CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS BOLOK 5772 - BS"D
1) Ch. 22, v. 7: "U'ksomim b'yodom" - Rashi said that the elders of Moav had signs from the elders of Midyon to indicate if they would be successful. If Bilom would come with them after their first request he is of SUBSTANCE, "Yeish bo MAMASH." If he would push them off, he is of NO VALUE, "Ein bo TO’ELLES." When Bilom responded that they should wait the night for a response, they said that there is NO HOPE in him, "Ein bo TIKVOH." Why does Rashi use three different expressions of level of expectation from Bilom?
2) Ch. 22, v. 18: "M'lo veiso kesef v'zohov lo uchal laavore es pi Hashem" - Rashi says that from here we derive that Bilom had an unsatiable lust for money. How do we derive this from his words? Why not just say that he was strongly expressing his great dedication to follow the words of Hashem, even to the tune of foregoing tremendous financial rewards? We find a similar expression used by Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo in the mishnoh in Pirkei Ovos 6:10. He met a person during his travels who offered him a position as the spiritual leader of his community. Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo responded that he would not accept the position, even if he were given all the silver, gold, and precious stones that exist. We find no commentator disparagingly remarking that Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo lusted riches, so what is the difference between the two?
3) Ch. 22, v. 21: "Va’yokom Bilom baboker va'yachavosh es asono" - Rashi (M.R. 20:12) says that Hashem told Bilom, "Although you have arisen and saddled your donkey, Avrohom has already preceded you, as is written "Va'yashkeim Avrohom baboker va'yachavosh es chamoro" (Breishis 22:3). Why did Avrohom’s getting up early supersede Bilom’s?
4) Ch. 23, v. 4: "Shivas hamiz’b’chos" - Rashi says he built seven altars to counteract the seven alters built by the Avos, four by Avrohom, one by Yitzchok and two by Yaakov. What other corresponding altar matter is indicated by the seven altars?
5) Ch. 24, v. 3: "Sh'sum Ho'ayin" The gemara tells us that Bilom was blind in one eye. Rashi on this verse and says that this is derived from the translation of "sh’sum" (removed).In a second interpretation, Rashi says it means open and we derive that he was blind from the word "h'ayin" meaning ONE eye open, not both, hence blind in the other eye. Likewise, Rashi on the mishnoh in Avodah Zoroh p. 69a D"H V'tigov, explains that "sh’sum" means open. He quotes the words of Targum "D'shapir cho'zei". Also Tosfos Gemara Niddah 31b says the same as Rashi in A.Z. 69a. In any case, we have the same conclusion. Targum has a well earned reputation of translating things in their literal sense. Since either interpretation means that one eye was blind, how can we explain his translating "sh’sum h'ayin" as who sees well?
The GR"A and the Holy Admor R' Avrohom of Tchechinov say that the elders of Moav pinned their hopes on Bilom only because they hoped that he was a greater prophet than Moshe. Moshe, when approached with a request, said "Imdu v'esh'm'oh mah yitza'veh Hashem." He first had to hear from Hashem. If Bilom were greater than Moshe he would respond that he would go along with them and guarantee them success in his mission. This is greater than Moshe who said that he must first ask Hashem. Hence Bilom is of VALUE. If he would push them off, meaning that he could not give an immediate response, this indicated that he too would first have to communicate with Hashem. If so, he was on an equal footing with Moshe, and they were not sure that one of equal power could outdo Moshe, and he is of NO VALUE. Once Bilom responded that they should wait the night until he had a response for them, they realized that he was of a lesser stature than Moshe. Moshe received prophecy from Hashem by day (according to some opinions by night as well), while Bilom could only receive prophecy at night. If so he is of NO HOPE. See the M.R. 20:8, which expresses these three thoughts in other terms.
Rabbi Chaim haKohein Rappaport answers that we find in the gemara B.K. 38b that Ulloh was not willing to pay a shivoh call, nichum a'veilim, to Rav Shmuel bar Yehudoh, saying that the bereaved was a Babylonian. They express themselves with blasphemous words upon the loss of a relative. They say "What can be done?" This indicates that if they were empowered to do so, they would have kept the deceased alive, contrary to the wishes of Hashem. This is mentioned in Y.D. #376:2 in the Ram"o.
Bilom, by saying "LO UCHAL," I CANNOT transgress the word of Hashem, indicated that if he were able to, he would go against Hashem's will for the reward of great riches. Not so with Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo. He simply stated that if he were offered all the riches the world had to offer for living in a place that is destitute of Torah, he would only live in a "mokome Torah." Hence there is no indication of his having a desire for riches.
The Holy Admor of Kotzk explains that although Avrohom arose early to do Hashem's will, he was nevertheless thwarted, and was not able to fulfill his pursuit. Bilom, whose intention was to go against the will of Hashem, surely will be stopped.
Alternatively, the verse by Avrohom says “va’yashkeim,” while by Bilom it says “va’yokom.” Avrohom arose at an earlier time in the morning, “va’yashkeim,” so it overpowered Bilom’s getting up, “va’yokom.” (n.l.)
The Medrash Rabboh here, and so it seems is the opinion of the Rambam in hilchos Beis Habechiroh, Chapter 2, to counteract the mizbochos built by SEVEN people: Odom, Hevel, Noach, Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov and Moshe.
There is a fascinating insight given by the Baal Shem Tov HaKodosh into the words of the Targum. I will take the liberty to preface his insight with a true story. During W.W. 2, an officer was brought in from a different location to work in a certain concentration camp. One of his eyes was lost in battle. He tried to get the best false eye. He wanted to see if it was possible to tell them apart so he called a Jew into his office and said to him, "I have a false eye. I believe it's the best replacement that money can buy. Have no fear, tell me honestly if you can tell which eye is false." The Jew looked for a short time and with confidence in his voice, he said which eye it was. The officer responded, "You are right. How were you able to tell?" The Jew answered, "You are a German. Every organ of yours conveys hatred towards Jews. I saw no hatred in that eye so it's obvious to me that it is artificial."
The Baal Shem asks how it is possible for Hashem to give prophecy to Bilom who has spiritually contaminated his entire body. He answers that Targum Onkelos explains the word "sh"sum" to mean "it sees well," referring to prophetic vision. Because of his blind eye which was not spiritually contaminated, he was able to gain prophetic vision. Hence, the Targum's explanation on the word "sh'sum" is not contradictory to the simple meaning, "closed", but rather an explanation of how he saw well - prophetically, specifically because he was blind.
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