CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS BOLOK 5768 - BS"D
1) Ch. 22, v. 2: "Va'yar Bolok ben Tzipor" - The Baal Haturim writes that Bolok saw that the sun was stayed by Moshe (gemara Taanis 20a), and therefore Moav was afraid of the bnei Yisroel. Why did this bring fear into Moav more than all the powerful miracles that Hashem wrought for the bnei Yisroel when taking them out of Egypt and shortly afterwards?
2) Ch. 22, v. 12: "Lo so'ore es ho'om ki voruch hu" - Do not curse the nation because it is blessed - These words seem to be enigmatic. If indeed the nation is blessed, why tell Bilom to not curse them? Since they are blessed his curse will be ineffective, so why care about his curse?
3) Ch. 22, v. 18: "Lo uchal laavor es PI Hashem" - Since Bilom clearly stated that he would not transgress "the WORD of Hashem" why was he considered such a bad person, deserving to be killed by the sword (Bmidbar 31:8)?
4) Ch. 22, v. 22: "Va'yichar af Elokim ki holeich hu" - Why was Hashem angered by Bilom's going, since He said to Bilom "kum leich itom" (verse 20)?
5) Ch. 23, v. 4: "Va'yikor Elokim el Bilom" - And Elokim happened to Bilom - 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. How can this be? One of the 13 tenets of our faith is that Moshe was unique in his prophecy.
The Holy Admor of Satmar explains that the gemara Brochos 7a says that Hashem angers daily, "V'Keil zo'eim b'chol yom," (T'hilim 7:12). The gemara says that this anger lasts for a fleeting moment, called a "rega," at the time the sun begins to emit its rays. No one knows when this takes place except Bilom, as the verse later in our parsha says, "v'yodei'a daas Elyon" (24:16). Bolok's only hope was for Bilom to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel at this auspicious moment. However, once Moshe was capable of impeding the movement of the sun, and thus upsetting the timing of the sun's emitting its rays, Bilom's skill would prove useless.
1) Ibn Ezra seems to be aware of this and translates these words as, "You will not be successful in cursing the nation because they are blessed."
2) Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel explains that Bilom's curse would surely be ineffective, but Hashem stopped him from cursing because He knew that the bnei Yisroel would later sin with the daughters of Midyon, bringing about a plague that would wipe out 24,000 bnei Yisroel. Had Bilom cursed the bnei Yisroel, the nations of the world would attribute the death of these 24,000 to the efficacy of his curse.
We find that when Yirmiyohu chastised the bnei Yisroel for building altars for false gods and sacrificing their children upon them he said, "U'vonu es bomas habaal ...... asher lo tzivisi v'lo dibarti v'lo olsoh al libi," - that I have not commanded, nor spoken, nor has it entered My heart. The Targum says that these three expressions mean that they have transgressed that which I explicitly stated in the Torah, that which I conveyed through the words of a prophet, and that which I neither stated in the Torah, nor transmitted through a prophet, but was understood as being against My will.
With this we understand how rules beyond the basic seven Noachide laws were instituted by the court of Shem and why the bnei Yisroel trusted Moshe when he added a day to the time indicated by Hashem for the giving of the Torah. Since these happenings took place before the Torah was given there was no law of not deviating from the dictates of the wise men of your generation (Dvorim 17:11). However, through the sages' rulings we are taught the will of Hashem, and we are responsible to follow the will of Hashem as well.
Bilom's sin was transgressing the "v'lo olsoh al libi" concept. He stated that he would only follow the explicit WORD of Hashem, indicating that he would not follow the will of Hashem. Even though he knew that Hashem did not want him to accommodate the wishes of Bolok, he nevertheless eagerly attempted to do Bolok's bidding. (Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman Hy"d in Kuntres Divrei Sofrim #1)
The Chid"o in Nachal K'dumim answers with the gemara Brochos 7a, that Bilom wanted to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel at the exact moment of Hashem's daily anger. The gemara says that since Bilom planned to do this Hashem refrained from being angry during those days, contrary to His regular practice. However, once Bilom took to the road and made his way to Moav, Hashem returned to His daily "anger for a fleeting moment." Since Bilom was traveling he didn't have the presence of mind to calculate the exact moment. This is the meaning of our verse. Hashem was willing to be angry, as is His daily practice of "V'Keil zo'eim b'chol yom" (T'hilim 7:12) because/when Bilom was traveling.
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, 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 "vayikroh" 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.
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