) Why does the verse separate his going with the ministers of Moav from his going with his two youths? It should have read, "and he went with the ministers of Moav and with his two youths."

E) Why does it say "v'hu ROCHEIV," in the present tense, rather than "v'hu ROCHAV" in the past tense, as we find "va'yichar" and "va'yisyatzeiv."

F) Rashi says that we derive from the words "u'shnei n'orov imo" that a prestigious person should not travel without being escorted by two attendants to serve him. How is this derived? Possibly, Bilom did this not for the purpose mentioned in Rashi, but rather to impress the ministers of Moav with his entourage.

3) Ch. 22, v. 22: "Va'yichar af Elokim ki holeich hu" - Hashem had given Bilom permission to go in v. 20. As well, back in v. 12, Hashem said, "No." How do we reconcile verses 12, 20, and 22?

4) Ch. 22, v. 24,25: "GO'DEIR mi'zeh v'go'deir mi'zeh, Va'tilocheitz el haKIR" - Since both GEDER and KIR mean a wall, why the change of wording in these two verses?

5) Ch. 25, v. 8: "Vatei'otzar hama'geifoh" - Compare this with Ch. 17 v. 15, "v'hama'geifoh ne'etzoroh". Why the switch-around of wording?



1) Perhaps it could be answered as follows: It is known in human psychology that people go to all lengths to justify their actions. It has been shown through psychological tests 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 22:18) 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. (Nirreh li)

2) In parshas Pinchos it is related that Bilom was killed in the war with the Midyonim. What was he doing in Midyon? He was from Aram Naharayim as is recorded in Dvorim 23:5. Rashi answers that he went to Midyon for payment for his services. (The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says that he went to seek out Bolok who promised him payment and not the nation of Midyon which never contracted him.) Since Hashem wanted him to be killed by the bnei Yisroel, He only allowed Bilom to accept the task set out by Bolok for payment, so that he would have a reason to go to Midyon and would end up being killed by the bnei Yisroel.

3) In Dvorim 23:5 it says that a Moavi cannot join klal Yisroel and it says that this is because they have not greeted you with bread and water, "va'asher SOCHAR o'lechoh es Bilom ben B'ore l'kal'le'ko." The point of indictment was the HIRING FOR PAY of Bilom. If Moav was willing to part with large sums of money to curse the bnei Yisroel, they should have also extended themselves to feed the desert weary people. Therefore the Moavim are excluded from marrying a bas Yisroel. Hashem allowed them to show their true colours by spending money on Bilom and not on the bnei Yisroel, so He therefore told Bilom to only accept the task if he were to receive payment.

4) Generally, when one appoints an agent to transgress the Torah for him, only the agent is held responsible because of the rule "ein shliach lidvar a'veiroh" (gemara Kidushin 42b). However, if one HIRES an agent, then he is also held accountable (commentators on Ch.M. #182). Hashem wanted Bolok to also be punished, so he commanded Bilom to not agree to go along with the plan without being paid.


Rabbi Simcha haKohein Rappaport, Raava"d of Lublin, answers all the above questions with a new understanding of verse 22. The verse is actually telling us that he did NOT have two youths accompany him this time, although he was otherwise always escorted. The ministers of Moav came to him and would obviously escort him to their land of Moav. Bilom did not need his regular two escorts on the way to Moav. Knowing that Hashem would not agree to his cursing the bnei Yisroel, he should have projected that he would be sent back in shame and not have any accompaniment on his return trip, thus necessitating his bringing his two youths along for the trip back. His not bringing the two youths along indicated that he expected to have a royal escort go back with him because he was ready to curse the bnei Yisroel even against the wishes of Hashem.

All of the above questions are now answered. Numbers correspond to the questions raised above.

1) The accompaniment of the ministers of Moav is mentioned to indicate that he therefore left over his youths, assuming that the ministers of Moav would escort him home as well.

2) Hashem was angry at Bilom even though permission was granted to go, but not to curse against Hashem's will.

3) "Ki holeich HU" means that he went, "without his two youths", but not that he went totally alone.

4) The verse could not have combined the escort of the ministers with the escort of his two youths, as the verse is actually saying that he went without his two youths, "ki holeich HU."

5) "V'hu ROCHEIV" in the present tense does not refer to the present incident, or else it would have expressed it as "v'hu ROCHAV." These words forewarn a concern which could be raised on the proof of his intending to curse and assuming that he would have a royal Moavi escort on the way back. Rashi says that we derive from here that a prestigious person should take two people along as escorts on his trips. Possibly, Bilom did not comply with this and the proof for his negative intentions is baseless. The verse therefore says that "he REGULARLY takes along his two youths" on all other trips, hence the present tense. It does not refer to this particular trip where he did NOT take them along.

6) We therefore know that Bilom took along escorts on a regular basis, and not to impress the ministers of Moav, as he did not take his youths along on this trip. Rashi is now conclusively able to derive the rule of "A prestigious person should take two people along as escorts on his trips." (Peninei Kedem)


The Holy GR"A of Vilna answers by differentiating between "imohem" and "itom." Even though "es" and "im" have similar meanings, when "es" means with, it only connotes physical accompaniment, e.g. fellow passengers on a bus are going "itom," as each one's purpose in going is different. However, if the passengers on the bus are all bound for a family wedding, then the word "imohem" is appropriate, as they share a common purpose in their trip. In v. 12, Hashem says "Don't go "imohem," don't join them in their purpose. In v. 20, Hashem says, "Kum leich "itom," you may go along with them physically. In v. 21, the possuk says, "Vayeilech "im" sarei Moav, indicating like-minded purpose. Rashi points this out clearly by saying, "His heart like their heart equal," from the Medrash Tanchuma. Hence, in v. 22, Hashem was angry at Bilom for going IM sarei Moav. Later in v.35, the malach says to Bilom, "Lech IM h'anoshim" seeming to indicate that now he has permission to accompany them with the same purpose, which is contrary to the "itom" permission that HaShem gave earlier. Indeed, Rashi comments that at this point, HaShem allowed him to go along with them totally, since Bilom indicated his interest to do so, we apply the rule of "B'derech she'adam rotzeh lelech, molichin oso", (Makkos 10a). I believe we can apply this concept to Ch. 23, v. 17, "Sorei Moav ITO," Rashi says not like earlier "KOL Sorei Moav", as some were disappointed with Bilaam and left. It seems that even the few who stayed with him were only ITO and not IMO, having given up on his success in fulfilling Bolok's request,they had no more emotional attachment, and only went along physically.

In a similar vein, Hakesav V'hakabalah says that in B'reishis ch. 22, v.3, we find Avrohom took "two lads "ITO," which Chazal say teaches us that a person should not go on a path unaccompanied. In our parsha, ch. 22, v. 3, it says, "Ushnei n'orov "IMO," from which Chazal extract that a person should not set out on a path without being accompanied by people who can serve him. It is most appropriate that we only learn accompaniment and nothing more from the verse which uses the word "ito," and that we learn accompaniment by people who can serve him from the verse which used the word, "imo." Other commentators cite numerous p'sukim which use forms of the words "im" and "es" with similar interperetations as above. (See foot notes to P'ninim Mishulchan HaGR"A pg. 185.)


Rabbi M.D. Soloveitchik answers that the word GEDER is used for a wall in the sense that it is a divider, separating areas one from another, as we find in the mishnoh in the beginning of B.B. "V'chein b'ginoh mokome shenohagin liGDOR m'cheivin oso," - and also with a garden in a place where the custom is to wall off separate gardens, he is responsible to build a wall. "LiGDOR" means to separate one area from another with a physical barrier. Verse 24 tells us that when Bilom was travelling on his donkey they came to a place where there were walls on both sides of the path that served as separations between the thoroughfare and vineyards. In this context GEDER is used. The next verse tells us that the donkey perceived the angel standing in its way and pressed to the side, crushing Bilom's leg in the process. In this context it makes no difference what purpose the wall served, hence the generic term KIR, a wall, is used.


The Ram"a of Panu (Harav Menachem Azaria, a student of the Holy Ar"i z"l) in his chapters on gilgulim (reincarnation) says that the deaths in the plague in Parshas Korach were final, hence the word "ne'etzoroh" comes after the word "hama'geifoh". However, here the 24,000 people who died were later reincarnated into the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, who once again died during the time between Pesach and Shavuos, so first the word "va'tei'otzar" and then "hama'geifoh", indicating that although it stopped at that time, there was still a plague left for a later time. A variation on this is found in the Chumash Rav Pninim in the Likutei Anshei Shem in the name of the Birkas Shmuel. Since the number of dead is mentioned in the verse after "va'tei'otzar hama'geifoh", this indicates that after the plague, the 24,000 would die again.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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