Living Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin
This week’s Torah portion is “Balak” (Numbers 22:2-25:9), referring to the evil King of Moab who hired the evil sorcerer Bilaam to curse the Jews, and by extension, have them killed. Although Bilaam was not quick to agree to the mission, that quickly changed when Balak promised Bilaam unimaginable wealth.
Bilaam saddled his donkey and made his way to where the Jews had encamped in order to perform his “ceremony”. But something strange happens along the way. Suddenly, the donkey he is riding stops. Why? Because there was an angel in the way. Only the donkey was able to see the angel, though. Bilaam did not see the angel.
The donkey, in an effort to continue his mission, maneuvers around the angel, passing closely along a nearby wall. In the process, however, the donkey inadvertently slammed Bilaam’s foot into the wall. By now, Bilaam is fuming: first the donkey takes the unauthorized initiative and proceeds along a different route, and then knocks his mater’s foot into the wall on top it?! Bilaam slapped his donkey once, twice, and a third time.
If an angel-seeing-donkey wasn’t spooky enough for you, there’s more: the donkey began to talk! “Why did you hit me all these times” said Mr. Donkey. “Ha!” says Bilaam, “If I had a sword on me I would have killed you, and not just hit you!” The donkey isn’t finished: “I have always been so faithful to you! I’ve never let you down. Do you think I intended to hurt you? It was because of the angel that I had to pass alongside the wall!”
Angel? Huh? Bilaam has no idea what the donkey is talking bout — until God opened his eyes. Bilaam now sees the angel and realizes that his donkey was right all along.
But here’s the question. Bilaam, as mentioned, was a world-renowned sorcerer. Not only that, but he was actually a prophet. Yes. prophet of God, albeit a wicked and evil one. In fact, our sages teach us that Bilaam’s level of prophecy was equal to that of Moses!
So, wait a sec. The DONKEY was able to see the angel but the PROPHET was not??! A prophet on the level of Moses?! A guy who is on such a high spiritual level, who can receive messages from God — can’t see an angel? What’s going on here?!
The answer is that Bilaam didn’t see the donkey, because he didn’t want to see the donkey! He was so focus on his evil mission to curse the Jews, he was “blind” to everything else. He wanted the Jews dead, and his bank account full. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else was worth his attention.
We see the Bilaam “personality type” all the time. There are so many tyrants in the world that are focused on their hatred of the Jews to the exclusion of anything else. This is true even if it is to the detriment of their own people. No one will ever forget how former Iranian “president” Ahmadinejad started up his nuclear empire only in order to use it against Israel. The fact that his own people suffer due to the accompanying sanctions, and the like, meant nothing to him. He was and is focused on one thing: hatred and destruction of Israel. The true “Type B” (Bilaam) personality. And the list of such people goes on and on.
Let us take the “Type B” personality and channel it for good. Let us be so focused on doing good deeds, mitzvot, and helping others. Let us take our love, brotherhood and friendship and continue to stand UNITED WITH ISRAEL. We will succeed and be victorious where Bilaam failed.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin