Chapter 20כ׳
1 א

וַיַּרְא בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר (במדבר כב, ב), זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (דברים לב, ד): הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ כִּי כָל דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט, לֹא הִנִּיחַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים פִּתְחוֹן פֶּה לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא לוֹמַר שֶׁאַתָּה רִחַקְתָּנוּ, מֶה עָשָׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהֶעֱמִיד מְלָכִים וַחֲכָמִים וּנְבִיאִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, כָּךְ הֶעֱמִיד לְעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים. הֶעֱמִיד שְׁלֹמֹה מֶלֶךְ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ, וְכֵן עָשָׂה לִנְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר, זֶה בָּנָה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ וְאָמַר כַּמָּה רְנָנוֹת וְתַחֲנוּנִים, וְזֶה הֶחֱרִיבוֹ וְחֵרֵף וְגִדֵּף, וְאָמַר (ישעיה יד, יד): אֶעֱלֶה עַל בָּמֳתֵי עָב. נָתַן לְדָוִד עשֶׁר וְלָקַח הַבַּיִת לִשְׁמוֹ, וְנָתַן לְהָמָן עשֶׁר וְלָקַח אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה לְטָבְחָהּ. כָּל גְּדֻלָּה שֶׁנָּטְלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתְּ מוֹצֵא שֶׁנָּטְלוּ הָאֻמּוֹת כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ, הֶעֱמִיד משֶׁה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, וּבִלְעָם לְעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים. רְאֵה מַה בֵּין נְבִיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִנְבִיאֵי עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים, נְבִיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מַזְהִירִין אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הָעֲבֵרוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל לג, ז): וְאַתָּה בֶן אָדָם צֹפֶה נְתַתִּיךָ וגו', וְנָבִיא שֶׁעָמַד מִן הַגּוֹיִם הֶעֱמִיד פִּרְצָה לְאַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת מִן הָעוֹלָם, וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁכָּל הַנְּבִיאִים הָיוּ בְּמִדַּת רַחֲמִים עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים, שֶׁכֵּן יִרְמְיָה אוֹמֵר (ירמיה מח, לו): לִבִּי לְמוֹאָב כַּחֲלִלִים יֶהֱמֶה, וְכֵן יְחֶזְקֵאל (יחזקאל כז, ב): בֶן אָדָם שָׂא עַל צֹר קִינָה, וְזֶה אַכְזָרִי עָמַד לַעֲקֹר אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה חִנָּם עַל לֹא דָּבָר. לְכָךְ נִכְתְּבָה פָּרָשַׁת בִּלְעָם לְהוֹדִיעַ לָמָּה סִלֵּק הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ מֵעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים, שֶׁזֶּה עָמַד מֵהֶם וּרְאֵה מֶה עָשָׂה.

"And Balak son of Zippor saw": The Torah says (Deuteronomy 32) "The Rock--perfect is His work for all of His ways are justice." Hashem did not give the non-Jews an opening to say in the future "You have distanced us." What did Hashem do? Just like He set up kings and sages and prophets for the Jews, He set these up for the non-Jews. He set up Shlomo as a king over the Jews and the entire earth, and He did the same for Nebuchadnezzar. This one built the Beit Hamikdash and said "How many praises and supplications there are!" and this one destroyed it and scoffed and said (Isaiah 14): "I will ascend to the heights of the clouds." He gave David riches, and he took his house for His Name. And he gave Haman riches, and he took an entire nation to be slaughtered. All the greatness that the Jews took, you find that the nations took. Another example: He set up Moshe for the Jews and Bilaam for the nations. Understand what the difference is between Jewish prophets and non-Jewish prophets? Jewish prophets exhort the people about their sins, as it says (Ezekiel 3): "And you, son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman etc." And the prophet from among the nations caused a breach to drive the creations from the world. Not only this, but all the prophets were [given prophecy] from the attribute of mercy on the Jews and the non-Jews, as Yirmiyah said (Jeremiah 48): "My heart to Moav is as pipes moan." And as Yechezkel said (Ezekiel 27): "Son of man, lament for Tyre." And this cruel one stood to uproot an entire nation for no reason. Therefore the passage of Bilaam was written, to make it known why Hashem took away the holy spirit from non-Jews, for this one was from them and see what he did.

2 ב

וַיַּרְא בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר, מָה רָאָה, רָאָה בַּפֻּרְעָנוּת שֶׁעֲתִידָה לָבוֹא עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכָּל שׂוֹנְאָיו, שֶׁכֻּלָּם הָיוּ בָּאִים בְּמִלְחָמוֹת וּבְשִׁעְבּוּד שֶׁהֵן יְכוֹלִין לַעֲמֹד בָּהֶן, וְזֶה כְּאָדָם שֶׁמּוֹצִיא דָּבָר וְעוֹקֵר אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה. וַיַּרְא בָּלָק, נוֹחַ לָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁיִּהְיוּ סוּמִין, שֶׁעֵינֵיהֶם מְבִיאִין רָעָה לָעוֹלָם, בְּדוֹר הַמַּבּוּל כְּתִיב (בראשית ו, ב): וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, וּכְתִיב (בראשית ט, כב): וַיַּרְא חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן, וּכְתִיב (בראשית יב, טו): וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתָהּ שָׂרֵי פַרְעֹה, וְכֵן כֻּלָּם, וְכָאן וַיַּרְא בָּלָק. וַיַּרְא בָּלָק מָשָׁל לְמֶלֶךְ שֶׁהוֹשִׁיב שׁוֹמְרִים לְשָׁמְרוֹ מִן הַגַּיִּס, וְהָיָה בָּטוּחַ עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁהָיוּ גִּבּוֹרִים, עָבַר הַגַּיִּס וַהֲרָגָן, וְהָיָה מְרַתֵּת עַל עַצְמוֹ. וְכֵן בָּלָק רָאָה מֶה עָשׂוּ בְּסִיחוֹן וְעוֹג שֶׁהָיָה מַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶן שָׂכָר לְשָׁמְרוֹ, וְנִתְיָרֵא מֵעַצְמוֹ. וְעוֹד שֶׁרָאָה נִסִּים שֶׁל נַחֲלֵי אַרְנוֹן.

"And Balak the son of Zippor saw"

3 ג

כְּתִיב (במדבר כב, ג): וַיָּגָר מוֹאָב, מַהוּ וַיָּגָר כְּשֶׁהָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל נִרְאִין לָעַמּוֹנִים נִרְאִין עֲטוּפִים לְשָׁלוֹם, וְלַמּוֹאָבִים נִרְאִין מְזֻיָּנִין לְמִלְחָמָה, שֶׁכָּךְ כְּתִיב (דברים ב, יט): וְקָרַבְתָּ מוּל בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן אַל תְּצֻרֵם, כָּל מִין צָרָה אַל תָּצַר לָהֶם, (דברים ב, יט): וְאַל תִּתְגָר בָּם, כָּל מִין גֵּרוּי. וּלְמוֹאָב אָמַר (דברים ב, ט): אַל תָּצַר וְאַל תִּתְגָּר בָּם מִלְחָמָה, מִלְחָמָה אִי אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה אֲבָל מַה שֶּׁאַתָּה יָכוֹל לַחְטֹף מֵהֶן חֲטֹף. וּלְכָךְ נִרְאִין מְזֻיָּנִין לְמוֹאָב וְהֵן נֶאֱגָרִין לְעָרֵיהֶם, שֶׁאֵין וַיָּגָר אֶלָּא לְשׁוֹן אֲסִיפָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי י, ה): אֹגֵר בַּקַּיִץ בֵּן מַשְׂכִּיל. דָּבָר אַחֵר, וַיָּגָר, לְשׁוֹן גֵּר, שֶׁהָיוּ רוֹאִין לְעַצְמָן גֵּרִים בָּעוֹלָם, אָמְרוּ יָרְדוּ לְמִצְרַיִם לָגוּר וְאָחֲזוּ אוֹתָהּ, וּמַשְׂכִּירִין הָיוּ לָהֶם בָּתִּים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ג, כב): וְשָׁאֲלָה אִשָּׁה מִשְּׁכֶנְתָּהּ וּמִגָּרַת בֵּיתָהּ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, וַיָּגָר, לְשׁוֹן יִרְאָה, שֶׁהָיוּ מִתְיָרְאִין, שֶׁרָאוּ כָּל הָאֻמּוֹת בְּיַד יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁבָּא סִיחוֹן וְנָטַל אֶרֶץ מוֹאָב, (במדבר כא, כו): וְהוּא נִלְחַם בְּמֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב הָרִאשׁוֹן, וְעוֹג נָטַל כָּל אֶרֶץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ג, יא): כִּי רַק עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן וגו', בָּאוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּנְטָלוּהָ מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם, שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ עוֹלָה. וְהָיוּ אֵלּוּ רוֹאִין אֶת אַרְצָם בְּיַד יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְהָיוּ אוֹמְרִים לֹא אָמַר לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (דברים ב, ט): כִּי לֹא אֶתֵּן לְךָ מֵאַרְצוֹ יְרֻשָּׁה, הֲרֵי אַרְצֵנוּ לִפְנֵיהֶם, לְכָךְ הָיוּ מִתְיָרְאִין. (במדבר כב, ג): וַיָּקָץ מוֹאָב, שֶׁהָיוּ רוֹאִין אֶת עַצְמָן כְּקוֹצִין בִּפְנֵיהֶם.

3 (Numb. 22:3) “Wayyagor mo'av”:3A traditional translation of these words would be NOW MOAB WAS IN GREAT DREAD, or something similar. What is the meaning of “Wayyagor (rt.: ygr)?” When Israel appeared to the Ammonites, they appeared clothed for peace. But when they appeared to the Moabites they appeared armed [for battle]. Thus it is stated (in Deut. 2:19), “When you draw near the frontier of the Children of Ammon, do not trouble them.” It is written [to imply not to trouble them] with all kinds of trouble; (ibid., cont.) “and do not provoke (rt.: grh) them,” with any kind of provocation. In regard to Moab, however, He said (in Deut. 2:9), “Do not trouble Moab, and do not provoke (rt.: grh) them with war.” Do not make war with them, but whatever you can seize apart from [war], seize. For that reason they appeared armed, and [the Moabites] gathered themselves (rt.: 'gr) to their cities, as stated (in Numb. 22:3), “Now Moab yagor (i.e., gathered).” Wayyagor (rt.: ygr, here understood a form of 'gr) can only be a word for a gathering, just as it says (in Prov. 10:5), “A prudent child gathers (rt.: 'gr) in the summer.” Another interpretation (of Numb. 22:3), “wayyagor”: It is an expression meaning stranger (ger). As they saw themselves as strangers in the world: They said, “They went down to Egypt to sojourn, and they seized it; and they rented houses to [the Egyptians].” It is so stated (in Exod. 3:22), “Each woman shall borrow from her neighbor and the lodger in her house.” Another interpretation (of Numb. 22:3), “wayyagor”: [It is] a word for fear, in that they were afraid, as they saw the whole land in the hands of Israel. As Sihon had come and taken [part of] the land of Moab, as stated (Numb. 21:26), “and he fought against the earlier king of Moab….” And Og had taken all of the land of the Children of Ammon, as stated (Deut. 3:11), “Since only Og was left from the remnant of the Rephaim….” [And] Israel came and took it from both of them; theft that has no iniquity. And [so the Moabites] saw their land in the hand of Israel and they would say, “Did the Holy One, blessed be He, not say (in Deuteronomy 2:9), ‘As I will not give you from its land as an inheritance’; and behold our land is in front of them (already in their possession).” Therefore they were afraid. (Numb. 22:3, cont.) “And Moab had a horror (rt.: qwts) [of the Children of Israel],” because they saw themselves as a [mere] thorns (qwts) over against them.

