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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 22, v. 2: "Va'yar Bolok ben Tzipor" - The Baal Haturim writes that Bolok saw that the sun was stayed by Moshe (gemara Taanis 20a), and therefore Moav was afraid of the bnei Yisroel. The Holy Admor of Satmar explains why this brought fear into Moav more than all the powerful miracles that Hashem wrought for the bnei Yisroel when taking them out of Egypt and shortly afterwards. The gemara Brochos 7a says that Hashem angers daily, "V'Keil zo'eim b'chol yom," (T'hilim 7:12). The gemara says that this anger lasts for a fleeting moment, called a "rega," at the time the sun begins to emit its rays. No one knows when this takes place except Bilom, as the verse later in our parsha says, "v'yodei'a daas Elyon" (24:16). Bolok's only hope was for Bilom to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel at this auspicious moment. However, once Moshe was capable of impeding the movement of the sun, and thus upsetting the timing of the sun's emitting its rays, Bilom's skill will prove useless.

Ch. 22, v. 5: "P'soroh al hanohor" - What is accomplished by pointing out that Bilom resided near a river? Tiferes Yonoson answers that we seldom find that prophecy is given to someone outside of Eretz Yisroel. Yechezkel's receiving prophecy while in chutz lo'oretz, in the land of Kasdim, is explained by his being "al n'har Kvor," by the river K'vor (Yechezkel 1:3). Since a body of water is a place of purity, even outside Eretz Yisroel it is possible to receive prophecy there.

Possibly, another answer can be offered. According to the medrash that Bilom was Lovon, since Lovon received a prophecy from Hashem to not harm Yaakov (Breishis 31:24), once one receives a prophecy he can later receive a prophecy even outside Eretz Yisroel, as per the gemara Mo'eid koton 25a, which derives this from the word "K'vor," indicating that prophecy had already come to him earlier, "k'var."

What remains to be explained is how Lovon received his earlier prophecy, as he was not in Eretz Yisroel when he received it. Perhaps since Lovon intended to harm Yaakov and Yaakov's life was in danger, Hashem spoke to Lovon, warning him to do Yaakov no harm.

Ch. 22, v. 8,9: "Vahashivosi es'chem dovor kaa'sher y'da'beir HASHEM eiloy, Vayovo ELOKIM el Bilom" - Why the change in wording from HASHEM to ELOKIM? Rabbi Yoseif Nechemioh Kornitzer answers that Hashem only appeared to Bilom at night or when he was in a state of seizure, "nofeil u'gluy einoyim" (24:4). This level of prophetic contact is on the level of stringency, "midas hadin," hence the expression ELOKIM. We find this throughout the parsha whenever ELOKIM appeared to Bilom. Bilom, being exceedingly haughty and arrogant, was reluctant to tell this to the elders of Moav and Midyon. He therefore told them that HASHEM would communicate with him on a high level of prophecy.

Ch. 22, v. 12: "Lo so'ore es ho'om ki voruch hu" - Rashi (Medrash Tanchuma #5) says that Hashem's message was the same as the folk saying, "One tells a honey bee, 'Give me not your honey nor your sting.'" This is explained most beautifully by the Holy Admor of Vishov. Although one may not eat a bee as it is a non-kosher insect, nevertheless its honey may be consumed, in spite of the Torah law that an extract of a non-kosher object is also not kosher, "yotzei min hato'mei tomei" (Y.D. 81:1). The reason one may eat honey is because it is not considered an extract of the bee itself, but rather just the nectar of flora that the bee carries in its body and deposits in a honey comb (Y.D. 81:8). However, the venom of its sting is produced by its body. Thus Bilom is told, "Bnei Yisroel do not need your blessing, your honey, as the blessing doesn't emanate from you, but rather, is the word of Hashem transmitted through you. The bnei Yisroel surely don't want your curse, your sting, which is produced by your body.

Ch. 22, v. 18: "Lo uchal laavor es PI Hashem" - Since Bilom clearly stated that he would not transgress "the WORD of Hashem" why was he considered such a bad person, deserving to be killed by the sword (Bmidbar 31:8)? We find when Yirmiyohu chastised the bnei Yisroel for building altars for false gods and sacrificing their children upon them that he said, "U'vonu es bomas habaal ...... asher lo tzivisi v'lodibarti v'lo olsoh al libi," - that I have not commanded, nor spoken, nor has it entered My heart. The Targum says that these three expressions mean that they have transgressed that which I explicitly stated in the Torah, that which I conveyed through the words of a prophet, and that which I neither stated in the Torah, nor transmitted through a prophet, but was understood as being against My will.

With this we understand how rules beyond the basic seven Noachide laws were instituted by the court of Shem and why the bnei Yisroel trusted Moshe when he added a day to the time indicated by Hashem for the giving of the Torah. Since these happenings took place before the Torah was given there was no law of not deviating from the dictates of the wise men of your generation (Dvorim 17:11). However, through the sages' rulings we are taught the will of Hashem, and we are responsible to follow the will of Hashem as well.

Bilom's sin was transgressing the "v'lo olsoh al libi" concept. He stated that he would only follow the explicit WORD of Hashem, indicating that he would not follow the will of Hashem. Even though he knew that Hashem did not want him to accommodate the wishes of Bolok, he nevertheless eagerly attempted to do Bolok's bidding. (Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman Hy"d in Kuntres Divrei Sofrim #1)

Ch. 22, v. 18: "Lo uchal laavor es pi Hashem Elokoy laasose K'TANOH o G'DOLOH" - As mentioned earlier, Bilom knew the fleeting moment that Hashem angers and wanted to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel at that moment (gemara Brochos 7a). Tosfos d.h. "she'ilmoli" asks, "How could Bilom invoke a curse in such a short span of time?" Tosfos answers that either he planned to say "Ka'leim," - annihilate them or once he began his curse in the correct moment, even if it would extend beyond that time it would be effective. We now understand Bilom's intention in saying that he was unable to go against the word of Hashem to do a SMALL thing or a LARGE thing. Hashem did not allow to either say the short word "ka'leim," as per Tosfos' first answer, or to say a lengthier curse, as per Tosfos' second answer. (Rabbi Chaim Abulefia)

Ch. 22, v. 22: "Va'yichar af Elokim ki holeich hu" - Why was Hashem angered by Bilom's going, since He said to Bilom "kum leich itom" (verse 20)? The Chid"o in Nachal K'dumim answers with the gemara mentioned earlier, that Bilom wanted to ch"v curse the bnei Yisroel at the exact moment of Hashem's daily anger. The gemara says that since Bilom planned to do this Hashem refrained from being angry during those days, contrary to His regular practice. However, once Bilom took to the road and made his way to Moav, Hashem returned to His daily "anger for a fleeting moment." Since Bilom was travelling he didn't have the presence of mind to calculate the exact moment. This is the meaning of our verse. Hashem was willing to be angry, as is His daily practice of "V'Keil zo'eim b'chol yom" (T'hilim 7:12) because Bilom was travelling.

Ch. 22, v. 24,25: "GO'DEIR mi'zeh v'go'deir mi'zeh, Va'tilocheitz el haKIR" - Since both GEDER and KIR mean a wall, why the change of words in these two verses? Rabbi M.D. Soloveitchik answers that the word GEDER is used for a wall in the sense that it is a divider, separating areas one from another, as we find in the mishnoh in the beginning of B.B. "V'chein b'ginoh mokome shenohagin liGDOR m'cheivin oso," - and also with a garden in a place where the custom is to wall off separate gardens, he is responsible to build a wall. "LiGDOR" means to separate one area from another with a physical barrier. Verse 24 tells us that when Bilom was travelling on his donkey they came to a place where there were walls on both sides of the path that served as separations between the thoroughfare and vineyards. In this context GEDER is used. The next verse tells us that the donkey perceived the angel standing in its way and pressed to the side, crushing Bilom's leg in the process. In this context it makes no difference what purpose the wall served, hence the generic term KIR, a wall, is used.

Ch. 22, v. 32: "Al moh hikiso es asone'cho" - The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim 3:17 derives from these words that to cause an animal needless pain is a Torah prohibition, "tzaar baa'lei chaim d'Orei'so." MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l asks that from the words of the Rambam in hilchos rotzei'ach u'shmiras nefesh 13:9 we see that it is only a Rabbinical prohibition. What is also puzzling is that the Rambam should have brought his proof from the opinion in the gemara B.M. 32a that derives that it is a Torah prohibition from the laws of "prikoh u't'inoh," the unloading and loading of an animal (Shmos 23:5 and Dvorim 22:4). He answers that perhaps the Rambam differentiates between causing an animal pain directly or indirectly. When it is caused directly, like in our case where Bilom smote the donkey, the Rambam writes that we derive from the angel's chastising Bilom that it is a Torah prohibition. Overloading an animal is an indirect cause of pain for the animal. Whether this is a Torah prohibition or a Rabbinical one is the topic of the aforementioned gemara and can only be derived from the unloading of an animal, and in this circumstance the Rambam rules according to the lenient opinion.

It should be noted that the GR"A on Ch.M. #272 s.k. 2 and 11 writes that "tzaar baa'lei chaim" is a Rabbinical prohibition. However, the Markeves Hamishnoh and the Ohr Somei'ach (ad loc.) both say that the Rambam in Yad Hackazokoh posits that it is a Torah prohibition, contrary to the words of MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l.

Ch. 22, v. 38: "Hadovor asher yosim Elokim b'fi oso ada'beir" - We find much deep Kabalistic and Messianic prophecy in the commentary of Targum Yonoson ben Uziel, as well as other commentators, on the words of Bilom. Bilom had no grasp of the depth of what he was saying. It was exactly as he said. He spoke that which Hashem placed into his mouth. He was like a loudspeaker, mechanically transmitting the word of Hashem. This explains why there are no paragraph breaks anywhere in the prophecy of Bilom. Breaks indicate the need for time to contemplate on the message sent by Hashem (Sifro at beginning of Vayikroh). Since Bilom only served as a mouthpiece and had absolutely no grasp of the depth of the messages he transmitted, there was no need for paragraph breaks. (Chofetz Chaim)

Ch. 23, v. 21,22: "Lo hibit ovven b'Yaakov, Keil motzium miMitzroyim" - How do these two verses connect? The Meshech Chochmoh answers that Targum Onkeles says on the words "Va'yoshes el haMidbor ponov" (24:1), that Bilom turned his face towards the desert, the location of the sin of the golden calf, to arouse the guilt of the bnei Yisroel so that his curse should be affective. However, Bilom stated that this tactic would in all likelihood not work. Hashem does not pay attention to their sins. Hashem took the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt and did not forsake them in spite of their having sunk so low that they were idol worshippers, as the angels questioned Hashem upon the splitting of the Yam Suf, "Both the Egyptians and l'havdil the bnei Yisroel are idol worshippers. Why save these and drown those" (Zohar Shmos page 170b, Medrash Tanchuma Shmos 15:5, Yalkut Reuveini on parshas B'shalach psik "cheil Paroh")? So also He will not take into account their sin of serving the golden calf and Bilom's attempt to invoke a curse will be to naught. More on this concept of the Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Matos bez"H.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha

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