BALAK Numbers 22:2–25:9
Balaam was “the prophet for the nations” who watched the progression of the Israelites into their destiny with apprehension. He is called into action by Balak, the King of Moab, who has been witness to the fact that the armies of the Canaanite nations are no match for this ragtag group of people led by an eighty-year-old man and directed by a Divine pillar of fire and smoke.
So Balak sends messengers to Balaam with an urgent request:
“So now, please come and curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will be able to wage war against them and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”( Numbers 22:6)
Who, then, is this Bilaam the so called “prophet of the nations” who is granted the experience of “And Hashem put a thing in the mouth of Balaam” (Numbers 23:5) ?
Clearly he is not a false prophet and perhaps he is even a servant who yearns to be faithful . Yet he fails at his task because of the hatred he holds in his heart and also due to one severe character flaw that seems to envelop him.
This trait character flaw will actually lead him to his death.”Along with their other victims, they slew the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also put Balaam son of Beor to the sword” (Numbers 31:8 also Joshua 13:22).
Balak frightened by the approaching Israelites , attempts to achieve a spiritual victory by means of Balaam’s curses . As he says to Balaam; ” for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”
Yet even though. Balaam desperately wants to fulfill the whims of Balak he cannot declare anything other than what G-d has told him to declare.
“Even if Balak gives me a house full of silver and gold, I cannot do anything small or great that would transgress the word of Hashem, my G-d.”(ibid 22:18)
Yet even after he is told by Hashem not to go “with them” and even after he informs Balak’s messengers of that fact, he turns to the messengers with the following statement “Now, you too, please remain here overnight, and I will know what Hashem will continue to speak with me.”( ibid:19). That is to say maybe Hashem will change his mind because I wish it to be so.
To understand this seemingly impudent statement we need to return to the words of Balak to Balaam.
“Please come and curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will be able to wage war against them and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”( ibid 22:6)
“whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”
How different are these words than those spoken about Abraham.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”(Genesis 12:3)
Abraham and his descendants completely understand that they are not the source of blessing but rather a vehicle through which Hashem brings blessings into the world.
Balaam on the other hand truly began to believe the lie that “whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed”. It is all about him .that is why he fervently believed that Hashem would change His mind because Balaam willed it to be so..
So when Hashem tells Bilaam originally “You shall not go with them ( Eemahem) ” (Numbers 22:12). He uses the Hebrew word for “with them” – Eemahem. This word speaks of going with them with the same purpose in mind.
When Hashem lets Balaam go with the messengers ,He uses another Hebrew word. “And G-d came unto Bilaam at night, and said unto him: ‘If the men are come to call thee, rise up, go with them(“Eetam“) ; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do.'” (Numbers 22:20). Go with them but not according to their purpose but only go with Hashem’s purpose and design in mind.
Seemingly in the continuing process of “humbling” Hashem then allows Balaam’s donkey to spiritually see things that Balaam was blind to. Balaam was being given a clear message
As a a result it is in fact Balaam that delivers some of the most powerful and poetic blessings spoken of the Jewish people. Most interestingly Balaam then arrives at an astounding conclusion despite his view of himself.
Balaam finally declares about the people of Israel “Those who bless you shall be blessed, and those who curse you shall be cursed.”( Ibid 24:9)
Hashem is the source of all true blessing. Our most lofty purpose is to try to be the vehicle through which that blessing is expressed.
Lerefuat Kol HaPtzuim ve Hacholim
Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther