This parsha post is dedicated in merit of Rena Daniella bas Basha Leah, Chavie bas Yael, and Hadas bas Dalia, all for a safe, healthy and blessed pregnancies and births.


Empowered by Hashem’s blessing and led by Moshe Rabbeinu, Bnei Yisroel met with success in their latest battle campaigns, slaying the mighty Sichon and Og, and conquering their territories.  The Jewish People’s immense numbers and miraculous conquests – despite their lowly origins as slaves in Egypt’s crucible – invoked trepidation in the hearts of the nations informed of the news, including Moab, and their present king – Balak – for whom the parsha is named.  The genuine fear brought Moab and Midian, who were initially hateful rivals, to a mutual resolve to annihilate the threat Bnei Yisroel posed.  Thus, they sought the services of the haughty and greedy prophet Bilam, legitimately endowed – although quite inferior – with Divine spirit to receive the word of G-d.  He as well brimmed with vicious contempt for the Jewish People, perhaps even more so than his employers.  Alas, his extensive efforts united with those of Balak proved fruitless in attempt to curse the Jews, and Bilam was forced to concede he could only speak what G-d placed in his mouth, and only execute what G-d allowed him to.  G-d was unwaveringly endeared to His children throughout Bilam’s entire scheme, so Bilam could only utter blessings of Bnei Yisroel, much to Balak’s infuriation.

Bilam’s journey from his riverside home of Pethor to reach Balak was in itself no easy feat.  Bilam recognized departing with Balak’s dignitaries, accepting the task to curse Bnei Yisroel, was wicked and discouraged in Hashem’s eyes.  He spited G-d anyway in his seething hatred for the people, spurring the affected man to even saddle his own donkey in his haste!  Hashem wasn’t going to allow a smooth ride en route to the crime.  So..:

וַיִּתְיַצֵּ֞ב מַלְאַ֧ךְ יְהֹוָ֛ה בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְשָׂטָ֣ן ל֑וֹ וְהוּא֙ רֹכֵ֣ב עַל־אֲתֹנ֔וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֥י נְעָרָ֖יו עִמּֽוֹ:

“…Vayisyatzeiv malach Hashem baderech l’satan lo v’hu rocheiv al-asono ush’nei na’arav eemo.”

” …and an angel of the Lord stationed himself on the road to thwart him, and he was riding on his she-donkey, and his two servants were with him.”

{Bamidbar 22:22}

But wait; the action hasn’t happened yet…

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאָתוֹן֩ אֶת־מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וְחַרְבּ֤וֹ שְׁלוּפָה֙ בְּיָד֔וֹ וַתֵּ֤ט הָֽאָתוֹן֙ מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיַּ֤ךְ בִּלְעָם֙ אֶת־הָ֣אָת֔וֹן לְהַטֹּתָ֖הּ הַדָּֽרֶךְ:

“Vatayreh ha’ason es-malach Hashem nitzav baderech v’charbo sh’lufa b’yado vateit ha’ason min-haderech vataylech basadeh vayach Bilam es-ha’ason l’hatosa haderech.”

“The she-donkey saw the angel of the Lord stationed on the road with his sword drawn in his hand; so the she-donkey turned aside from the road and went into a field. Balaam beat the she-donkey to get it back onto the road.” {ibid. 23}

Beast perceived what even man wasn’t granted perception, and the angel advanced upon the donkey and her rider, confining her to a fenced vineyard path, unable to turn either left or right.

וַתֵּ֨רֶא הָֽאָת֜וֹן אֶת־מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֗ה וַתִּלָּחֵץ֙ אֶל־הַקִּ֔יר וַתִּלְחַ֛ץ אֶת־רֶ֥גֶל בִּלְעָ֖ם אֶל־הַקִּ֑יר וַיֹּ֖סֶף לְהַכֹּתָֽהּ:

“Vatayreh ha’ason es-malach Hashem vatilacheitz el-hakir vatilchatz es-regel Bilam el-hakir vayosef l’hakosa.”

“The she-donkey saw the angel of the Lord, and she was pressed against the wall. She pressed Balaam’s leg against the wall, and he beat her again.” {ibid 25}

A third and final time the scene is repeated: “Vatayreh ha’ason – and the she-donkey saw” the Divine manifestation obstructing the path forward.  She finally yielded and crouched before it, and was rewarded with a third and final beating from her ruthless master.  In that charged moment, G-d actualized a miracle preserved from Shabbat Eve of Creation at twilight (according to the Mishna, Avos 5:8):

וַיִּפְתַּ֥ח יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־פִּ֣י הָֽאָת֑וֹן וַתֹּ֤אמֶר לְבִלְעָם֙ מֶה־עָשִׂ֣יתִי לְךָ֔ כִּ֣י הִכִּיתָ֔נִי זֶ֖ה שָׁל֥שׁ רְגָלִֽים:

“Vayiftach Hashem es-pi ha’ason vatomer l’Vilam ‘Meh-asisi l’cha ki hikisani zeh shalosh regalim?'”

“The Lord opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?'” {ibid 28}

Bilam replied with a threat to slay her, had he been holding a choice implement.  The donkey responded in turn, rhetorically questioning her consistent loyalty, service and docility.  Hashem thereupon opened Bilam’s eyes to the Divine revelation, the angel, immediately before him, bringing him to humble his position, and quite likely, bewilderment as well.


How often is it that we set out on a venture we’ve so painstakingly concocted, only to be faced with a kink in the plan, an abrupt and unwelcome halt?  The multiple cogs of our design, which we’ve so carefully arranged and delegated, seem to be neglecting the fulfillment of their quota; things are obstructing our obvious path forward, and we may seem virtually pressed against a wall (which, in Bilam’s case, was literal).  Simply put, things aren’t going our way.  The ego of our human nature endorses us to become annoyed at the very least; enraged and hostile, G-d forbid, at the severest, unable to accept the change in our personal agenda Divinely ordained by the Higher Plan.  Tragically, we then may lash out at our loved ones who care, or anyone in our proximate surroundings, when essentially whatever occurred to us specifically, as a result of their actions, is solely decided by G-d, keeping in tune with the Master Plan.  These wrinkles, bumps, jolts and burns we experience put up a frustrating and obstinate front; but truly, they are wake-up calls and springboards intended to propel our upward spiritual growth, and inspire us to consciousness of the raw truth which is hidden in plain sight, right under our noses.  Others may perceive the purpose of our difficulty, perhaps even clearly, yet we remain blind.  How can we extricate ourselves from this sorry “Bilam” state, and genuinely “open our eyes?”

Hashem granted Bilam more than one opportunity to probe the situation and “get the message,” and from Bilam’s incongruous reaction we can perhaps learn many lessons of what not to do; and also conversely, how we can grow to be more receptive.  Let’s take a closer look.

To borrow a popular expression, ‘When G-d gives you lemons, make lemonade.’  Take the sour, bitter and difficult in your life, all latent with potential for elevation and transformation, and work with it to produce something beneficial and meaningful.  Admittedly easier said than done, but assuredly achievable by every person who invests the effort.  Every moment the world is being recreated, including you in your particular circumstances, with purpose.  Find that purpose, and bring it to light.

How fortunate we are, when Hashem sends His messengers to assist us in recognizing this purpose, and attaining our goal!  Sometimes these G-dsends, human or otherwise, are obvious; sometimes, they approach us in disguise, perhaps a donkey or a stranger; they’re an unassuming whisper from Hashem.  When something ‘goes wrong’ for us, these messengers (denoted in Hebrew by “malachim” which also means “angels”) may try to point us in the right direction, indicate what’s really going on, and prompt us to respond appropriately.

How do we receive these hints?  There are individuals who are highly defensive of themselves during a debate, running their next sharp reply alone through their head; they don’t hear what their challenger is telling them.  Likewise, if you’re preoccupied beating on the other players like Bilam, lashing out and relentlessly trying to force a situation to fit your mold, you may just miss the important point they are trying to make.  You reject the opportunity to bring G-d into the picture, to state and feel, “I know and see You present here, too,” to bring illumination, and grow.  Instead, slow down and be silent, observe and listen to what Hashem is trying to tell you at this place and time.  Let Him take the reins, and accept with grace His directive, tailored just for you.  He will guide you back on track, to somewhere even higher than you started out.  Whether or not we permit this to happen effectively is up to us, to either harden our hearts or instead open our arms wide to receive the counsel, see the miracles, and understand the power and possibility of this experience, just waiting to be realized and harnessed.  And when it so happens that Hashem’s messengers get vocal, it is humbling, awesome, and reason to be grateful.  They are not just putting us in check, but also putting the cosmic reality into perspective, endowed with eye-opening results.

Prepare to look beyond nature, beyond your limitations, beyond the trials and tribulations the world seems to throws at you.  Know that it comes from a Higher Place, where Will and Wisdom are united with their source within G-d; elevate your vision to there, to the Infinite, transcending all barriers… And then, you too will break through.


–The Messenger Bird