Pearls of Rashi – Balak

In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, we find that Balak, the king of Moav, found himself surrounded by the Jews. Fearing that the Jews would attack him he decided to hire Bilaam, a prophet of the gentile nations, to curse them.

The Torah tells us that[1] “In the morning Bilaam arose, saddled his she-donkey and went with the Moabite dignitaries.” Rashi cites the words “saddled his she-donkey,” and comments as follows. “From here we learn that hate causes a disregard for the standard of dignified conduct, for he saddled it himself. Hashem said, ‘Wicked one, their father Avrohom has already preceded you, as it says[2], ‘Avrohom arose in the morning and saddled his donkey.’’”

It did not suit one of Bilaam’s status to saddle his own donkey. His servants should have done it for him! The same is true of Avrohom (Le’havdil); it did not befit one of his stature to saddle his own donkey. However, that is where the comparison ends. Bilaam got up early in the morning and ran to saddle his own she-donkey because of his hatred for the Jews. In contrast to that Avrohom was so anxious to fulfill Hashem’s words that he jumped up in the morning and saddled his own donkey. How can Rashi compare the two by saying that “their father Avrohom already preceded you?”

Rashi can be understood as follows. As a prophet of Hashem, Bilaam could not curse the Jews without G-d’s permission. The problem is that Hashem had already told him not to go! Why did Bilaam decide to go anyway? He hoped that he would manage to “persuade” G-d. He hoped that perhaps he could point out the Jew’s sins; thereby gaining G-d’s permission to curse them. He tried to “remind” Hashem that they had sinned. To do so he disregarded the standard of his own dignified conduct by saddling his own donkey. He was in effect telling Hashem that throughout the years in the desert the Jews had done the same. They had disregarded their standard of conduct as servants of Hashem. Hashem’s response was “wicked one!” You are too late. Their ancestor Avrohom had disregarded his honor years earlier to perform G-d’s will as quickly as possible.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and true redemption which will begin an eternal Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 28, Page 157-164

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Parshas Balak, Bamidbar 22:21.

[2]. Parshas Vayeiro, Bereishis 22:3.

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