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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Pinchos 5781

The Sage Donkey

In Parshas Balak we are introduced to Bilaam; a man who possessed so many of the evil traits we strive to rid ourselves of. His sheker, his greed, and even his immorality, were on full display. But what I would like to speak about a little is Bilaam’s anger. When Bilaam went with the officers of Moav, he rode his faithful donkey. Unbeknownst to this rashah, an angel of Heaven was sent to block his path, which set the stage for the absurd sequence of events that was to follow. The donkey saw the angel, and veered off the path as a result. Bilaam responded by striking it to get it to return to the path. Then, the donkey veered off once again, this time trapping Bilaam’s leg. His response was again to hit his donkey, perhaps harder and stronger than the first time. On the third time, when the donkey simply refused to move onward - for it saw no way past the angel - Bilaam let loose his anger. As the verse attests, and Bilaam’s anger flared, and he hit the donkey with his staff. Here, it was his extreme embarrassment and general haughtiness that allowed him to lash out in anger. At that point, Hashem allowed the donkey to explain to Bilaam why it had stopped, and that he should have trusted it, for it had never done this before! But Bilaam was still prepared to kill his donkey even then, as the verse states, for he was still in the throes of his temper! Now that we see the way Bilaam was acting, let us examine what finally did get him to calm down. Ultimately, it was the appearance of the angel that scared the anger right out of him! This is an important lesson for us indeed. People are often under the impression that anger excuses improper behavior. Even when they act inappropriately, people rationalize that they cannot be blamed, because in a moment of weakness, when they were somewhat blinded by their anger, they are excused for making a poor decision. They even think that this is not at all a reflection of their character, and they do not believe there is anything to be improved upon. But we see from Bilaam that this is not so. Fear is so powerful that it can cause the biggest and ugliest temper to dissipate in a moment! Just think - if this is so, then true cognizance of Hashem’s Presence at all times should stand in the way of one losing control to his bouts of anger. Yiras Shamayim should prevent one from ever reaching a state of uncontrolled actions! Even the haughty Bilaam’s anger was quieted at the realization that there was an angel of God in his way! There is also another more crucial lesson that we can glean from the episode of Bilaam’s donkey. The Mishnah in Avos teaches that one of the ten items created during twilight of the Sixth Day of Creation was the mouth of Bilaam’s donkey. All the other items mentioned in the Mishnah seemed to have played a central or significant role in the history of Klal Yisrael. But what was the significance of the donkey’s talk with Bilaam? The donkey said to him, “Why? Why are you reacting this way? Did I ever fail you before”, etc. A few minutes later and the donkey was dead. What is so momentous and purposeful about this encounter that it called for a special creation? The answer is simple, but resonates deeply. Essentially, all the donkey was telling Bilaam was to judge favorably, and not to follow his initial reaction so absolutely. He was telling us all that when we find ourselves in a situation where we were “obviously” wronged or insulted, we must look again. Try to find the favorable side of things, and you might be surprised to realize the truth! Many an argument could be stopped if we would listen to the sage advice that emerged from the donkey’s mouth. A Gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


Nahar U_Pashtei Pinchos 5781
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