4 ד

וַיֹּאמֶר מוֹאָב אֶל זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן (במדבר כב, ד), מַה טִּיבָן שֶׁל זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן כָּאן, שֶׁהָיוּ רוֹאִין אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל נוֹצְחִין שֶׁלֹא כְּדֶרֶךְ הָאָרֶץ, וְאָמְרוּ מַנְהִיג שֶׁלָּהֶן בְּמִדְיָן נִתְגַּדֵּל, נֵדַע מֵהֶן מַה מִּדּוֹתָיו, אָמְרוּ לָהֶם זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן אֵין כֹּחוֹ אֶלָּא בְּפִיו. אָמְרוּ לָהֶן אַף אָנוּ נָבוֹא כְּנֶגְדָן עִם אָדָם שֶׁכֹּחוֹ בְּפִיו. וַיֹּאמֶר מוֹאָב אֶל זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן, וַהֲלוֹא אַתְּ מוֹצֵא שֶׁמִּדְיָנִים נִלְחָמִים עִם הַמּוֹאָבִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית לו, לה): הַמַּכֶּה אֶת מִדְיָן בִּשְׂדֵה מוֹאָב, וְהַשִֹּׂנְאָה בֵּינֵיהֶם מֵעוֹלָם, מָשָׁל לִשְׁנֵי כְלָבִים שֶׁהָיוּ מְרִיבִים זֶה עִם זֶה, בָּא זְאֵב עַל אֶחָד מֵהֶן, אָמַר הַשֵּׁנִי אִם אֵינִי עוֹזְרוֹ, הַיּוֹם הוֹרֵג אֶת זֶה וּלְמָחָר יָבוֹא עָלַי, לְפִיכָךְ נִתְחַבְּרוּ מוֹאָב עִם מִדְיָן. (במדבר כב, ד): עַתָּה יְלַחֲכוּ הַקָּהָל אֶת כָּל סְבִיבֹתֵינוּ כִּלְחֹךְ הַשּׁוֹר, מַה שּׁוֹר כֹּחוֹ בְּפִיו אַף אֵלּוּ כֹּחָן בְּפִיהֶן, מַה שּׁוֹר כָּל מַה שֶּׁמְּלַחֵךְ אֵין בּוֹ סִימַן בְּרָכָה אַף אֵלּוּ כָּל אֻמָּה שֶׁנּוֹגְעִים אֵין בָּהֶם סִימַן בְּרָכָה, מַה שּׁוֹר מְנַגֵּחַ בְּקַרְנָיו, אַף אֵלּוּ מְנַגְּחִין בִּתְפִלָּתָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לג, יז): וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו. (במדבר כב, ד): וּבָלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר מֶלֶךְ לְמוֹאָב בָּעֵת הַהִוא, וַהֲלוֹא מִתְּחִלָה נָסִיךְ הָיָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע יג כא): אֶת אֱוִי וְאֶת רֶקֶם, אֶלָּא מִשֶּׁנֶּהֱרַג סִיחוֹן הִמְלִיכוּהוּ תַּחְתָּיו בָּעֵת הַהִיא, שֶׁגָּרְמָה לוֹ שָׁעָה.

4 (Numb. 22:4) “So Moab said unto the elders of Midian”: What is the relevance of [mentioning] the elders of Midian here? It is simply that they saw Israel conquering in a way that was not customary for conquerors. They said, “Their leader (i.e., Moses) was raised in Midian. Let us learn through them what his character is like.” The elders of Midian said to them, “His power is only in his mouth.” They said to them, “We also will bring someone against them who has power in his mouth.” (Numb. 22:4) “So Moab said unto the elders of Midian”: Do you not find that the Midianites were at war with the Moabites? It is so stated (in Gen. 36:35), “[and Hadad ben Bedad,] who smote Midian in the plain of Moab, [reigned in his place].” Moreover, the hatred between them had existed from time immemorial. The matter is comparable to two dogs who were hostile to each other.4Sifre, Numb. 31:1-2 (157); Sanh. 105a. [When] a wolf came against one of them, his companion said, “If I do not help him, [the wolf] will kill this [dog] today. [Then] tomorrow he will come against me.” Therefore Moab formed an alliance with Midian. (Numb. 22:4, cont.) “As the ox licks up [the grass of the field]”: Just as the ox has its power in its mouth, so do they have their strength in their mouth. Just as everything an ox licks up has no sign5Gk.: semeion. of blessing, [so] also whatever these lick up have no sign of blessing. Just as an ox gores with its horns, [so] also do these gore with their prayer, as stated (according to Deut. 33:17), “and his horns are the horns of a wild ox, [and with them he gores the nations].” (Numb. 22:4, cont.) “Now Balak ben Zippor was king of Moab at that time”: But was he not formerly a prince, as stated (in Numb. 31:8)), “Evi, Rekem, [Zur].”6According to Enoch Zundel in his commentary, ‘Ets Yosef, Balak is to be identified with Zur. So also Issachar Ber Ashkenazi in his commentary, Mattenot Kehunnah, on Numb. R. 20:4; Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1954), vol. III, p. 353; vol. VI, p. 136, n. 791. It is simply that when Sihon was killed they made him king in his place. (Numb. 22:4, cont.) “At that time”: As it was the time that caused it for him.

5 ה

וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים (במדבר כב, ה), הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עָשָׂה לָהֶם נִסִּים, וְאָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֲנִי גוֹאֵל אֶתְכֶם וָאֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם נִסִּים וְאַתֶּם מַמְרִים אוֹתִי, בּוֹא וּרְאֵה שֶׁבַע גְּאֻלּוֹת שֶׁגָּאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם וֶהֱיִיתֶם חַיָּבִין לְשַׁבְּחֵנִי שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים כְּנֶגֶד שֶׁבַע גְּאֻלּוֹת, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (שופטים י, יא יב): וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲלֹא מִמִּצְרַיִם וּמִן הָאֱמֹרִי וּמִן בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן וּמִן פְּלִשְׁתִּים, וְצִידוֹנִים וַעֲמָלֵק וּמָעוֹן וגו' וַתִּצְעֲקוּ אֵלַי וָאוֹשִׁיעָה אֶתְכֶם, הֲרֵי שֶׁבַע גְּאֻלּוֹת, וְהִמְרִיתֶם אוֹתִי בְּשֶׁבַע עֲבוֹדוֹת כּוֹכָבִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שופטים י, ו): וַיֹּסִיפוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲשׂוֹת הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי ה' וַיַּעַבְדוּ אֶת הַבְּעָלִים וְאֶת הָעַשְׁתָּרוֹת, וְכֵן הוּא מוֹכִיחָן (מיכה ו, ג): עַמִּי מֶה עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ וּמָה הֶלְאֵתִיךָ, מָה הַטְרַחְתִּי לְךָ, שֶׁמָּא אָמַרְתִּי לְךָ הָבִיאוּ לִי עוֹלוֹת מִן חַיּוֹת שֶׁבֶּהָרִים. שָׁלשׁ בְּהֵמוֹת שֶׁבִּרְשׁוּתְךָ (דברים יד, ד): שׁוֹר שֵׂה כְשָׂבִים וְשֵׂה עִזִּים, וְשֶׁבַע שֶׁאֵינָן בִּרְשׁוּתְךָ (דברים יד, ה): אַיָל וּצְבִי וְיַחְמוּר וְאַקּוֹ וְדִישֹׁן וּתְאוֹ וָזָמֶר, שֶׁמָּא הִטְרַחְתִּיךָ עֲלֵיהֶם לְהָבִיא לְפָנַי מֵהַבְּהֵמָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ בִּרְשׁוּתְךָ, לֹא צִוִּיתִי אֶלָּא מִבְּהֵמָה שֶׁהִיא בִּרְשׁוּתְךָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כב, כז): שׁוֹר אוֹ כֶשֶׂב אוֹ עֵז כִּי יִוָּלֵד. וְכֵן (ויקרא א, ב): מִן הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִן הַבָּקָר וּמִן הַצֹּאן. וְכִי יָצָא סִיחוֹן וְעוֹג לְהִלָּחֵם בָּכֶם וְלֹא הִפַּלְתִּי אוֹתָם לִפְנֵיכֶם, מָה הֶלְאֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם, שֶׁמָּא אָמַרְתִּי לָכֶם לְהָבִיא קָרְבָּן עֲלֵיהֶם, לֹא רָאָה בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר שֶׁעָשִׂיתִי לָכֶם כָּל הַנִּסִּים וְשָׂכַר עֲלֵיכֶם בִּלְעָם, וְהָפַכְתִּי אֶת הַקְּלָלוֹת לִבְרָכוֹת.

5 "And he sent messengers" (Numbers 22:5). The Holy One, blessed be He, made miracles for them; and the Holy One, blessed be He, said, "I redeem you and do miracles for you, but your rebel against Me. Come and see the seven salvations that I saved you - and you should have been obligated to praise Me seven times, corresponding to the seven salvations. And likewise it states (Judges 10:11-12), "But the Lord said to the Children of Israel, 'Is it not that from the Egyptians, from the Amorites, from the Ammonites, and from the Philistines. And the Sidonians, Amalek, and Maon, etc., when you cried out to Me, I saved you from them.'" Behold seven salvations. But you rebelled against Me with seven idolatries, as it is stated (Judges 10:6), "The Israelites again did what was offensive in the eyes of the Lord; they served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth [...]." And likewise does He rebuke them, "'My people, what wrong have I done you; what hardship have I caused you' (Micah 6:3) What burden have I given to you? Did I say to you, 'Bring me burnt-offerings from the animals in the mountains?' Three animals are in your possession (according to Deuteronomy 14:4): 'the bull, the sheep, and the goat.' And seven are not in your possession (according to Deuteronomy 14:5): 'The deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.' Did I burden you to bring a sacrifice in front of Me from the animals which are not in your possession? I only commanded you from the animals which are in your possession, as it is stated (in Leviticus 22:27), 'A bull or a sheep or a goat.' And likewise, 'from the animals; (and) from the cattle and from the sheep' (Leviticus 1:2). And when Sichon and Og came out to fight against you, did I not bring them down before you? 'What hardship did I cause you?' Did I say to you to bring a sacrifice to them? Did Balak son of Tsippor not see that I did all of the miracles for you, so he hired Bilaam against you? But I turned the curses into blessings.

6 ו

וַיַּרְא בָּלָק, כֵּיוָן שֶׁבָּאוּ שְׁלוּחָיו אֵצֶל בִּלְעָם, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (במדבר כב, ט): מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים, אָמַר לוֹ בִּלְעָם (במדבר כב, י): בָּלָק בֶּן צִפֹּר מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב שָׁלַח אֵלָי, אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּא בַּר כַּהֲנָא, זֶה אֶחָד מִשְׁלשָׁה בְּנֵי אָדָם שֶׁבְּדָקָן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּמָצָא קָרוֹן שֶׁל מֵי רַגְלַיִם: קַיִן, חִזְקִיָה וּבִלְעָם. קַיִּן בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (בראשית ד, ט): אֵי הֶבֶל אָחִיךָ, בִּקֵּשׁ לְהַטְעוֹת כִּבְיָכוֹל, הָיָה צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם הַנִּסְתָּרוֹת וְהַנִּגְלוֹת לְפָנֶיךָ גְּלוּיוֹת, וְאַתָּה שׁוֹאֲלֵנִי בִּשְׁבִיל אָחִי, אֶלָּא אָמַר לוֹ (בראשית ד, ט): לֹא יָדַעְתִּי הַשֹּׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חַיֶּיךָ כָּךְ דִּבַּרְתָּ (בראשית ד, י): קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים. חִזְקִיָּה כְּשֶׁעָמַד מֵחָלְיוֹ שָׁלַח לוֹ מְרֹדַךְ בַּלְאֲדָן דּוֹרוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה לט, א): בָּעֵת הַהִיא שָׁלַח מְרֹדַךְ בַּלְאֲדָן בָּא יְשַׁעְיָה אָמַר לוֹ (ישעיה לט, ג): מָה אָמְרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה וּמֵאַיִן יָבֹאוּ אֵלֶיךָ, הָיָה צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אַתְּ נָבִיא שֶׁל מָקוֹם וְלִי אַתְּ שׁוֹאֵל, אֶלָּא הִתְחִיל מִתְגָּאֶה וְאָמַר (ישעיה לט, ג): מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה בָּאוּ אֵלַי מִבָּבֶל, אָמַר לוֹ יְשַׁעְיָה הוֹאִיל וְכָךְ אָמַרְתָּ (ישעיה לט, ו ז): הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים וְנִשָֹּׂא [את] כָּל אֲשֶׁר בְּבֵיתֶךָ, וּמִבָּנֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יֵצְאוּ מִמְךָ, וְהָיוּ סָרִיסִים בְּהֵיכַל מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל. וְכֵן בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשָּׁלַח בָּלָק אֶצְלוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה עִמָּךְ, הָיָה צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם הַכֹּל גָּלוּי לְפָנֶיךָ וְאֵין כָּל דָּבָר נֶעֱלָם מִמֶּךָּ וְלִי אַתְּ שׁוֹאֵל, אֶלָּא אָמַר לוֹ: בָּלָק בֶּן צִפֹּר מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב שָׁלַח אֵלָי. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הוֹאִיל וְכָךְ אַתָּה מְדַבֵּר (במדבר כב, יב): לֹא תָאֹר אֶת הָעָם. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא רָשָׁע שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם, כְּתִיב עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל (זכריה ב, יב): כִּי הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּכֶם כְּנֹגֵעַ בְּבָבַת עֵינוֹ, וְאַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ לִגַּע בָּהֶם וּלְקַלְּלָם, תֵּצֵא עֵינוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כד, ג): שְׂתֻם הָעָיִן, לְקַיֵּם כָּל הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּהֶם כְּנֹגֵעַ בְּבָבַת עֵינוֹ.

