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וישא בלעם את עיניו וירא ישראל שכן לשבטיו

Bilaam raised his eyes and saw Yisrael dwelling according to its tribes. (24:2)

Rashi comments (Bilaam raised his eyes): “He sought to instill the evil eye in them.” The Michtav Mei’Eliyahu explains the concept of ayin hora, evil eye. The blessings which Hashem bestows upon an individual should not serve as a source of angst to others. If one allows his blessing (such as: wealth, children, good fortune) to cause pain to others who are less fortunate (especially if he is so callous as to flaunt his good fortune), he arouses a Divine judgment against himself and a reevaluation of his worthiness for those blessings. Chazal in Pirkei Avos (5:19) distinguish between the…

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ויאמר מלאך ד' אל בלעם לך עם האנשים

The angel of Hashem said to Bilaam, “Go with the men.” (22:35)

Hashem originally instructed Bilaam not to go with the Moavite emissaries. Then, He changed the message. He could go with them. Rashi explains this based upon the Talmudic dictum, B’derech she’adam rotzeh leilech bah molichin oso, “The path that a person chooses to follow, they bring him (and allow him to go) down that path.” In other words, Bilaam indicated that he would like to join the officers of Moav. When Hashem saw that Bilaam yearned to accompany them, He said, “Go!” Chazal’s statement leaves us with a question about the text. What is the meaning of the word bah,…

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ויתיצב מלאך ד' בדרך לשטן לו

And an angel of Hashem stood on the road to impede him. (22:22)

It is well-known that the Shem Hashem, Name of G-d, yud-kay,vov-kay, denotes the middah, attribute, of Rachamim, Mercy. In other words, the angel of Hashem/Rachamim, who was sent to prevent Bilaam from going to curse the Jews, was sent on a mission of mercy. Since when is reproof attributed to mercy? It is much closer to Din, Strict Justice. Horav Chaim Toito, Shlita (Torah V’Chaim), explains this with the following story.  During the tenure of the Alter, zl, m’Kelm, there lived a wealthy man whose enormous wealth was overshadowed only by his miserliness. He absolutely refused to share any of…

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עתה קבה לי אתו

Now go and curse it for me. (22:11)

In Bilaam’s dialogue with Hashem, he related that Balak, king of Moav, had petitioned him to curse the Jewish people. The word Bilaam used for curse is kavah, imprecate, which is a stronger, more emphatic, tone of curse. Rashi observes that kavah is stronger than arah, which was the actual term which Balak employed. Bilaam changed the word from arah to kavah, because Bilaam’s enmity for the Jews was more intense than that of Balak. Balak feared the Jews. He was anxious lest they overrun his country, as they did to the other pagan kings in the area. Bilaam’s animus,…

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מה טבו אהליך יעקב

How goodly are your tents, Yaakov. (24:5)

What impressed Bilaam about the Jewish tents? Bilaam saw that the entrances to one another precluded intrusions on the privacy of other families. Furthermore, tents refer to the batei medrash, study halls. (According to Rashi, it refers to the Mishkan and Batei Mikdash when they were extant). At first glance, tznius, privacy and modesty, and study halls do not seem to coincide, unless the Torah is suggesting to us that the study hall – or Torah study of those who occupy the bais hamedrash, who devote themselves wholly to studying Hashem’s Torah – should reflect tznius, privacy and modesty, in…

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וישלח מלאכים אל בלעם בן בעור

He sent agents to Bilaam ben Beor. (22:5)

Is it possible that, concerning all outward appearances, one not only manifests himself as righteous, but he even receives the fringe benefits and special treatment accorded to a tzaddik; yet, he remains throughout a despicable rasha, wicked person, of the lowest order? Yes! Bilaam showed us that it can be done. Bilaam was Hashem’s “gift” to the pagan/gentile world, so that they could not assert that they had no worthy spiritual leadership. Bilaam was on a lofty spiritual plane, a prophet of the highest order. He was the gentile world’s Moshe. So what happened? He refused to purge himself of…

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וישלח ד' בעם את הנחשים השרפים ... ויאמרו חטאנו ... והיה הנשוך וראה אתו וחי

Then Hashem let the poisonous snakes loose against the people … They said, “We have sinned” … that everyone who is bitten when he looks upon it he shall live. (21:6,7,8)

It was not the first time; once again, the people did not receive what they perceived they needed. Their first reaction was to complain, “This is no good; that is no good.” Immediately, they directed their discontent against Hashem. They did not doubt the authenticity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; they had issues with Hashem’s guidance. They would never reach the Promised Land if they were to continue along this path in the wretched wilderness. Veritably, they had nourishment from the manna, but what about some real food and drink? Furthermore, obtaining manna was effortless, almost monotonous. They wanted some excitement…

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ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה

And they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish. (19:2)

The mitzvah of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is used to purify one who is tamei meis, spiritually defiled by coming in contact with a dead body, has become known as the paradigmatic mitzvah whose reason is beyond human cognition. Actually, this is true with regard to all mitzvos. We have no idea of the reason for any one of the 613 mitzvos; it is just that some are easier to relate to, because they are common-sensical. The laws of Parah Adumah are replete with anomalies. The most difficult to accept is the fact that the Kohen who carries out…

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הנה עם יצא ממצרים הנה כסה את עין הארץ

Behold a nation left Egypt, and behold they are covering the earth’s eye. (22:5)

Earth’s eye? Simply, this refers to the surface of the earth. Rashi explains that Balak was referring to Klal Yisrael’s decimation of the two powerful kings –Sichon and Og, who were considered the shomrim ha’aretz, guardians of the land. If the two giants who protected the land were quickly dispatched by the Jews, what should Balak say? He realized that he had no chance against the Jewish army. Horav Elimelech Biderman, Shlita, the Lelover Rebbe, defines earth’s eye as the way people view matters that occur. They look at it through the earth’s eye, as being teva, natural. Regardless of…

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ועתה לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה

So now please come and curse this people for me. (22:6)

How often does it occur that someone harms us? We are talking about an evil person who, for whatever reason, decides that we are in the way of his progress; or he wants to take revenge on us for something we have done which, in his mind, deserves punishment. While the individual may be totally wrong (or, even if he is totally right), we are not permitted to curse him. First, we do not curse Jews. They are our brothers. The fact that they are not acting like brothers does not change our relationship towards them. So, what does one do…

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