Torah thought forFriday 16 Tammuz 5782 July 15 2022

Balak [outside of Israel, Pinehas in Israel]

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

May Each of Us be Inspired to Fulfil Our Potential

In this week’s Parashah we shall read about Bilam ben Beor, a prophet, sent by Balak ben Tzippor, the King of Moab, to go and curse Am Yisrael. For surely a curse of such a great person as Bilam will be effective!

When Bilam was travelling whilst riding his donkey it states: “Hashem displayed anger because Bilam [was so anxious to] go, and an angel of Hashem planted himself in the road to oppose him…When the donkey saw Hashem’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, the donkey went aside from the road into the field. Bilam beat the donkey to get it back on the road…When the donkey saw Hashem’s angel, it edged over to the side, crushing Bilam’s foot against the wall. [Bilam] beat it even more…Hashem then gave Bilam the ability to see, and he perceived the angel in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. [Bilam] kneeled and prostrated himself on his face” (Bamidbar 22-31).

Ramban z”l deduces from the words, “Hashem then gave Bilam the ability to see” that it proves that Bilam wasn’t a true prophet after all because had he been he wouldn’t have required Hashem to give him the ability to see. Rather on his own he would have seen Hashem’s angel, since he was a “prophet”! So Bilam certainly wasn’t a true prophet!

In contrast, our chachamim (Sifrei) comment on the passuk, ”No other prophet like Moshe has arisen in Am Yisrael” (Devarim 34:10), that amongst Am Yisrael there hasn’t arisen a prophet like Moshe but amongst the nations there has arisen, namely Bilam! The appears contradictory!

Rav Yaakov Galinsky zt”l explains, that in truth, Moshe and Bilam ben Beor received the same level of abilities. They both were born with an innate higher nature and ability to reach the highest levels. However, Moshe Rabbeinu utilised all his energies and transformed himself to become the master of all prophets. Righteous, humble and there was no one like him. Whilst Bilam utilised all his energies to perform miracles and wonders, to promote himself and show off. He endeavoured to commit evil and due to his lack of gratitude he sought to destroy an entire nation. He even advised how to entice Am Yisrael to sin with the daughters of Moav! He became Hashem’s hated one!

Regarding this the following story may be related:

A rav prayed Arvit in the bet kenesset. After the prayers he stayed alone to study Torah. Suddenly, the bet kenesset’s door opened and one of the local people entered. He didn’t notice that the rav was there and the rav didn’t succeed in seeing the identity of the visitor.

The person approached the aron hakodesh and began crying in a raised voice: “Master of the Universe! Have mercy on me! Merit me to have Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration).” “Cast me not away from Your Presence, and take not your Ruach HaKodesh from me” (Tehillim 51:13). The rav was astonished, who is the hidden tzaddik who seeks Ruach HaKodesh?

The rav saw him and couldn’t believe his eyes! This is the local city thief! The rav beckoned him. He approached the rav. The rav asked him, “What happened? Have you repented?” The thief replied, “Rav, livelihood, this is livelihood! I have no choice!” The rav responded, “But I have seen that you prayed from the depths of your heart! Such requests! What is going on here?” The thief replied, “The houses today are becoming bigger and I enter each house and find it difficult to find people’s valuable items. And it sometimes happens that I try so hard to break in but don’t find anything! Therefore I prayed for Ruach HaKodesh! So that I will be able to fulfil my work!”

Just think what light shone from Heaven on Bilam the wicked! Consider his incredible Divine Assistance! But what did Bilam utilise this for? For corruption and wickedness, to fulfil his disgusting appetites!

What eventually happened? “The Children of Yisrael slayed Bilam ben Beor, the sorcerer, with the sword!” (Yehoshua 13:22). He wasn’t a prophet but a “sorcerer”!

This may motivate us, knowing that each person has unique talents that Hashem has graced him with. When a person utilises these abilities to serve Hashem he is able to reach very far, to ascend higher and higher. However, if he G-d-for-bid, uses his energies for the contrary, then as we have seen, many people who were first thought to be great tzaddikim, were eventually uncovered as “sorcerers”, telling over miracles and wonderful stories, but everything was void from a true essence, totally vacuous.

“Hashem requires our hearts” [see Sanhedrin 106b], Hashem seeks heartfelt commitment. He requires appropriate intentions, good will and good actions that come in their wake. Then Hashem will increase the abilities of those who strive to serve Him. “And rely upon Hashem for your enjoyments, for He will grant you the desires of your heart” (Tehillim 37:4)!

Shabbat Shalom!

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