6 "And Balak saw" (Numbers 22:2) When his messengers came to Bilaam, the Holy One, blesed be He, said to him, "Who are these people" (Numbers 22:9). Bilaam said to him, (Numbers 22:10), "Balak son of Beor, king of Moav, sent to me." Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said, "This is one of three people that the Holy One, blessed be He, examined and found to be a carriage of urine: Kayin, Chizkiyah and Bilaam. Kayin - at the time that the Holy One, blessed be He, said, 'Where is Hevel, your brother' (Genesis 4:9), he sought to - as if it were possible - deceive Him. He should have said, 'Master of the world, the hidden things and the revealed things are revealed in front of You, and You ask me about me about my brother?' Instead he said to Him (Genesis 4:9), 'I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?' The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, 'By your life, this is how you spoke? "The blood of your brother is crying out."' Chizkiyah - when he got up (recovered) from his illness, Merodach-baladan sent him a gift - as it is stated (Isaiah 39:1), 'At that time, Merodach-baladan, sent' - Yishayah came [and] said to him, 'What did those people say, and from where did they come to you.' He should have said, 'You are a prophet of the Omnipresent, and you ask me?' Instead he began to be haughty and said (Isaiah 39:3), 'From a distant land; they have come from Babylonia.' Isaiah said, 'Since you have spoken like this (Isaiah 39:6-7), "Days are coming when everything in your palace, will be carried off [...]. And some of your sons, your own issue, whom you will have fathered, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylonia."' And likewise Bilaam the evildoer - at the time that Balak sent to him, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, 'Who are these people with you'; he should have said, 'Master of the world, 'Everything is revealed in front of You and there is not anything hidden from you, and You ask me?' Instead, he said to Him (Numbers 22:10), 'Balak son of Beor, king of Moav, sent to me.' The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, 'Since you speak to Me like this (Numbers 22:12), "you may not curse the nation."' The Holy One, blessed be He, said, 'Evildoer of the world, it is written about Israel (Zechariah 2:12), "since one who touches you is like one who touches the pupil of his eye," and you are going to touch them and curse them? His eye shall be removed.' As it is stated (Numbers 24:3), 'with the shut eye,' to fulfill, whoever 'touches them is like one who touches the pupil of his eye.'"

7 ז

וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעֹר פְּתוֹרָה (במדבר כב, ה), עִירוֹ הָיָה, וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֻׁלְחָנִי הָיָה, שֶׁהָיוּ מַלְכֵי גוֹיִם נִמְלָכִים בּוֹ כְּשֻׁלְחָנִי שֶׁהַכֹּל מְרִיצִין לוֹ. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים בַּתְּחִלָה פּוֹתֵר חֲלוֹמוֹת הָיָה, חָזַר לִהְיוֹת קוֹסֵם, וְחָזַר לְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ. (במדבר כב, ה): אֶרֶץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹ, שֶׁמִּשָּׁם הָיָה בָּלָק, וְהוּא אָמַר לוֹ שֶׁסּוֹפוֹ לִמְלֹךְ. (במדבר כב, ה): לִקְרֹא לוֹ, שֶׁכָּתַב לוֹ, לֹא תְהֵא סָבוּר שֶׁלִּי לְבַדִּי אַתְּ עוֹשֶׂה וַאֲנִי מְכַבֶּדְךָ לְבַדִּי, אִם תְּעַקְרֵם מִכָּל הָאֻמּוֹת אַתְּ מְכֻבָּד, וּכְנַעַן וַעֲמָלֵקִים מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לָךְ, (במדבר כב, ה): הִנֵּה עַם יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם, אָמַר לוֹ אַתָּה מָה אִכְפַּת לָךְ, אָמַר לוֹ (במדבר כב, ה): הִנֵּה כִסָּה אֶת עֵין הָאָרֶץ, סָתְמוּ עֵינַיִם שֶׁהָאָרֶץ תָּלוּי בָּהֶן, סִיחוֹן וְעוֹג הֶחֱרִימוּם וְכִסּוּ עֵינֵיהֶם, אֲנִי מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה, (במדבר כב, ה): וְהוּא ישֵׁב מִמֻּלִּי, מִמֻּלִּי כְּתִיב, כְּמָה דְאַתְּ אָמַר (תהלים קיח, י יב): בְּשֵׁם ה' כִּי אֲמִילַם. (במדבר כב, ו): וְעַתָּה לְכָה נָא אָרָה לִי, מַהוּ אָרָה לִי, אוּכַל אֲנִי לִשְׁלֹט בָּהֶם קִמְעָה, כְּאָדָם שֶׁהוּא אוֹרֶה אֶת הַתְּאֵנִים. (במדבר כב, ו): כִּי עָצוּם הוּא מִמֶּנִּי, לֹא שֶׁהֵן גִּבּוֹרִים וַחֲיָלוֹתֵיהֶם מְרֻבִּין, אֶלָּא שֶׁמְנַצְּחִים בְּפִיהֶם. מַה שֶׁאֵינִי יָכוֹל לַעֲשׂוֹת, (במדבר כב, ו): אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה בּוֹ. מָה רָאָה זֶה לְהִתְגָּרוֹת, לֹא כָךְ אָמַר לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ נוֹטְלִים מֵאַרְצָם, אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיוּ בַּעֲלֵי קְסָמִים וּנְחָשִׁים יוֹתֵר מִבִּלְעָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיַּרְא בָּלָק, אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹא הָיָה מְכַוֵּן הַדְּבָרִים לַאֲמִתָּן, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ישעיה מז, יג): נִלְאֵית בְּרֹב עֲצָתָיִךְ יַעַמְדוּ נָא וְיוֹשִׁיעֻךְ הֹבְרֵי שָׁמַיִם הַחֹזִים בַּכּוֹכָבִים, הָיָה רוֹאֶה בְּהוֹבְרָיו שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל נוֹפְלִין בְּיָדוֹ, לְפִיכָךְ הִפְקִיר אֶת בִּתּוֹ וְנָפְלוּ בָּהּ עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף, לְכָךְ נִתְגָּרֶה בָּהֶם, וְלֹא הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ הֵיאַךְ, לְכָךְ אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה, כְּמִי שֶׁמְנַכֶּה אֶחָד מֵעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה לִסְאָה, כָּךְ מִן כָּל עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף מִיִשְׂרָאֵל חָסֵר אֶלֶף אֶלֶף. (במדבר כב, ו): וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ, לֹא הָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ אֶלָּא לְגָרְשָׁם שֶׁלֹא יִכָּנְסוּ לָאָרֶץ. (במדבר כב, ו): כִּי יָדַעְתִּי אֵת אֲשֶׁר תְּבָרֵךְ מְבֹרָךְ, מְנָא הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ, שֶׁבְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ סִיחוֹן לְהִלָּחֵם בְּמוֹאָב הָיָה מִתְיָרֵא שֶׁהָיוּ גִבּוֹרִים, שָׂכַר אֶת בִּלְעָם וְאָבִיו לְקַלֵּל אֶת מוֹאָב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כא, כז): עַל כֵּן יֹאמְרוּ הַמּשְׁלִים, וּכְתִיב (במדבר כא, כח): כִּי אֵשׁ יָצְאָה מֵחֶשְׁבּוֹן, וּכְתִיב (במדבר כא, כט): אוֹי לְךָ מוֹאָב. לְכָךְ אָמַר: כִּי יָדַעְתִּי אֵת אֲשֶׁר תְּבָרֵךְ מְבֹרָךְ.

7 (Numb. 22:5) “And he sent messengers to Balaam ben Beor at Pethor”: [Pethor (Petor) was] the name of his city.7Sanh. 105ab. But others say that [the name implies] he was a money-changer,8Since pator in Aramaic denotes a table, these interpreters would read the clause: AND HE SENT MESSENGERS TO BALAAM BEN BEOR AT A MONEY-CHANGER’S TABLE. Cf. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Gen. 23:16. since the kings of the nations of the world took counsel with him, as the money-changer to whom they all would show [their coins]. Still others say that in the beginning he was an interpreter (poter) of dreams. He turned to being a diviner. Then he turned to the holy spirit.9See Numb. 24:2. (Numb. 22:5, cont.) “To the land of his kinsfolk,” for Balak came from there, and [Balaam] had told him, “Your destiny is to become king.”(Numb. 22:5, cont.) “To summon him”: Thus he wrote him, “Do not suppose that it is for myself alone that you are doing this and that I alone am honoring you. If you uproot them, you shall receive honor from all the nations, so that the Canaanites and the Amalakites shall all bow down to you.” (Numb. 22:5, cont.) “Here is a people that has come out of Egypt:” He said to him, “As for you, how does it concern you?” He said to him (in Numb. 22:5, cont.), “’Look, they have covered the face (literally: eye) of the earth.’ [There are] two eyes upon which the land depends, Sihon and Og. They have destroyed them and covered their eyes. And [now] what do I do?” (Numb. 22:5, cont.) “Now they are dwelling opposite me (mmwly)”: [What is actually] written [in the Biblical text] is mmly (from the root, mwl, which means, "cut off"), just as it says (in Ps. 118:10), “in the name of the Lord I will cut them off (rt.: mwl).”10With the word rewritten in this sense, the end of Numb. 22:5 reads: NOW THEY ARE DWELLING [THERE] CUTTING ME OFF. This interpretation of Numb. 22:5 is also given by Rashi, ad loc. (Numb. 22:6) “So come now please, curse (arah) [this people] for me”: What is the meaning of “curse ('rh) […] for me?” Perhaps I shall be able to control them little by little, like someone who picks (rt.: 'rh) figs. (Numb. 22:6, cont.) “For they are mightier than I”: [It is] not that they are more valiant than I, nor [is it] that their forces are numerous. It is simply that they conquer through their mouth, [and this is] something that I cannot do. (Numb. 22:6, cont.) “Perhaps I shall be able to smite them”: What reason was there for this one to engage them (i.e., Israel) in war? Did not the Holy One, blessed be He, tell them this, that [Israel] was not to take any of their land? [It was] simply that [Balak] was more of a master of sorceries and divinations than Balaam, for it is so written of him (in Numb. 22:2), “Now Balak [ben Zippor] saw (in a vision),” except that he did not really comprehend the things [he saw]. And so it says (in Is. 47:13-14), “You are wearied with your many deliberations; let those who study the heavens please stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars.” When he saw that Israel would fall into his hand, he therefore gave his daughter over (to prostitution to lure Israel to sin);11See Numb. 25:1-15. Numb. 25:15 specifically identifies the sacred prostitute Cozbi as the daughter of Zur, whom the midrash (above, section 7:4) has already identified with Balak. and through her, twenty-four thousand fell. To this end he would have engaged them in war, but he did not know how. Hence (as in Numb. 22:6), “Perhaps I shall be able to smite (nkh) them”: As one discounts (rt.: nkh) one twenty-fourth of a [se’ah];12On allowing a given species to have up to 1/24 of another species, see Kil. 2:1; yKil. 2:1 (27c); BB 6:2; BB 93b-94a, where as elsewhere a rova‘ is a quarter of a qav, which in turn is one sixth of a se’ah. Thus one rova’ equals one twenty-fourth of a se’ah. so also did twenty-four thousand fall from Israel there, [which is] one less.1324 x 20,000 = 480,000, and 24 x 5,000 = 120,000, it turns out that, if 25,000 is found to be 1/24 of 600,000 and only 24,000 fell, then 1,000 are missing In a long note Buber further explains that apart from the law of mixtures, in the removal of the hallah, what is taken is generally 1/24 of the dough (so Hal. 2:7). Buber also notes a variant reading which substitutes menabber (denoting one who removes the hallah) for menakkah (translated here as “discount”). So the Holy One cleansed Israel by removing 1/24 of the people. However, since there were 600,000 Israelites, 25,000 (=1/24 of 600,000), not 24,000, should have been removed. The thousand extra can be explained on analogy with the law of mixtures allowing 1/24 for impurities. The first part of the interpretation in the text comes from dividing 25,000 into two parts of 20,000 + 5,000 and then multiplying each separately and adding the results, instead of simply multiplying 25,000 by 24,000. Regarding the number of Israelites in the desert, Scripture gives the 600,000 figure only in Exod. 12:37. Cf. Exod. 38:26; Numb. 1:46; 2:32, which fix the figure at 603,550 adult males excluding Levites; also Numb. 26:57, which reports a census figure of 601,730 after the removal of the 24,000 in Numb. 25:9. (Numb. 22:6, cont.) “And drive them away from the land,” for he only desired to drive them away, so that they would not enter the land. (Numb. 22:6, cont.) “For I know that whomever you bless is blessed and that whomever you curse is cursed.” From where did he know? When Sihon desired to fight with Moab [and] was afraid because they were warriors, he hired Balaam and his father to curse Moab, for it says (in Numb. 21:27–29), “Therefore those who speak in parables say, [‘Come to Heshbon, let it be built; let the city of Sihon be established.] For a fire has come forth from Heshbon, [a flame from the city of Sihon. It has devoured Ar of Moab…]. Woe be to you, O Moab!’” Ergo it says (in Numb. 22:6), “for I know [that whomever you bless is blessed and that whomever you curse is cursed].”

8 ח

וַיֵּלְכוּ זִקְנֵי מוֹאָב וְזִקְנֵי מִדְיָן וּקְסָמִים בְּיָדָם (במדבר כב, ז), שֶׁהוֹלִיכוּ בְּיָדָם כָּל מִינֵי קְסָמִים שֶׁהָיוּ קוֹסְמִין בָּהֶם, שֶׁלֹא יִתֵּן לוֹ עֲלִילוֹת. וּבְיַד זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן הָיוּ הַקְּסָמִים, שֶׁאָמְרוּ אִם יָבוֹא עִמָּנוּ יַצְלִיחַ, אִם יְעַכֵּב שָׁעָה אַחַת אֵין בּוֹ תּוֹחֶלֶת, כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר לָהֶם (במדבר כב, ח): לִינוּ פֹה הַלַּיְלָה, הָלְכוּ לָהֶם זִקְנֵי מִדְיָן, שֶׁיָּדְעוּ בַּקְּסָמִים שֶׁלָּהֶם שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ הֲנָאָה.

8 (Numb. 22:7) “So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian went with [the tools for] divination in their hand,” for they brought in their hands all kinds of divining instruments through which one divines, so as not to give him an excuse [for not coming]. So the divining instruments were in the hands of the elders of Midian, for they said, “If he comes with us, he will succeed; but if he delays [even] for an hour, he will be of no use.” As soon as they saw that he said (in vs. 8), “Lodge here tonight,” the elders of Midian went away, because they knew through their divinations that he would be of no use.

9 ט

וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה (במדבר כב, ט), זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (משלי כח, י): מַשְׁגֶּה יְשָׁרִים בְּדֶרֶךְ רָע בִּשְׁחוּתוֹ הוּא יִפּוֹל, זֶה בִּלְעָם, שֶׁבַּתְּחִלָּה הַבְּרִיּוֹת נוֹהֲגוֹת בְּכַשְׁרוּת, וּבִדְבָרָיו אֵלּוּ הָיוּ נוֹהֲגִין בַּעֲרָיוֹת, שֶׁהָרִאשׁוֹנִים (בראשית כט, ט): וְרָחֵל בָּאָה עִם הַצֹּאן, (שמות ב, טז): וּלְכֹהֵן מִדְיָן שֶׁבַע בָּנוֹת, עָמַד בִּלְעָם וְהִטְעָה אֶת הַבְּרִיוֹת בַּעֲרָיוֹת, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁהִטְעָה הֻטְעָה, בָּעֵצָה שֶׁנָּתַן בָּהּ נָפַל, וְהִטְעָהוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁכָּךְ כְּתִיב (איוב יב, כג): מַשְֹּׂגִּיא לַגּוֹיִם וַיְאַבְּדֵם. כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה עִמָּךְ, אָמַר אוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ בָּהֶן, יֵשׁ שָׁעָה שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ, וַאֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה בְּבָנָיו כָּל מַה שֶּׁאֲנִי רוֹצֶה, לְכָךְ אָמַר לְהַטְעוֹתוֹ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה עִמָּךְ וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם בָּלָק בֶּן צִפֹר, הִתְחִיל מִתְגָּאֶה וְאָמַר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה מְכַבְּדֵנִי וְאֵין אַתָּה מוֹצִיא לִי שֵׁם בָּעוֹלָם הַמְּלָכִים מְבַקְּשִׁים אוֹתִי. (במדבר כב, יא): הִנֵּה הָעָם הַיֹּצֵא מִמִּצְרַיִם, עַתָּה לְכָה קָבָה לִּי אֹתוֹ, לְהוֹדִיעַ שֶׁשֹּׂוֹנֵא יוֹתֵר מִבָּלָק, שֶׁבָּלָק לֹא אָמַר קָבָה, אֶלָּא אָרָה, וְזֶה קָבָה בְּפֵרוּשׁ, הוּא אָמַר (במדבר כב, ו): וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר (במדבר כב, יא): וְגֵרַשְׁתִּיו, מִן הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וּמִן הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.

9 (Numb. 22:9) “Then God came unto Balaam and said, ‘Who are these people with you’”: This text is related (to Prov. 28:10), “One who leads the upright astray on an evil course will fall into his own pit.” This refers to Balaam. For at first mortals [behaved] with propriety, but because of his (Balaam's) words, they became [unbridled] in sexual matters.14Sanh. 106a. Thus, of former [generations] it is stated (in Gen. 29:9), “Rachel came with the sheep.” And so (in Exod. 2:16), “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters.”15I.e., although these seven daughters and Rachel were shepherdesses, they had no fear of being alone among males. [But] Balaam the wicked arose and led mortals astray into unchastity. But as he led [others] astray, he [himself] was led astray. By the [very] counsel he gave, he [himself] fell. So the Holy One, blessed be He, led him astray, as stated (in Job 12:23), “He exalts the nations and destroys them.” When [the Holy One, blessed be He,] asked him (in Numb. 22:9), “Who are these people with you,” that wicked one said [to himself,] “He knows nothing about them; It appears to me [that] there are times when [God] does not know. And so I can do all that I want to His children.” That is why [God] said it. In order to lead him astray. (Numb. 22:10), “And Balaam said to God, ‘Balak ben Zippor, [the king of Moab] sent [this message] unto me”: He began to boast and say, “Even though You do not honor me, and You do not put out a good name for me in the world, kings seek me. (Numb. 22:11) “Behold the people has come out of Egypt […]; come now, curse (qavah) them for me”: [This is] to make known that he (Balaam) hated Israel more than Balak, because (in Numb. 22:6) Balak did not say qavah (as Balaam claimed he had said in Numb. 22:11) but arah.16Both words mean “curse,” but the former is worse than the latter, because qavah involves the use of the Divine Name. This one (Balaam), however, said (in vs. 11), “curse explicitly (qavah).” Moreover, while the former (Balak) said (in Numb. 22:6) “And drive them away from the land,” the latter (Balaam) said [simply] (in vs. 11), “and drive them out” [i.e.,] from this world and from the world to come.

10 י

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל בִּלְעָם לֹא תֵלֵךְ עִמָּהֶם (במדבר כב, יב), אָמַר לוֹ אִם כֵּן אֲקַלְּלֵם בִּמְקוֹמִי, אָמַר לוֹ (במדבר כב, יב): לֹא תָאֹר אֶת הָעָם. אָמַר לוֹ אִם כֵּן אֲבָרְכֵם, אָמַר לוֹ אֵין צְרִיכִין לְבִרְכָתְךָ (במדבר כב, יב): כִּי בָרוּךְ הוּא, אוֹמְרִים לָהּ לַצִּרְעָה לֹא מִן דֻּבְשֵׁיךְ וְלֹא מִן עֻקְצֵיךְ. (במדבר כב, יג): וַיָּקָם בִּלְעָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל שָׂרֵי בָלָק, לֹא אָמַר לָהֶם בִּלְעָם, לֹא נָתַן לִי רְשׁוּת לֵילֵךְ וּלְקַלֵּל, אֶלָּא (במדבר כב, יג): לְתִתִּי לַהֲלֹךְ עִמָּכֶם, אָמַר לִי אֵין כְּבוֹדְךָ לֵילֵךְ עִם אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא עִם גְּדוֹלִים מֵהֶן שֶׁהוּא חָפֵץ בִּכְבוֹדִי. לְפִיכָךְ (במדבר כב, טו): וַיֹּסֶף עוֹד בָּלָק שְׁלֹחַ שָׂרִים רַבִּים וְנִכְבָּדִים. (במדבר כב, יז): כִּי כַבֵּד אֲכַבֶּדְךָ מְאֹד, יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁהָיִיתָ נוֹטֵל לְשֶׁעָבַר אֲנִי נוֹתֵן. (במדבר כב, יח): וַיַּעַן בִּלְעָם וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם יִתֶּן לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתוֹ כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב, מִיכָּן אַתְּ לָמֵד שֶׁהָיָה בוֹ שְְׁלשָׁה דְּרָכִים, עַיִן רָעָה וְרוּחַ גְבוֹהָה וְנֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה. עַיִן רָעָה, דִּכְתִיב (במדבר כד, ב): וַיִּשָֹּׂא בִלְעָם אֶת עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֹׁכֵן לִשְׁבָטָיו, רוּחַ גְּבוֹהָה, דִּכְתִיב (במדבר כב, יג): כִּי מֵאֵן ה' לְתִתִּי לַהֲלֹךְ עִמָּכֶם. נֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה, דִּכְתִיב: אִם יִתֶּן לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתוֹ כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב. אִלּוּ הָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ לִשְכֹּר לוֹ חֲיָלוֹת לְהִלָּחֵם כְּנֶגְדָן סָפֵק נוֹצְחִין סָפֵק נוֹפְלִין, לֹא דַי שֶׁיִּתֵּן כָּךְ וְנוֹצֵחַ, הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁכָּךְ בִּקֵּשׁ. (במדבר כב, יח): לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲבֹר, מִתְנַבֵּא שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְבַטֵּל הַבְּרָכוֹת שֶׁנִּתְבָּרְכוּ מִפִּי הַשְּׁכִינָה. (במדבר כב, יט): וְעַתָּה שְׁבוּ נָא בָזֶה גַּם אַתֶּם, מַהוּ גַּם אַתֶּם, שֶׁסּוֹפְכֶם לֵילֵךְ בְּפַחֵי נֶפֶשׁ כָּרִאשׁוֹנִים. (במדבר כב, יט): וְאֵדְעָה מַה יֹּסֵף ה', שֶׁמִּתְנַבֵּא שֶׁעָתִיד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְהוֹסִיף לָהֶם בְּרָכוֹת עַל יָדוֹ.

10 (Numb. 22:12) “Then God said unto Balaam, ‘You shall not go with them’”: He said to Him, “If so, I will curse them from where I am.” He said to him, (ibid., cont.) “You shall not curse the people.” He said to Him, “If so, let me bless them.” He said to him, “They do not need your blessing, (ibid., cont.) ‘for they are blessed.’” Similarly one says to a hornet, “None of your honey and none of your sting.” (Numb. 22:13) “So Balaam arose in the morning and said to the ministers of Balak”: Balaam did not tell them, “He did not give me permission to go and to curse.” [He simply said] (ibid., cont.), “To let me go with you”: He said to me, “It is not in accord with your honor to go with these people. Rather [you must go] with people greater then they,” since He takes pleasure in my being honored. Therefore (in vs. 15), “Once again Balak sent ministers, more numerous and more honorable [than (the first ones)].” (Numb. 22:17) “For I will surely honor you greatly”: [Even] more than what you [wanted] formerly will I give you. (Numb. 22:18) “But Balaam answered and said […], ‘[Even] if Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, [I could not transgress the command of the Lord my God to do less or more].’” From here you learn that he had three things. And they are an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a greedy soul:17See Avot 5:19. An evil eye, as it is written (in Numb. 24:2), “Then Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel […].” A haughty spirit, as it is written (according to Numb. 22:13), “for the Lord refused to let me go with you.” A greedy soul, as it is written (according to Numb. 22:18), “[Even] if Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold.” [He said to Balak,] “If you sought to hire soldiers to fight against them, it is a question whether they would vanquish them or fail, [yet you would pay it]; is it not [then proper] that you would give it to vanquish [them with certainty]?” See you have learned that he sought this. (Ibid., cont.) “I could not transgress [the command of the Lord my God]”: [He was] prophesying that he could not annul the blessings with which the ancestors had been blessed by the mouth of the Divine Presence. (Numb. 22:19) “Now you also please stay here tonight”: What is the meaning of “you also.” That in the end you will go in disappointment like the former [messengers]. (Ibid., cont.) “So that I may know what else (rt.: ysp) the Lord may say to me”: Thus he prophesied that the Holy One, blessed be He, was going to multiply (rt.: ysp) blessings for them through him.

11 יא

וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים אֶל בִּלְעָם לַיְלָה (במדבר כב, כ), זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (איוב לג, טו יז): בַּחֲלוֹם חֶזְיוֹן לַיְלָה בִּנְפֹל תַּרְדֵּמָה עַל אֲנָשִׁים, אָז יִגְלֶה אֹזֶן אֲנָשִׁים, לְהָסִיר אָדָם מַעֲשֶׂה וְגֵוָה מִגֶּבֶר יְכַסֶּה. הֶעֱלִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁהֲלִיכָתוֹ מְאַבַּדְתּוֹ מִן הָעוֹלָם וּמוֹלִיכַתּוּ לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת, (איוב לג, ל): [לחשך] לְהָשִׁיב נַפְשׁוֹ מִנִּי שָׁחַת לֵאוֹר בְּאוֹר הַחַיִּים, שֶׁאִבֵּד נַפְשׁוֹ בַּהֲלִיכָתוֹ, שֶׁבְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהוֹלֵךְ אָדָם לַחְטוֹא הַשָֹּׂטָן מְרַקֵּד לוֹ עַד שֶׁגּוֹמֵר הָעֲבֵרָה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁאִבְּדוֹ חוֹזֵר וּמוֹדִיעוֹ. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (משלי ז, כב כג): הוֹלֵךְ אַחֲרֶיהָ פִּתְאֹם כְּשׁוֹר אֶל טֶבַח יָבֹא, עַד יְפַלַּח חֵץ כְּבֵדוֹ כְּמַהֵר צִפּוֹר אֶל פָּח. הֶעֱלִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִן בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע עַד שֶׁהָלַךְ וְאִבֵּד אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ, מִשֶּׁיָּצָא מִן כְּבוֹדוֹ וְיָדַע בַּמֶּה שֶׁהוּא בּוֹ, הִתְחִיל לְבַקֵּשׁ עַל נַפְשׁוֹ (במדבר כג, י): תָּמֹת נַפְשִׁי מוֹת יְשָׁרִים.

11 (Numb. 22:20) “Then God came unto Balaam at night”: This text is related (to Job 33:15-17), “In a dream, a vision of the night […]; Then he uncovers a human ear […]; To turn a person from an action and conceal pride from a man.” What is the meaning of “conceal from a man”? The Holy One, blessed be He, hid from him (i.e, from Balaam) that his going (with Balak's messengers) would obliterate him from the world and bring him to the grave.” [To darken (from)] (as in Job 33:30) “Bringing him back from the grave, that he may bask in the light of life,” to destroy his soul in his going. For when someone is going to sin, Satan dances before him until he completes the transgression. As soon as he has transgressed, he returns to inform Him. Thus it is stated (in Prov. 7: 22–23), “Going after her right away, he comes like an ox to the slaughter …. Until an arrow pierces his liver […].” [So] did the Holy One, blessed be He, hide [obliteration] from Balaam, until he had gone and destroyed his soul. After he had taken leave of his honor, had gone and destroyed his soul and realized how he stood, he began to beg for his soul (saying in Numb. 23:10), “let my soul die the death of the righteous.”

12 יב

וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים אֶל בִּלְעָם לַיְלָה. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (שמות יב, מב): לֵיל שִׁמֻרִים הוּא לַה' הוּא הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה. כָּל הַנִּסִּים שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וּפָרַע לָהֶם מִן הָרְשָׁעִים בַּלַּיְלָה הָיָה (בראשית לא, כד): וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים אֶל לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי בַּחֲלֹם הַלָּיְלָה, (בראשית כ, ג): וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים אֶל אֲבִימֶלֶךְ בַּחֲלוֹם הַלָּיְלָה, (שמות יב, כט): וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה, וּכְתִיב (שמות יד, כ): וַיְהִי הֶעָנָן וְהַחשֶׁךְ וַיָּאֶר אֶת הַלָּיְלָה, (בראשית יד, טו): וַיֵּחָלֵק עֲלֵיהֶם לַיְלָה, וְכֵן כֻּלָּם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, לָמָּה נִגְלָה עַל בִּלְעָם לַיְלָה, לֹא הָיָה רָאוּי לְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ, לְפִי שֶׁכָּל נְבִיאֵי הַגּוֹיִם בַּלַּיְלָה מְדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶם. וְכֵן אֱלִיפַז אוֹמֵר (איוב ד, יג): בִּשְׂעִפִּים מֵחֶזְיוֹנוֹת לָיְלָה. וְכֵן אֱלִיהוּא אוֹמֵר עַל זֶה שֶׁדִּבֵּר אִתּוֹ לַיְלָה. (במדבר כב, כ): אִם לִקְרֹא לְךָ בָּאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים קוּם לֵךְ אִתָּם. מִכָּן אַתּ לָמֵד שֶׁבַּדֶּרֶךְ שֶׁאָדָם רוֹצֶה לֵילֵךְ בָּהּ מוֹלִיכִין אוֹתוֹ, שֶׁמִּתְּחִלָּה נֶאֱמַר לוֹ (במדבר כב, יב): לֹא תֵלֵךְ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהֵעֵז פָּנָיו לַהֲלֹךְ הָלַךְ, שֶׁכֵּן כְּתִיב (במדבר כב, כב): וַיִּחַר אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי הוֹלֵךְ הוּא. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא רָשָׁע אֵינִי חָפֵץ בְּאִבּוּדָן שֶׁל רְשָׁעִים, הוֹאִיל וְאַתְּ רוֹצֶה לֵילֵךְ לֵאָבֵד מִן הָעוֹלָם קוּם לֵךְ. (במדבר כב, כ): וְאַךְ אֶת הַדָּבָר, לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁבְּהַתְרָאָה הָלַךְ, מִיָּד וַיַּשְׁכֵּם, קָדַם וְעָמַד בִּזְרִיזוּת הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, רָשָׁע, כְּבָר קְדָמְךָ אַבְרָהָם אֲבִיהֶם לַעֲקֹד אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ, (בראשית כב, ג): וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבשׁ אֶת חֲמֹרוֹ וגו'. (במדבר כב, כא): וַיֵּלֶךְ עִם שָׂרֵי מוֹאָב, לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁהָיָה שָׂמֵחַ בְּפֻרְעָנוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמוֹתָן.

12 (Numb. 22:20) “Then God came unto Balaam at night”: This text is related (to Exod. 12:42), “That was for the Lord a night of vigil […].” All miracles which were done for Israel and which involved exacting retribution for them from the wicked took place at night: (Gen. 31:24) “And God came unto Laban the Aramean in a dream at night”: And it is written (in Gen. 20:3), “But God came unto Abimelech in a dream at night.” And it is written (in Exod. 12:29), “And it came to pass in the middle of the night.” And it is written (in Exod. 14:20), “there was the cloud with the darkness, and it cast a spell upon the night.” And it is written (in Gen. 14:15), “And he deployed at night.” And so [it was with] all of them. Another interpretation: Why did he reveal himself to Balaam by night? He was not worthy of [receiving] the holy spirit [except at night]. As He speaks at night with all the prophets of the nations, as stated (in Job 4:13), “In opinions from night visions.” And so Eliphaz says (in Job 4:13), “In a dream, a vision of the night,” about [Balaam’s] speaking with him at night. And similarly Elihou speaks about that which He had spoken with him at night. (Numb. 22:20, cont.) “If these men have come to invite you, arise and go with them”: From here you learn that in the way that a man wants to go, in it is he driven. As at first it was said to him (in Numb. 22:12), “Do not go with them.” As soon as he had become defiant, he went. As so is it written about him (in Numb. 22:22), “But God's anger was kindled because he was going.” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “I do not desire the death of the wicked. [But] in as much as you want to be obliterated from the world, ‘arise and go with them.’” (Numb. 22:20, cont.), “But only the thing [that I tell you are you to do].” [These words are] to teach you that he went with a warning. Immediately he got up early in the morning [preparing his donkey] quickly all by himself. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “You wicked man! Their ancestor Abraham has already anticipated you at the binding of his son Isaac,” as stated (in Gen. 22:3), “So Abraham arose early in the morning, saddled his he-ass.” (Numb. 22:21, cont.) “And went with the princes of Moab”: [These words are] to teach you that he was as glad at the tribulation of Israel as they were.

13 יג

וַיִּחַר אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי הוֹלֵךְ הוּא וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ ה' (במדבר כב, כב), מַלְאָךְ שֶׁל רַחֲמִים הָיָה וְנַעֲשָׂה לוֹ לְשָׂטָן. (במדבר כב, כב): וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ, זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ שֶׁהַיּוֹצֵא לַדֶּרֶךְ צָרִיךְ שְׁנַיִם לְשַׁמְּשׁוֹ וְחוֹזְרִים וּמְשַׁמְּשִׁין זֶה לָזֶה. (במדבר כב, כג): וַתֵּרֶא הָאָתוֹן אֶת מַלְאַךְ ה', וְכִי לֹא הָיָה יָכוֹל הַמַּלְאָךְ לִנְשׂף בּוֹ וְיוֹצִיא רוּחוֹ אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן שָׁלַף חַרְבּוֹ, וַהֲרֵי כְּתִיב בְּסַנְחֵרִיב (ישעיה לז, לו): וַיֵּצֵא מַלְאַךְ ה' וַיַּכֶּה בְּמַחֲנֵה אַשּׁוּר, וּכְתִיב (ישעיה מ, כד): וְגַם נָשַׁף בָּהֶם, חַיֵּיהֶם, אֶלָּא כָּךְ אָמַר לוֹ: הַפֶּה נִתַּן לְיַעֲקֹב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית כז, כב): הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב וְהַיָּדַיִם יְדֵי עֵשָׂו, וּכְתִיב (בראשית כז, מ): וְעַל חַרְבְּךָ תִחְיֶה. וְהָאֻמּוֹת כֻּלָּם בַּחֶרֶב חַיֵּיהֶם, וְאַתָּה תַּחְלִיף [אמונת]) אֻמָּנוּתְךָ וְתָבוֹא עֲלֵיהֶם בְּשֶׁלָּהֶן, אַף אֲנִי אָבוֹא עָלֶיךָ בְּשֶׁלְּךָ, לְכָךְ כְּתִיב (במדבר כב, כג): וְחַרְבּוֹ שְׁלוּפָה בְּיָדוֹ.

13 (Numb. 22:22) “But God's anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took a stand [in the road as his adversary (satan)]”:18A good example of this Hebrew word when it is not used as a proper noun. He was an angel of mercy, but to [Balaam] he had become an adversary (satan). (Numb. 22:22, cont.) “And two of his servant boys were with him”: This is customary for one going out on the road. It is necessary for two to attend him. Then in turn they attend each other. (Numb. 22:23) “Now the she-ass saw the angel of the Lord [and a sword was drawn in his hand]”: Was not the angel able to breathe on him and take away his spirit unless he drew his sword? And look at what is written about Sennacherib (in II Kings 19:35 = Is. 37:36 // II Chron. 32:21.), “the angel of the Lord went out and smote [one hundred and eighty-five thousand] in the camp of Assyria.” It is also written (in Is. 40:24), “he blows on them and they wither.” However, he said to him, “[Skill with] the mouth was given to Jacob, as stated (in Gen. 27:22), ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ And it is written (in Gen. 27:40), ‘Upon your sword shall you live.’ All the nations all live by the sword. Now you are trading off your craft and coming against them with their [craft]. I also am coming against you with your own [craft].” Hence it is written (in Numb. 22:23) “and a sword was drawn in his hand.”

14 יד

וַתֵּט הָאָתוֹן מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ וַתֵּלֶךְ (במדבר כב, כג), הָרָשָׁע הַזֶּה הוֹלֵךְ לְקַלֵּל אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה שֶׁלֹא חָטְאָה לוֹ וּמַכֶּה אֲתוֹנוֹ שֶׁלֹא תֵּלֵךְ בַּשָֹּׂדֶה, וּכְתִיב (במדבר כב, כד): וַיַּעֲמֹד מַלְאַךְ ה' בְּמִשְׁעוֹל הַכְּרָמִים, וְכִי לֹא הָיָה יָכוֹל לוֹ לֵילֵךְ אַחֲרָיו, אֶלָּא כָּךְ מִדַת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וָדָם מְשַׁלֵּחַ סְפֶקְלָטוֹר לַהֲרֹג אֶת הָאָדָם, מְהַלֵּךְ אַחֲרָיו יָמִים הַרְבֵּה, וְזֶה שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב מִיתָה אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה וְהַסְּפֶקְלָטוֹר מְהַלֵּךְ וּמִטָּרֵף אַחֲרָיו מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם, וְלִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ כֵן הַסְּפֶקְלָטוֹר בִּמְקוֹמוֹ עוֹמֵד וּמִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב מִיתָה בָּא אֶצְלוֹ בְּרַגְלָיו, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹא יִצְטָעֵר הַמַּלְאָךְ לֵילֵךְ אַחַר בִּלְעָם קְדָמוֹ לַדָּרֶךְ. וַיַּעֲמֹד מַלְאַךְ ה' בְּמִשְׁעוֹל, אָמַר לוֹ הַכְּרָמִים נִמְכָּרִים כַּשּׁוּעָלִים (במדבר כב, כד): גָּדֵר מִזֶּה וְגָדֵר מִזֶּה, אֵין אַתָּה יָכוֹל לִשְׁלֹט בָּהֶן, שֶׁבִּידֵיהֶם (שמות לב, טו): לֻחוֹת כְּתוּבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה הֵם כְּתֻבִים. (במדבר כב, כה כו): וַתֵּרֶא הָאָתוֹן אֶת מַלְאַךְ ה' וַתִּלָּחֵץ אֶל הַקִּיר, וַיּוֹסֶף מַלְאַךְ ה' עֲבוֹר, מָה רָאָה לְקַדְּמוֹ שָׁלשׁ פְּעָמִים עַד שֶׁלֹא נִרְאָה לוֹ, סִימָנִין שֶׁל אָבוֹת הֶרְאָה לוֹ, עָמַד לוֹ בָרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיָה רֶוַח מִכָּאן וּמִכָּאן וַתֵּט הָאָתוֹן מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ וַתֵּלֶךְ, בַּשְּׁנִיָּה לֹא יָכְלָה לָזוּז אֶלָּא לְצַד אֶחָד, בַּשְׁלִישִׁית (במדבר כב, כו): אֵין דֶּרֶךְ לִנְטוֹת יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול. וּמָה הָיוּ הַסִּימָנִין הָאֵלֶּה, שֶׁאִלּוּ בִּקֵּשׁ לְקַלֵּל בָּנָיו שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם, הָיָה מוֹצֵא מִיכָּן וּמִיכָּן בְּנֵי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנֵי קְטוּרָה. בִּקֵּשׁ לְקַלֵּל בְּנֵי יִצְחָק, הָיָה מוֹצֵא בָּהֶן צַד אֶחָד בְּנֵי עֵשָׂו, וַתִּלָחֵץ אֶל הַקִּיר, בָּנָיו שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב לֹא מָצָא בָּהֶן פְּסוֹלֶת לִגַּע בָּהֶן, לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר בַּשְּׁלִישִׁית (במדבר כב, כו): בְּמָקוֹם צָר, זֶה יַעֲקֹב, דִּכְתִיב (בראשית לב, ח): וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ. אֲשֶׁר אֵין דֶּרֶךְ לִנְטוֹת יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול, שֶׁלֹא מָצָא פְּסֹלֶת בְּאֶחָד מִבָּנָיו. (במדבר כב, כז): וַתֵּרֶא הָאָתוֹן אֶת מַלְאַךְ ה' וַתִּרְבַּץ תַּחַת בִּלְעָם וַיִּחַר אַף בִּלְעָם וַיַּךְ אֶת הָאָתוֹן בַּמַּקֵּל, עַל בִּזְיוֹנוֹ שֶׁבִּזְּתָה אוֹתוֹ. (במדבר כב, כח): וַיִּפְתַּח ה' אֶת פִּי הָאָתוֹן, לְהוֹדִיעוֹ שֶׁהַפֶּה וְהַלָּשׁוֹן בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ, שֶׁאִם בִּקֵּשׁ לְקַלֵּל פִּיו בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ. (במדבר כב, כח): וַתֹּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם מֶה עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ כִּי הִכִּיתָנִי זֶה שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים, רָמְזָה לוֹ אַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ לַעֲקֹר אֻמָּה הַחוֹגֶגֶת שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים. (במדבר כב, כט): וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם לָאָתוֹן כִּי הִתְעַלַּלְתְּ בִּי, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמְדַבֵּר בְּלָשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ, עוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים לְשׁוֹנוֹ סָרוּחַ. (במדבר כב, כט): לוּ יֶשׁ חֶרֶב בְּיָדִי, מָשָׁל לְרוֹפֵא שֶׁבָּא לְרַפְּאוֹת בִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ נְשׁוּךְ נָחָשׁ, בַּדֶּרֶךְ רָאָה אֲנָקָה אַחַת הִתְחִיל מְבַקֵּשׁ מַקֵּל לְהָרְגָהּ, אָמְרוּ זוֹ אִי אַתָּה יָכוֹל לִטֹּל, הֵיאַךְ בָּאתָ לְרַפְּאוֹת בִּלְשׁוֹנְךָ נְשׁוּךְ נָחָשׁ. כָּךְ אָמְרָה הָאָתוֹן לְבִלְעָם אֲנִי אֵין אַתָּה יָכוֹל לְהָרְגֵנִי אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן חֶרֶב בְּיָדְךָ, וְהֵיאַךְ אַתָּה רוֹצֶה לַעֲקֹר אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה, שָׁתַק וְלֹא מָצָא תְּשׁוּבָה, הִתְחִילוּ תְּמֵהִים שָׂרֵי מוֹאָב שֶׁרָאוּ נֵס שֶׁלֹא הָיָה כָּמוֹהוּ מֵעוֹלָם. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים אָמַר לָהֶם אֵינָהּ שֶׁלִּי, הֵשִׁיבַתּוּ (במדבר כב, ל): הֲלוֹא אָנֹכִי אֲתֹנְךָ אֲשֶׁר רָכַבְתָּ עָלַי מֵעוֹדְךָ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁלֹא הָיָה זָקֵן, שֶׁהָאָתוֹן גְּדוֹלָה הֵימֶנּוּ. (במדבר כב, כט): הַהַסְכֵּן הִסְכַּנְתִּי לַעֲשׂוֹת לְךָ כֹּה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁדִּבְּרָה מֵתָה, שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ אוֹמְרִים זוֹ שֶׁדִּבְּרָה וְעוֹשִׂין אוֹתָהּ יִרְאָה. דָּבָר אַחֵר, הַהַסְכֵּן הִסְכַּנְתִּי לַעֲשׂוֹת לְךָ כֹּה, חָס הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל כְּבוֹדוֹ שֶׁל אוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע, שֶׁלֹא יֹאמְרוּ זוֹ הָיְתָה שֶׁסִּלְּקָה אֶת בִּלְעָם. וְאִם חָס הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל כְּבוֹד הָרָשָׁע, אֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר עַל כְּבוֹד הַצַּדִּיק. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ויקרא כ, טז): וְאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרַב אֶל כָּל בְּהֵמָה לְרִבְעָה אֹתָהּ וְהָרַגְתָּ אֶת הָאִשָּׁה וְאֶת הַבְּהֵמָה, שֶׁלֹא יֹאמְרוּ זוֹ הַבְּהֵמָה שֶׁנֶּהֶרְגָה אִשָּׁה פְּלוֹנִית עַל יָדֶיהָ, לְהוֹדִיעֲךָ שֶׁחָס הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל כְּבוֹדָן שֶׁל בְּרִיּוֹת וְיוֹדֵעַ צָרְכָּן וְסָתַם פִּי הַבְּהֵמָה, שֶׁאִלּוּ הָיְתָה מְדַבֶּרֶת לֹא הָיוּ יְכוֹלִין לְשַׁעְבְּדָהּ וְלַעֲמֹד בָּהּ, שֶׁזּוֹ הַטִּפֶּשֶׁת שֶׁבַּבְּהֵמָה, וְזֶה חָכָם שֶׁבַּחֲכָמִים, כֵּיוָן שֶׁדִּבְּרָה לֹא הָיָה יָכוֹל לַעֲמֹד בָּהּ.

... [T]he Holy One has pity on the honor of the creatures/b’riyot (here meaning “people”) and knows their needs. And He shut the mouth of the beast/b’heimah, for if she would speak, they could not make her serve or stand up to her /bah, for [there was] this silent one from the animals (the ass) and this wise one from the sages (Bil`am) – [and] when she spoke he could not stand up to her.

15 טו

וַיְגַל ה' אֶת עֵינֵי בִלְעָם (במדבר כב, לא), וְכִי סוּמָא הָיָה, לְהוֹדִיעַ שֶׁאַף הָעַיִן בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ. (במדבר כב, לא): וַיִּקֹּד וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לְאַפָּיו, שֶׁדִּבֵּר עִמּוֹ. (במדבר כב, לב): וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו מַלְאַךְ ה' עַל מָה הִכִּיתָ, וְכִי דִּקָּיוֹן שֶׁל אָתוֹן בָּא מַלְאָךְ לְבַקֵּשׁ מִיָּדוֹ, אֶלָּא אָמַר לוֹ מָה הָאָתוֹן שֶׁאֵין לָהּ זְכוּת וְלֹא בְּרִית אָבוֹת נִצְטַוֵּיתִי לִתְבֹּעַ עֶלְבּוֹנָהּ מִיָּדְךָ, אֻמָּה שְׁלֵמָה שֶׁאַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ לְעָקְרָהּ, שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהּ זְכוּת וּבְרִית אָבוֹת, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה. (במדבר כב, לב): הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי יָצָאתִי לְשָׂטָן כִּי יָרַט הַדֶּרֶךְ. יָרְאָ"ה רָאֲתָ"ה נָטְתָ"ה. דָּבָר אַחֵר, יָרַט בְּא"ת ב"ש מָגֵן. (במדבר כב, לג): וַתִּרְאַנִי הָאָתוֹן, גַּם אֹתְכָה הָרַגְתִּי וְאוֹתָהּ הֶחֱיֵיתִי, מִיכָּן אַתְּ לָמֵד שֶׁהָרַג אֶת הָאָתוֹן. (במדבר כב, לד): וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל מַלְאַךְ ה' חָטָאתִי, שֶׁהָיָה רָשָׁע עָרוּם וְיוֹדֵעַ שֶׁאֵין עוֹמֵד מִפְּנֵי הַפֻּרְעָנוּת אֶלָּא תְּשׁוּבָה, שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁחוֹטֵא וְאוֹמֵר חָטָאתִי, אֵין רְשׁוּת לַמַּלְאָךְ לִגַּע בּוֹ. (במדבר כב, לד): כִּי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי. וְעַתָּה אִם רַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ אָשׁוּבָה לִי, אָמַר לוֹ אֲנִי לֹא הָלַכְתִּי עַד שֶׁאָמַר לִי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (במדבר כב, כ): קוּם לֵךְ אִתָּם, וְאַתָּה אוֹמֵר שֶׁאֶחֱזֹר, כָּךְ אֻמְנָתוֹ, לֹא כָךְ אָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם לְהַקְרִיב אֶת בְּנוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ (בראשית כב, יא יב): וַיִּקְרָא מַלְאַךְ ה', וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ, לָמוּד הוּא לוֹמַר דָּבָר וּמַלְאָךְ מַחֲזִירוֹ, וְעַכְשָׁו הוּא אוֹמֵר לִי לֵךְ אִתָּם, וְעַכְשָׁו אִם רַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ אָשׁוּבָה לִי. (במדבר כב, לה): וַיֹּאמֶר מַלְאַךְ ה' אֶל בִּלְעָם לֵךְ עִם הָאֲנָשִׁים, שֶׁחֶלְקְךָ עִמָּהֶם וְסוֹפְךָ לֵאָבֵד מִן הָעוֹלָם. (במדבר כב, לה): וַיֵּלֶךְ בִּלְעָם עִם שָׂרֵי בָלָק, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁכְּשֵׁם שֶׁהֵם שְׂמֵחִים לְקַלֵּל כָּךְ הוּא שָׂמֵחַ.

