"Bilaam said to the donkey, 'Because you mocked me, if I had a sword in my hand I would kill you'" (Bamidbar 22:29). Can you imagine that? A donkey mocking a person? Who was this person? No less than Bilaam, the wisest man among the nations of the world. A man whose prophecy was comparable to that of Moshe Rabbeinu. Yet with all of his wisdom, he still felt insulted by a donkey, the lowliest of all animals. He was so infuriated that he was ready to kill the donkey and walk on his own two feet to the nation of Moav. Rav Yosef Dov MiBrisk learns a powerful lesson from this. We see how conceited a person can be. He is so caught up in his own ego, that he demands honor even from an animal. He is ready to cause himself great personal inconvenience, to avenge his bruised pride. "The donkey mocked me." Bilaam was correct. He truly was a laughing stock. He let the donkey make a monkey out of him.
Kinderlach . . .
"He interrupted me. What a chutzpah." "She did not invite me to her birthday party. I am so insulted." "He did not bring me the glass of water that I asked for. What's wrong with him?" People do not always measure up to the standards that we set for them. Then we get insulted. We have to humble ourselves and not let these things bother us. After all, who are we? Are we as righteous as Moshe Rabbeinu? With all of his greatness, he was the humblest of all men. Let life's little insults pass by. That is the key to humility, which is the measure of true greatness.
It's My Pleasure
"If Balak will give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of Hashem" (Bamidbar 22:18). This statement is taken as a criticism of Bilaam. Our sages explain that he was motivated purely by a desire for riches and honor. Therefore he mentioned that even an outlandish amount of money would not allow him to go against Hashem's will. There is another mention of a staggering amount of silver and gold in the writings of our sages. "Rebbe Yosi Ben Kisma said, 'Were you to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones, and pearls in the world, I would still only live in a place of Torah'" (Avos 6:9). Not only is this statement not a criticism, rather it is a great praise of the Tanna and his love for Torah. What is the difference? The matter needs some thought.
Rebbe Nochumke of Horodna zt"l explains that it is all a question of attitude. Bilaam's attitude was "What can I do? I cannot go against Hashem's will." We understand that if Bilaam were able to go against Hashem, he would. That is definitely not the way that Hashem wants us to do His will. Contrast this with Rebbe Yosi Ben Kisma. "I would only live in a place of Torah." "Even if I were able to live someplace else, I would not want to go against Hashem's will." As the Mishna states, "Do His will as you would do your own will" (Avos 2:4). It was his greatest pleasure and privilege to do Hashem's will.
Kinderlach . . .
We know that obeying our parents fulfills Hashem's will in many ways. It fulfills the mitzvah of honoring and fearing them. It also gives honor to Hashem, for they are our closest connection to Him. We would not even think of disobeying them. But what is our attitude when we listen to them? "Okay, Imma. I'll do what you want." That is not a very positive attitude. "Imma, it is my pleasure to help you! Is there anything else that I can do?" "No Ezra, you've done it all. You've given us great nachas."
Many Facets of Modesty
One of the blessings that Bilaam gave the Jewish people was, "How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel" (Bamidbar 24:5). Rashi writes that Bilaam saw that the openings of their tents were not facing each other. The Gemora (Bava Basra 80a) comments that he saw the Shechinah (Divine Presence) upon them. The Torah Temima adds that their tents were arranged in such a way that they could not see into each other's homes. This is the character trait of tznius (modesty). Tznius is so important that it caused the Divine Presence to shine upon them. Modesty is the source of the kedusha (holiness) of the Jewish People. The last line of this week's Haftorah (Micah 5:8) speaks of modesty. "He has told you, O man, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk modestly with your God." We also see in Megillas Ruth that Ruth's modesty was evidenced by way that she bent down to pick up grain from the floor. Tznius is much more than the way we dress. It is a whole attitude of a Jew, not to boast, be loud, or flamboyant. We do not attract attention to ourselves; rather we try to draw honor to Hashem and the Torah.
Kinderlach . . .
Who can think of different ways to be tznuah? We usually think tznius refers to the way we dress. What about the way we speak? A tznuah person converses in a soft tone of voice. Similarly, we do not need to boast about our accomplishments, let them speak for themselves. What about the way we walk? Ruth was tznuah even when she picked up grain from the floor. We do not look into other people's homes, or ask prying questions about their private matters.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2002 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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