Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Balak

Listen To The Mocking Bird

Volume 2 Issue 38

by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

When you are hit in the face, it is hard to help but notice. Unless, of course, you wear your ego as a face-guard.

This week, the gentile prophet Bilaam, a man whom our sages say had prophetic vision equal to if not greater than Moshe, is hired by the Nation of Moav to curse the Jewish Nation.

At first he is reluctant. Upon hearing the tremendous reward of storehouses filled with gold and silver, however, he acquiesces and sets out on his dastardly mission. Then a miracle occurs. An angel, who is seen only by Billam's donkey, blocks the path. His ordinarily faithful she-donkey tries to squeeze by the Angel and inadvertently presses Bilaam's foot against the wall. During this time, Bilaam, unaware of the metaphysical circumstances that brought about the shift in his donkey's behavior, is incensed. He strikes the animal three times. Another miracle occurs! The donkey begins to talk. He carries on a brief conversation with his Master.

"Why did you hit me three times?" asks the donkey

"Because you mocked me! If only there were a sword in my hand I would kill you!" replies Bilaam.

The donkey continues to plead her case. "Am I not your faithful donkey that you have ridden on all your life? Have I been accustomed to do this type of thing to you?"

Bilaam replies meekly in the negative. Hashem opens his eyes and he finally realizes that an Angel blocked the way.

The human aspect of the incident is perhaps more astonishing than the miracle itself. How is it possible that the great seer who hears his donkey speak begins to threaten it with death? Doesn't he realize that a supernatural event is occurring?

Second, why would he threaten to kill the animal? By doing so he would never get to his destination. Wasn't that a totally irrational threat?

The episode reminds me of an old yarn by the writer Leo Rosten.

Irving, a wealthy man, walked into a pet shop and inquired about a pet for his lonely grandmother. "I have the perfect gift," exclaimed the proprietor. "It's a myna bird that talks Yiddish. It can say up to fifty different phrases! It will keep you grandmother company and cheer her when she is lonely."

A week after the gift arrived, Irving, called his grandmother.

"Bubbie, How did you like the bird?"

"Delicious, Irving. I had the butcher fillet it."

"But, Bubbie, that bird spoke Yiddish!" Irving shrieked in horror.

"So why didn't it say something?"

Billam was experiencing the event of a lifetime. He had an angel directly in his path, and his donkey was actually speaking to him. But he did not notice. He had his eye focused on one thing. His heart was set on cursing the Jew's and collecting a handsome fee.

Miracles were occurring all around him but he lost all rational control. He did not notice. He was only interested in his honor. He would have slaughtered his donkey on the spot.

Often, events occur that should jar us into rethinking our current situations. But our minds are set, our hearts are pre-determined, and our conclusions are foregone. A talking donkey or even a bird for that matter could not get us to stop and think.

The world around us is filled with miraculous events, some, perhaps, greater than a talking donkey. All we have to do is listen.

Dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller in Memory of Yoel Nosson Ben Reb Chaim HaLevi O"H

Mordechai Kamenetzky - Yeshiva of South Shore

Good Shabbos

Text Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.

Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation


 






ARTICLES ON HAAZINU AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

The Focus of Rosh HaShana
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

And Straight Again!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5766

The Mystical Tug of the Shofar
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Let the King Be Proud
Rabbi Chaim Flom - 5767

Rosh Hashana and the Kiss of Life
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Menachem Tzion on "Binu Shnos Dor V'Dor"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Must it Be the Same Old Me?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Thoughts for Pre-Rosh Hashanah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5755

A Welcome Houseguest
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

> The 'New' of the New Year
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Elul: A Month of Preparation
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Repentance and Changing History
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

ArtScroll

Teshuva—Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5767

So It Is Written
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

The Essence of Jewish History
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Joyful Service
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information