15 (Numb. 22:31) “Then the Lord uncovered the eyes of Balaam and he saw [the angel of the Lord….]”: Was he blind? [These words were] simply to inform him that even the eye is in [God’s] control. (Ibid., cont.) “Then he bowed down and prostrated himself on his face,” because [the angel] had spoken with him. (Numb. 22:32) “And the angel of the Lord said unto him, ‘Why did you strike your she-ass these three times’”: Did the angel come to seek [satisfaction] at his hand for the she-ass? It is simply that he said to him, “Now if for the she-ass, which has neither merit nor a covenant from the ancestors, I have been commanded to seek satisfaction from your hand, how much the more so for an entire people that has merit and the covenant of the ancestors that you have come to uproot!“ (Numb. 22:32, cont.) “Here I have come out as an adversary (satan), because your way is contrary (yrt).” [Yrt is interpreted as] an acronym [concerning the ass for] yare'ah (she feared), ra'atah (she saw), natetah (she turned away). Another interpretation: [The numerical value of] yrt, in the atbash [scheme] is [equivalent to that of] shield (magen). (Numb. 22:33) “For the she-ass saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away [from me, surely just now I would have killed you] and let her live”: From here you have learned that he killed the ass. (Numb. 22:34) “Then Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned’”: As he was a crafty evildoer. He knew that nothing can withstand divine punishment except for repentance; for whenever anyone sins and says, “I have sinned,” the angel has no authority to touch him. (Ibid.) “Because I did not know; and now, if it is evil in your eyes, I will return.”22This verb can also be rendered as “repent.” He said to him, “I did not go until the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me (in Numb. 22:20), “Arise and go with them”; yet you are saying that I should return! [Indeed] such is His practice! Similarly, did he not tell Abraham to sacrifice his son? Then after that [it is stated (in Gen. 22:11-12)], ‘But the angel of the Lord called [unto him…]. And he said, “Do not raise your hand [against the lad].”’ He is used to saying something, then to have an angel come and reverse it. And now He had said to me, ‘Go with them,’ [but (in vs. 34)] ‘if it is evil in your eyes, I will return.’” (Numb. 22:35) “The angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, ‘Go with the men’”; for your lot is [to be] with them, and your end is to be obliterated from the world. (Ibid., cont.) “So Balaam went with the princes of Balak”: [These words] teach that just as they were happy to curse [Israel], so was he happy.

16 טז

וַיִּשְׁמַע בָּלָק כִּי בָא בִלְעָם (במדבר כב, לו), מְלַמֵּד שֶׁשָּׁלַח שְׁלוּחִים לְבָלָק לְבַשְֹּׂרוֹ, (במדבר כב, לו): וַיֵּצֵא לִקְרָאתוֹ אֶל עִיר מוֹאָב, לַמֶּטְרוֹפּוֹלִין שֶׁלָּהֶן, מָה רָאָה לְקַדְּמוֹ לַגְּבוּלִין, אָמַר הַגְּבוּלִין הַלָּלוּ שֶׁנִּקְבְּעוּ מִימֵי נֹחַ שֶׁלֹא תִּכָּנֵס אֻמָּה בִּגְבוּל חֲבֶרְתָּהּ אֵלּוּ בָּאִין לְקַלְקֵל, וְהָיָה מַרְאֶה לוֹ הֵיאַךְ פָּרְצוּ וְעָבְרוּ גְּבוּל סִיחוֹן וְעוֹג, כְּאִלּוּ קוֹבֵל עֲלֵיהֶם. (במדבר כב, לז): וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל בִּלְעָם הֲלֹא שָׁלֹחַ שָׁלַחְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ, הַאֻמְנָם לֹא אוּכַל כַּבְּדֶךָ, נִתְנַבֵּא לָצֵאת לְסוֹפוֹ הֵימֶנוּ בְּקָלוֹן, וּכְעִנְיָנוֹ הֱשִׁיבוֹ (במדבר כב, לח): הִנֵּה בָאתִי אֵלֶיךָ עַתָּה הֲיָכֹל אוּכַל דַּבֵּר מְאוּמָה, שֶׁאֵין רְשׁוּת בְּיָדִי לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁאֲנִי רוֹצֶה.

16 (Numb. 22:36) “When Balak heard that Balaam had come.” [These words] teach that he sent messengers unto [Balak] to send him tidings. (Ibid., cont.) “He went out to meet him unto the city of Moab,” [i.e.,] unto their metropolis.23Gk. and Lat.: metropolis. What was [Balak's] reason for preceding him to the borders? He said to him, “These are borders which have been fixed from the days of Noah, so that a nation would not enter the territory of its neighbor. These [people] are coming to uproot them.” Then he showed him how they had broken through and crossed the border of Sihon and Og, as though lodging a complaint against them. (Numb. 22:37) “Then Balak said unto Balaam, ‘Did I not truly send unto you to summon you; [why did you not come unto me;] am I really unable to honor you’”: He prophesied that his end would be to go in disgrace. Then did Balaam also answer him like the [truth of the] matter (in Numb. 22:38), “So Balaam said unto Balak, ‘See, I have come unto you now, but am I really able to say anything at all?’” For I do not have authority to say what I want.

17 יז

וַיִּקַח בָּלָק אֶת בִּלְעָם (במדבר כב, מא), (במדבר כב, לט): וַיָּבֹאוּ קִרְיַת חֻצוֹת, שֶׁעָשָׂה שְׁוָקִים שֶׁל מִקַּח וּמִמְכָּר, וְעָשָׂה לוֹ אִטְלִיז לְהַרְאוֹת לוֹ אֻכְלוּסִין, לוֹמַר רְאֵה מָה אֵלּוּ בָּאִין לַהֲרֹג, בְּנֵי אָדָם וְתִינוֹקוֹת שֶׁלֹא חָטְאוּ לָהֶן. (במדבר כב, מ): וַיִּזְבַּח בָּלָק בָּקָר וָצֹאן, הַצַּדִּיקִים אוֹמְרִים מְעַט וְעוֹשִׂין הַרְבֵּה, כְּאַבְרָהָם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח, ה): וְאֶקְחָה פַת לֶחֶם, וְאַחַר כָּךְ (בראשית יח, ו ז): מַהֲרִי שְׁלשׁ סְאִים, וְאֶל הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם. וּרְשָׁעִים אוֹמְרִים הַרְבֵּה וַאֲפִלּוּ מְעַט אֵינָם עוֹשִׂים, בָּלָק אָמַר (במדבר כב, יז): כִּי כַבֵּד אֲכַבֶּדְךָ מְאֹד, וּכְשֶׁבָּא לֹא שִׁגֵּר לוֹ אֶלָּא בָּקָר וְצֹאן אַחַת, הִתְחִיל בִּלְעָם חוֹרֵק שִׁנָּיו עָלָיו, שֶׁהָיָה נַפְשׁוֹ רְחָבָה, אָמַר כָּךְ שָׁלַח לִי, מָחָר אֲנִי נוֹתֵן מְאֵרָה בִּנְכָסָיו (במדבר כג, א): וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל בָּלָק בְּנֵה לִי בָזֶה שִׁבְעָה מִזְבְּחֹת.

17 (Numb. 22:41, 39) “And Balak took Balaam.” “Then Balaam went unto24The Masoretic text reads both this and the following UNTO as WITH. Balak, and they came unto Kiriath-Huzoth (literally: city of markets),” where he had made market places for buying and selling. He had [also] made a bazaar. [His purpose was] to show him crowds25Gk.: ochloi. and say, “See what those [people] are coming to kill, people and infants who have done them no wrong.” (Numb. 22:40) “Then Balak sacrificed an ox and a sheep:”26Bible translations usually render “OX” and “SHEEP” as plurals, but the midrash is interpreting them as singular. The righteous say little and do much.27BM 87a; ARN, A, 13; ARN, B, 23; see Ned. 21b. It is written of Abraham (in Gen. 18:5), “Let me bring a piece of bread that you may refresh your souls.” But after that (in vs. 6-7), “’Hurry up with three se'ah [of fine meal]….’ Then Abraham ran unto the herd.” But the wicked say a lot and do not even do a little. Balak said (in Numb. 22:17), “For I will surely honor you greatly….” When [Balaam] came, he only sent him an ox and a sheep. Balaam began gnashing his teeth at him, for he was greedy. He said [to himself], “Is this what he sent me? Tomorrow I will deliver a curse through his [own] property,” [as stated] (in Numb. 23:1), “Then Balaam said [unto Balak], ‘Build [seven altars] for me here, [and make ready for me here seven bulls and seven rams]….’”

18 יח

וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח בָּלָק אֶת בִּלְעָם וַיַעֲלֵהוּ בָּמוֹת בָּעַל (במדבר כב, מא), בָּלָק הָיָה בַּעַל קְסָמִים וּבַעַל נַחַשׁ יוֹתֵר מִבִּלְעָם שֶׁהָיָה נִמְשָׁךְ אַחֲרָיו כְּסוּמָא, לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה לְאֶחָד שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ סַכִּין וְאֵין מַכִּיר אֶת הַפְּרָקִים, וַחֲבֵרוֹ מַכִּיר אֶת הַפְּרָקִים וְאֵין בְּיָדוֹ סַכִּין, כָּךְ הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם דּוֹמִין, בָּלָק רוֹאֶה אֶת הַמְּקוֹמוֹת שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל נוֹפְלִין בָּהֶן, וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ בָּמוֹת בָּעַל פְּעוֹר, שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל נוֹפְלִין שָׁם. (במדבר כג, א): וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל בָּלָק בְּנֵה לִי בָזֶה שִׁבְעָה מִזְבְּחֹת, וְלָמָּה שִׁבְעָה מִזְבְּחֹת, כְּנֶגֶד שִׁבְעָה מִזְבְּחוֹת שֶׁבָּנוּ שִׁבְעָה צַדִּיקִים מֵאָדָם וְעַד משֶׁה וְנִתְקַבְּלוּ, אָדָם וְהֶבֶל וְנֹחַ, אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב וּמשֶׁה, שֶׁהָיָה אוֹמֵר לָמָּה קִבַּלְתָּ אֶת אֵלּוּ לֹא בִּשְׁבִיל עֲבוֹדָה שֶׁעָבְדוּ לְפָנֶיךָ קִבַּלְתָּם, לֹא נָאֶה לְךָ שֶׁתְּהֵא נֶעֱבַד מִשִּׁבְעִים אֻמּוֹת וְלֹא מֵאֻמָּה אֶחָת, הֱשִׁיבוֹ רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (משלי יז, א): טוֹב פַּת חֲרֵבָה, טוֹב מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַּשֶּׁמֶן וַחֲרֵבָה, (משלי יז, א): מִבַּיִת מָלֵא זִבְחֵי רִיב, שֶׁאַתָּה רוֹצֶה לְהַכְנִיס מְרִיבָה בֵּינִי וּבֵין יִשְׂרָאֵל. (במדבר כג, ב ג): וַיַּעַשׂ בָּלָק כַּאֲשֶׁר וגו' וַיַּעַל, וַיֵּלֶךְ שֶׁפִי, דַּעְתּוֹ הָיָה לְקַלֵּל שֶׁעַד אוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה הָיָה שָׁפוּי וּמִן אוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה נִטְרָד. (במדבר כג, ד): וַיִּקָּר אֱלֹהִים אֶל בִּלְעָם, אָמַר לוֹ רָשָׁע מָה אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה, אָמַר (במדבר כג, ד): אֶת שִׁבְעַת הַמִּזְבְּחֹת עָרַכְתִּי, מָשָׁל לְשֻׁלְחָנִי הַמְשַׁקֵּר בְּמִשְׁקָלוֹת, בָּא בַּעַל הַשּׁוּק וְהִרְגִּישׁ בּוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ אַתָּה מְשַׁקֵּר בְּמִשְׁקָל, אָמַר לוֹ כְּבָר שָׁלַחְתִּי דוֹרוֹן לְבֵיתְךָ. וְאַף כָּךְ בִּלְעָם, רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ אָמַר לוֹ רָשָׁע מָה אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה, אָמַר לוֹ: אֶת שִׁבְעַת הַמִּזְבְּחֹת עָרַכְתִּי. אָמַר לוֹ (משלי טו, יז): טוֹב אֲרֻחַת יָרָק, טוֹבָה סְעוּדָה שֶׁעָשׂוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם וְאָכְלוּ עַל מַצּוֹת וּמְרוֹרִים, מִפָּרִים שֶׁאַתָּה מַקְרִיב עַל יְדֵי שִׂנְאָה. (במדבר כג, ה): וַיָּשֶׂם ה' דָּבָר בְּפִי בִלְעָם, שֶׁעִקֵּם פִּיו וּפִקְּמוֹ כְּאָדָם הַקּוֹבֵעַ מַסְמֵר בְּלוּחַ. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר מַלְאָךְ הָיָה מְדַבֵּר (במדבר כג, ה): וַיֹּאמֶר שׁוּב אֶל בָּלָק וְכֹה תְדַבֵּר. (במדבר כג, ו): וַיָּשָׁב אֵלָיו וְהִנֵּה נִצָּב עַל עֹלָתוֹ הוּא וְכָל שָׂרֵי מוֹאָב, שֶׁהָיוּ עוֹמְדִין וּמְצַפִּין מָתַי יָבוֹא.

