“Vayeshev Yisroel B’Shitim-Israel settled in Shittim.”
It was here that many of the men of Israel began to sin with the daughters of Moav. It is difficult to fathom how a people growing up in the Midbar and seeing all of the miracles they must have seen, could sin with the first sight of seductive women?The Midrash Tanchuma interprets the words “Vayeshev Yisroel B’Shitim-Israel settled in Shittim.” to indicate that there was a fountain at Shittim which caused people who drank from it to develope into adulterers, just as we know there are fountains of water which cause the people who drink from it to become strong or weak physically, or to influence their character in various ways. The waters of that well were the ones the people of Sodom had been drinking which affected their behavior. Seeing that it had such spiritually negative effects on the people drinking from it Hashem caused it to stop flowing. (RabeinuBachya)
(23:10) "Mi Mona Ofar Yakov Umispar es Rova Yisroel- Who can count the dust of Yakov or number the stock of Israel." The verse uses two terms for counting, plus both names for Benei Yisroel, Yakov and Yisroel. Billem knew that Israel would in the future survive the annihilation of the world where the nations would be destroyed. Yakov represents those who would physically survive the destruction and Yisroel represents the spiritual, those who will be resurrected from the dust and be rejoined with the other survivors.
Billem wanted to be among those survivors. He wished to bypass any judgement for his actions in this world and be allowed entry into the reborn world. He said " Te'he Acharisi K'Mohu-Let my end be like his." He wanted his end of life to be as the righteous of Israel. He was hinting at the Avos of whom the last letters equal the Gematria of Billem.
(24:5) “Ma Tovu Ohelecha Yakov Mishkinosecha Yisroel-How good are your tents, Yakov Your dewlling places Israel". The posuk uses the names of Yakov/Yisroel as well as the words Tents for temporary encampments and Dwelling connected to the eternity of Israel. This prophecy was the culmination of three attempts to curse each turning into blessings. But the final message is a transformed blessing. The tents are temporary hinting at this temporary world. Thus the use of the name Yakov. The use of the word Mishkan connotes the eternal, the next world and thus the use of the name Yisroel.
(22:2) “Vayar Balak ben Tzipur-Balak son of Tzipur saw.” How could Balak see anything through the protection of the Anani Hakovod? The Ohr Hachaim writes that the key lies in his name. Balak Ben Tzippur.. He used the Tzipur/Bird to penetrate the clouds. Balakwanted to negate the future of Klal Yisroel, but in the end he wound up insuring it. By offering 42 sacrifices even though for the wrong reason, the act was not left unrewarded. His descendant was Rus forerunner of the Davidic dynasty and Moshiach.
(22:2) “Vayar Balak ben Tzipur-Balak son of Tzipur saw.” Why is this parsha named after Balak? It would seem that the main thrust of this Torah portion deals with Billem and his attempt to harm Klal Yisroel. In addition why does the Torah begin speaking of Balak and only later in verse 4 are we told who he was? (22:4) “U’Balak ben Tziopur Melech L’Moav Bo’ase Hahee- And Balak was the king of Moav at that time.”
Vayar Balak means Balak had vision. He traveled to Moav to explain the gravity of they they were affected until they heard Balak’s analysis. But Balak did not come to merely frighten them. He had a plan. He had an acquaintance, the well known sorcerer Billem, who would certainly agree to come help him out, not with bows and arrows, which had already failed in Sichon’s battle with Israel, but rather using speech as a weapon. Moav was so impressed with Balak’s perception and foresight that they immediately made him their ruler, at least temporarily, despite the hostility between their two nations. Therefore when Balak first saw these events he was not yet King of Moav. It was only in verse 4, after inciting fear and disgust among them by informing them of his thoughts on the matter, that he was temporarily appointed king. The fact that Balak was the main protagonist behind all of these events is perhaps the reason the parsha is named after him.
Billem was one of the three advisors to Pharoh in Egypt when Pharoh was trying to decide what to do with the Jews. He was the one who counseled Pharoh to drown the male babies. After Egypt’s downfall he left. Billem was like a mercenary. He went wherever the money was. The name Billem comes from a contraction of two words Bli-Am without a nation. He was a man without any ties. He was only out for himself. How is it that someone like Billem was able to communicate with Hashem? The Midrash says in order that the nations of the world should not be able to complain that had they had a prophet they too would have obeyed Hashem, Billem was granted prophecy. Although he was able to communicate with Hashem, the fact that he was without a nation showed that all of his efforts were self-motivated.
The question still remains however. How could Hashem have given prophecy to such a lowly person? The answer is that we only know Billem after he received prophecy. Originally he was considered a great man. Hashem selected him on the basis of his potential greatness. It was through this power of prophecy that he became corrupt and turned evil. But if he was a man with all of this potential and also given this gift what went wrong? Prophecy is not based on the individual alone. But rather it is the culmination of all the spiritual aspirations of the people he represented. In this case, the nations of the world and since they were corrupt this manifested itself in him as well.
Actually Billem was supposed to inspire the nations of the world. All of the events in this week’s portion were his tests to see if he would faithfully carry out the will of Hashem to the nations of the world. They were to recognize Klal Yisroel’s role as the chosen people. This is why his eventual blessings are really tidings for the future, for the days of the Moshiach. Three times he attempted to curse Israel and each became a powerful blessing for the future. Had he carried out Hashem’s will he would have lifted mankind to perfection.
The question is why this message is being told through Billem? The common thought is that man needs a savior. G-d has to save man because man cannot accomplish this on his own. Therefore Moshiach is a necessary part of existence because we can’t get anywhere by ourselves G-d has to uplift man and rescue him from himself. The Jewish thought is that we were created to work for our Olam Habo. We have Bechira (free choice) and life is a Nisoyin (a Test) and that is the purpose of life in this world, to provide a platform for those tests. What then is Yemos Hamoshiach (the days of Moshiach)? The Rambam says that the days of Moshiach are a period of time tacked on to human history where things are the way they were meant to be. Had Billem succeeded in carrying out
his message correctly the world would have recognized Hashem. All of humanity would be studying the word of Hashem and there would be the proper flow of blessing from heaven.
If that is the case what is the purpose of having the days of Moshiach? If we are sent here to earn our just reward in this world through making the right choices, what is the point in having the days of Moshiach? This is the message in the prophecy of Billem. He is Navi/Prophet of the nations of the world. At the time of Moshich the nations of the world will be inspired to be what they should have been. They will be in the proper alignment with us and us with them. They will accept our mission of being a Kingdom of priests and thus the proper flow from heaven will insure world peace. This could have been accomplished much sooner had Billem succeeded in his mission of prophecy. The role of the messiah is not for Israel’s benefit but rather for the benefit and perfection of the gentile world. This is why the incident with the mouth of Billem's donkey being opened is one of the ten things that were created during the first six days of creation right before Shabbos at dusk well before there ever was a Klal Yisroel on the scene. Each of these ten things has a special meaning. They are all created between day and night between the six days of creation and the Kiddusha of Shabbos. Everything that was created during the first six days was done as an ongoing act. As the posuk says “Ashere borah Elokim lasos” Which Hashem created to recreate. They were all placed in this world with the notion that they would perpetuate themselves. They were set up to carry out Hashem's will according to the laws of nature, which Hashem put forth. These ten things, created on the sixth day at dusk, had their purpose suspended for use at some time in the future when called upon by Hashem even if that purpose was above the laws of nature.
The Sefas Emes writes that the Ten Mamorous was uttered at the beginning of creation; the ten things created Erev Shabbos completed the creation. The physical world was brought into being at the start but there had to be a spiritual connection to the source. Shabbos was the goal of creation. Therefore at the onset of the first Shabbos of creation the connections to the spiritual world had to be set in order to ultimately bring the world back to it’s source, to it’s purpose.
Only Moshe was able to see his prophecy total clear. All other prophets have a tainted view of their message. They each define the words of Hashem with some of their own slant. It was for this reason that Hashem caused the donkey of Billem to speak. This would insure that there would e no tainting of Hashem’s words.
(22:3) “Vayogar Moav Mifnei Ho’am Ki Rav Hu...Vayokotz Mifnei Benei Yisroel - And Moav became very frightened of the people because they were many.digusted in the face of Benei Yisroel” The Kli Yakar writes that the word Ho’am refers to the Eruv Rav as in the words “ Ki Rav Hu” Benei Yisroel are mentioned as well for their power. Both factors contributed to the terror facing Moav.
(22:22) “Vayichar Af Elokim Ki Holech Hu- Hashem became angry” Why did Hashem become angry if he told Billem to go and why the use of the extra word "Hu"? Hashem wanted Billem to give over the prophecy he was destined to give. It was his duty as a prophet not to withhold the word of Hashem. But when He saw that was still not Billem’s intent, He became angry. The words "Ki Holech Hu" implies that he was going for his own agenda.(Ohr Hachaim)
(22:28) “Vayiftach Hashem es Pi H’Osone- Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey." Why did Hashem have to open the mouth of
the donkey and what great wisdom did the donkey have to convey? All he said was why did you hit me these three times? Hashem wanted to show Billem that only he has the power of speech, that he is the one who controls everything. Billem thought that he had the power to say anything he wished even if it was against the will of Hashem. So by opening the mouth of the donkey Hashem was showing him that it is He who gives speech even to a donkey if he so chooses. What the donkey had to say was an allusion to the fact that Benei Yisroel will in the future come to Yerushalaim three times a year to bring korbonos. It was through the merit of the Akeidah that Yisroel were saved. The Jews who travel three times a year to the place of the Akeidah.
This reference to the Shalosh Regalim is perhaps the key to what message the donkey was to convey. “These three times”-Rashi says that this was a hint that he wanted to uproot the Jewish nation. The Arizal adapts this idea to suggest that Billem’s intention was to eliminate the observance of the three festivals. Why this mitzvah more than any other? There is a Mishnah in Avos (5:22) that says that whoever has these three characteristics is a Talmud of Billem. They are an evil eye, an arrogant spirit and an insatiable soul. Each one of these corresponds to the three cardinal sins, idolatry, murder and sexual immorality. An arrogant spirit is akin to Idolatry. It’s a form of self-worship. Murder stems from the evil eye. If a person desires his enemy’s possessions with enough fervor, then he may be prepared to get them in any way. Lust obviously underlies all sexual immorality. Each of these three things is the antithesis of the three things, which are the foundation of the world. Torah, Avodah and Gimilus Chesed. The three festivals were granted to Klal Yisroel as a means of fighting these cardinal sins.
Pesach was the time when Klal Yisroel were first drawn away from the Idol worship of Egypt. The mitzvah of eating matzoth, the food of the poor, hints at the humble spirit that was the prerequisite to quell the haughtiness within us. The root of Idolatry and the opposite of arrogance is the trait of Billem.
Shevuos, the time of the giving of the Torah, represents the rejection of sexual immorality. The Rambam explains that inappropriate sexual thoughts fill the heads of those empty of wisdom. It is therefore that in preparation for the receipt of the Torah, the Jews were required to separate themselves from their wives.
Succos corresponds to the rejection of jealousy and the evil eye. It is the time when we set aside all differences with our contemporaries, which have their root in jealousy. We therefore bind together the four species, which symbolize our ability to live with all types of Jews. Only when there is achdus can the Klal function at its best. Only when each person can perform his different but crucial role, without jealousy of each other, with a “good eye”, can we then come to the Messianic age, which is what Succos portends.
It is precisely these three festivals that represent the complete opposite of the personality of Billem that he tried to eliminate the observance of, more than any other mitzvah. This could perhaps explain the importance of “The mouth of the donkey.”Billem stood opposed to the three foundations of the world.
There were three other occasions where a reference is made to a Chamor-donkey. The first is by the Akeidah where is says Avraham rose up early and saddled his donkey. The second is by Moishe when he returned to Mitzraim to liberate the Jews. The last is the reference to the Moshiach who will arrive riding a white donkey. In
the case of Billem it does not use the word Chamor for a donkey it uses the word Asone. In fact the only place in the entire Torah where the word Asone is found is here in the parsha of Billem and it’s used ten times! What is the difference between these two usages? The Maharal explains that the word Chamor-donkey is related to the word Chomer-physicality. This means that riding on Chamor is like riding on the physical world. Each of these three giants of Jewish history was above the physical laws of nature. That cannot be said of Billem. He was so steeped in his physicality that he was even intimate with his animal.
After Balak saw what Benei Yisroel did to the Amorim they knew that they could not fight against Benei Yisroel in a physical way. They decided to combat them with the power of speech. So they commissioned Billem who was known to be the negative counterpart of Moishe Rabeinu. His power was that of speech. Hashem created the mouth of this donkey from the dawn of creation and suspended its use until precisely this moment in history. What message was to be learned by this miraculous speaking animal? Billem was the spiritual leader of the gentile world. If he could be shown that the power of speech all originates from Hashem, it would be a tremendous tikun for the nations of the world. Three times Billem attempted to curse Klal Yisroel and each time the Klalah was turned to Bracha. The curse was transformed to a blessing. This was the message Billem was sent. The word “H’asone” is equal in gematria to the words M’klalah L’bracha. -From curse to blessing.
If Billem was able to curse and bless people why did he not bless the people of Midian and Moav? They were afraid of Benei Yisroel and because of that fear wanted Billem to curse them. They could have protected themselves with a blessing instead, since Hashem was not letting Billem curse Yisroel? Really Billem could not do these things on his own. He had no power to curse or bless. His strength was in his ability as a prophet to know Hashem intimately. He was able to tell when Hashem was angered and about to take action. At that precise moment he would curse someone or something making it look as if his curse was taking effect. Otherwise what need was there for him to seek payment from Balak. He could have blessed himself to have riches.
(22:12) Hashem said to Billem, “Don’t go with them.” Later on in posuk 20 Hashem say's to Billem "rise up and go with them". And then in posuk 22 it says that Hashem was angry with Billem because he went? To reconcile these conflicting statements the Viilna Goan writes that in posuk 12 it states "Lo Selech Imohem" do not go with them. But in posuk 20 it reads "kum Lech Etem" rise up, go with them. There is a basic difference between Etem and Imohem. Im denotes "with" in the sense of the same intent. Etem on the other hand would signify along with but without a common intent. Initially Hashem told BillemLo Selech Imohem "don't go with them" with the same intent of cursing Yisrael. When Billem insisted on going, Hashem told him Lech Etem, Etem, but not Imohem, meaning go but not with the same intentions. Billem, however, went Im Sharay Moav, for the purpose of cursing Yisrael. As a result Hashem was angry that he went. Ultimately, the angel told Billem "Lech Im Ha'anashim, go with the men" (posuk 35) using the word Im.Rashi explains," The way a person desires to go, is the way he is led." This means that since he insisted on going he would receive the same punishment that was in store for them.
(22:41) “Vayar M'Shom Kitzei Ho'am-He saw from there the edge of the nation." How could Billem see the nation if they were under the protection of the clouds? The Ohr Hachaim
Billem used the Tzipour to penetrate the cloud coverage. Others say that it refers to the tribe of Dan who were forced outside of the clouds because of the idol that was brought along.
(23:8) "Mah Eikev Lo Kova Aeil- How can I curse a nation that Hashem has not cursed." Writes the Kli YakarHow can I curse a nation that does not curse Hashem? When misfortune befalls Israel, they do not blame Hashem.
( 23:10) “Mi Manna Ofar Yakov- Who can count the dust of Yakov?” R.Bechaye writes that this is referring to those who will rise from the dust at the end of days. This is what Billem desired when he said “ Usihe Acharis Kimohu- May my end be like his.”
(23:13) Efes Kotzeihu Sireh- Part of them will be visible.” Billm thought that the Clouds of Glory were protecting them. However one tribe was out of that protection. That was Shevt Dan. Perhaps he could have his curse befall them.
(24:5) “Ma Tovu Ohelecha Yakov-How good are your tents, Yakov". The Gemara in Bava Basra (60a) states that this was an expression of admiration for the tents of Benei Yisroel because he saw that their doors did not face each other. However the Gemara in Sanhedrin (105b) says that from this blessing we learn that Billem secretly wished that the Jewish people would have no synagogues. How do we reconcile the two?
Chazal state that Billem really intended to curse Yisrael. In this posuk he meant to say that since the Jewish people lived such exemplary lives they didn't need any synagogues, yeshivos or institutions because of the upbringing they received at home. But this was really a curse because in reality a child cannot rely exclusively on the teachings at home. A student needs a Rebbe and the association with other students. Therefore Hashem turned Billem's curse into a blessing, so that yeshivos and their Rebbeim will never cease from Klal Yisroel. (R.Moishe Feinstein)
The Kol Torah explains that from seeing the tents set up modestly, Billem got the idea to cause Yisrael to sin through debauchery.
(24:9) “Mivorechecha Boruch-Those who bless will be blessed” These words are reversed from that which Yitzchok blessed. (Bereishis 27:29) Rashi there explains that the righteous begin with the bad and end with the good. They suffer in this world to insure their portion in the world to come. Whearas the Rishoim prefer having this world now. The Ramban comments that we should not ask from Avraham where it begins with the blessings, because there after saying those who curse you will be cursed, it returns to a blessing by saying through you the people will be blessed. (V’Nivarchu B’cha)