18 (Numb. 22:41) “So it came to pass in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, [and from there he saw the edge of the people]”: Balak was a more of a master of divinations and auguries than Balaam, for [Balaam] was being dragged along after him like a blind man. What did the two of them resemble? Someone who had a knife in his hand but did not know [where to find] the [animal] joints, while his companion knew the joints but did not have a knife in his hand. Balak saw the places in which Israel would fall and (ibid.) “brought him up into the high places of Baal.” [This was Baal] Peor, where he saw that Israel would fall. (Numb. 23:1) “Then Balaam said unto Balak, ‘Build seven altars for me here’”: Why seven altars? [They] corresponded to seven righteous ones from Adam to Moses, who built seven altars and had been accepted: Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Then [Balaam] said, “Why did you accept these? Was it not because of the service (the sacrifices) which they performed before you that you accepted them? Is it not [more] suitable for you to be served by seventy nations and not by [merely] one nation?” The holy spirit answered him (in Prov. 17:1), “Better a dry morsel with tranquility.” Better (in the words of Lev. 7:10) “a grain offering mixed with oil or dry” than (in Prov. 17:1) “a house full of quarrelsome feasting”;28The words HOUSE and FEASTING can also mean “temple” and “sacrifice” respectively. for you want to introduce strife between Me and Israel. (Numb. 23:2-3) “Then Balak did […] and he offered. [...]; so he went alone (rt.: shph)”: [Balaam’s] intent was to curse; for he had been at ease rt.: shph) until that moment, but from that moment on he was troubled. (Numb. 23:4) “Then God encountered Balaam”: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “You evil man! What are you doing?” (Ibid., cont.) “And [Balaam] said unto him, ‘I have prepared the seven altars [and offered a ram and a bull on each altar]’:” [The matter] is comparable to a money-changer who lies about the weights. When the head of the marketplace came, he noticed him. He said to him, “What are you doing inflating and lying about the weights?” [The money changer then] said to him, “I have already sent a gift29Gk.: doron. to your house.” So also it was in the case of Balaam. The holy spirit cried out to him. It said to him, “You evil man! What are you doing.” He said to it (in Numb. 23:4), “I have prepared the seven altars [and offered a ram and a bull on each altar].” It said to him (in Prov. 15:17), “’Better a meal of vegetable greens [where there is love than a fattened ox with hatred in it].’ Better the dinner of unleavened bread and bitter herbs which Israel ate in Egypt, than bulls which you offer with hands of [hatred].” (Numb. 23:5) “So the Lord put a word (davar) in Balaam's mouth,” which twisted his mouth and pierced it,30Both “twisted” and “pierced” connote the use of a bit on a horse. as one would drive a nail into a board. R. Eliezer (understanding davar as word) says, “An angel was speaking,” [as stated] (in Numb. 23:5), “Return unto Balak and speak thus.” (Numb. 23:6) “So he returned unto him, and there he was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the ministers of Moab,” who stood anxiously awaiting [the time] when he would come.

19 יט

וַיִּשָֹּׂא מְשָׁלוֹ וַיֹּאמַר מִן אֲרָם יַנְחֵנִי, פָּתַח וְאָמַר מִן הָרָמִים הָיִיתִי וְהוֹרִידַנִי בָּלָק לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת. יַנְחֵנִי, כְּמָה דְאַתְּ אָמַר (יחזקאל לב, יח): נְהֵה עַל הֲמוֹן מִצְרַיִם וְהוֹרִדֵהוּ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מִן אֲרָם, עִם רָם, שֶׁלְּמַעְלָן הָיִיתִי וְהוֹרִידַנִי בָּלָק מִכְּבוֹדִי, מָשָׁל לְמִי שֶׁמְהַלֵּךְ עִם הַמֶּלֶךְ, רָאָה לִיסְטִין הִנִּיחַ אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ וְטִיֵּל עִם הַלִּיסְטִין, כְּשֶׁחָזַר אֵצֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אָמַר לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ לֵךְ עִם אוֹתוֹ שֶׁטִּיַּלְתָּ עִמּוֹ, שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְךָ שֶׁתֵּלֵךְ עִמִּי. כָּךְ בִּלְעָם נִזְקַק לְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ וְחָזַר לִהְיוֹת קוֹסֵם כְּבַתְּחִלָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע יג, כב): וְאֶת בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר הַקּוֹסֵם, לְפִיכָךְ צָוַח רָם הָיִיתִי וְהוֹרִידַנִי בָּלָק. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מִן אֲרָם יַנְחֵנִי, אָמַר לוֹ הֻשְׁוֵינוּ שְׁנֵינוּ לִהְיוֹת כְּפוּיֵי טוֹבָה, אִלּוּלֵי אַבְרָהָם אֲבִיהֶם לֹא הָיָה בָלָק, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יט, כט): וַיְהִי בְּשַׁחֵת אֱלֹהִים אֶת עָרֵי הַכִּכָּר וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת אַבְרָהָם וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת לוֹט, וְלוּלֵי אַבְרָהָם לֹא פָּלַט לוֹט מִסְּדוֹם, וְאַתָּה מִבְּנֵי בָּנָיו שֶׁל לוֹט. וְאִלּוּלֵי יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם לֹא הָיִיתִי אֲנִי בָעוֹלָם, שֶׁלֹא רָאָה לָבָן בָּנִים אֶלָּא בִּזְכוּת יַעֲקֹב, שֶׁבַּתְּחִלָּה כְּתִיב (בראשית כט, ט): וְרָחֵל בָּאָה עִם הַצֹּאן, וְאִלּוּ הָיָה לוֹ בָנִים הֵיאַךְ בִּתּוֹ רוֹעָה, וּמִשֶּׁהָלַךְ יַעֲקֹב לְשָׁם נִתְּנוּ לוֹ בָנִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית לא, א): וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת דִּבְרֵי בְנֵי לָבָן, וְכֵן אָמַר לוֹ (בראשית ל, כז): נִחַשְׁתִּי וַיְבָרְכֵנִי ה' בִּגְלָלֶךָ. (במדבר כג, ז): לְכָה אָרָה לִי, מִי שֶׁהוּא מְאָרֵר לְעַצְמוֹ מְאָרֵר, שֶׁכָּךְ כְּתִיב (בראשית יב, ג): וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר, וְאוֹמֵר (בראשית כז, כט): אֹרְרֶיךָ אָרוּר. לְכָה אָרָה לִי יַעֲקֹב וּלְכָה זֹעֲמָה יִשְׂרָאֵל, אִלּוּ לְאֻמָּה אַחֶרֶת בִּקֵּשׁ שֶׁאֲקַלֵּל, כְּגוֹן בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק, הָיִיתִי יָכוֹל, אֶלָּא יַעֲקֹב, מֶלֶךְ שֶׁבּוֹרֵר לְעַצְמוֹ מָנָה וְעָמַד אֶחָד וְאָמַר גְּנַאי עָלֶיהָ כְּלוּם יֵשׁ לוֹ חַיִּים, וְאֵלּוּ חֶבְלָתוֹ וְנַחֲלָתוֹ וּסְגֻלָּתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב, ט): כִּי חֵלֶק ה' עַמּוֹ יַעֲקֹב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתוֹ, (שמות יט, ה): וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה. וּלְכָה זֹעֲמָה יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֶלֶךְ שֶׁנָּטַל עֲטָרָה וּנְתָנָהּ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וְאָמַר אָדָם שֶׁאֵינָהּ כְּלוּם, יֵשׁ לוֹ חַיִּים, וְאֵלּוּ כְּתִיב בָּהֶן (ישעיה מט, ג): יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר. מָה אֶקֹּב לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל (במדבר כג, ח), בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיוּ רְאוּיִין לְהִתְקַלֵּל לֹא נִתְקַלְּלוּ, כְּשֶׁנִּכְנַס יַעֲקֹב לִטֹּל אֶת הַבְּרָכוֹת נִכְנַס בְּמִרְמָה, דִּכְתִיב (בראשית כז, טז): וְאֵת עֹרֹת גְּדָיֵי הָעִזִּים, אָמַר אָבִיו (בראשית כז, יח): מִי אַתָּה, אָמַר לוֹ (בראשית כז, יט): אָנֹכִי עֵשָׂו בְּכֹרֶךָ, מִי שֶׁמּוֹצִיא שֶׁקֶר מִפִיו אֵינוֹ רָאוּי לְהִתְקַלֵּל, וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁנִּתְבָּרֵךְ, דִּכְתִיב (בראשית כז, לג): גַּם בָּרוּךְ יִהְיֶה, וְהֵיאַךְ אֲנִי מְקַלְּלָן לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מָה אֶקֹּב לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל, בְּנֹהַג שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם לִגְיוֹן שֶׁמָּרַד בַּמֶּלֶךְ חַיָּב מִיתָה, וְאֵלּוּ כָּפְרוּ בּוֹ וּמָרְדוּ וְאָמְרוּ (שמות לב, ד): אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֹא הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְכַלּוֹתָן, אֶלָּא אֲפִלּוּ בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה לֹא זָז מֵחִבָּתָן, לִוָּה לָהֶן עַנְנֵי כָּבוֹד וְלֹא פָסְקוּ מֵהֶם הַמָּן וְהַבְּאֵר, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (שמות לב, ח): כִּי עָשׂוּ עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה. (נחמיה ט, יט כ): וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם, וּמַנְךָ לֹא מָנַעְתָּ מִפִּיהֶם וּמַיִם נָתַתָּה לָהֶם לִצְמָאָם, וְהֵיאַךְ אֲנִי יָכוֹל לְקַלְּלָם, מָה אֶקֹב לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה מְצַוֶּה אוֹתָם עַל הַבְּרָכוֹת וְעַל הַקְּלָלוֹת, בַּבְּרָכוֹת הָיָה מַזְכִּירָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כז, יב): אֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָעָם, בַּקְּלָלוֹת לֹא הָיָה טוֹבְעָן, שֶׁכֵּן הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים כז, יג): וְאֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ עַל הַקְּלָלָה בְּהַר עֵיבָל. וּכְשֶׁהֵן חוֹטְאִין וְאוֹמֵר לְהָבִיא עֲלֵיהֶן קְלָלָה, אֵינוֹ כּוֹתֵב שֶׁהוּא מְבִיאָהּ, אֶלָּא בַּבְּרָכוֹת הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ מְבָרְכָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כח, א): וּנְתָנְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ עֶלְיוֹן וגו', (דברים כח, ח): יְצַו ה' אִתְּךָ אֶת הַבְּרָכָה, וּבַקְּלָלוֹת לֹא הָיָה טוֹבְעָן, שֶׁכֵּן הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים כח, טו): וְהָיָה אִם לֹא תִשְׁמַע, וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ, מֵעַצְמָן, הֱוֵי מָה אֶקֹּב לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל. כְּתִיב (במדבר כג, ט): כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ, לְהוֹדִיעַ שִׂנְאָתוֹ שֶׁל אוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע שֶׁמִּתּוֹךְ בִּרְכוֹתָיו אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ, לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה, לְאָדָם שֶׁבָּא לָקֹץ אֶת אִילָן, מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ בָּקִי קוֹצֵץ אֶת הַנּוֹפִים, כָּל עָנָף וְעָנָף וּמִתְיַגֵּעַ, וְהַפִּקֵּחַ מְגַלֶּה אֶת הַשָּׁרָשִׁין וְקוֹצֵץ, כָּךְ אָמַר אוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע, מָה אֲנִי מְקַלֵּל כָּל שֵׁבֶט וְשֵׁבֶט, הֲרֵינִי הוֹלֵךְ לְשָׁרְשָׁן, בָּא לִגַּע מְצָאָן קָשִׁים, לָכֵן אָמַר: כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ, אֵלּוּ אָבוֹת, (במדבר כג, ע): וּמִגְּבָעוֹת, אֵלּוּ אִמָּהוֹת. (במדבר כג, ט): הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן. וּכְשֶׁהוּא מְשַׂמְּחָן מְשַׂמְּחָן לְבַדָּן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב, יב): ה' בָּדָד יַנְחֶנּוּ. וּכְשֶׁהָאֻמּוֹת בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה שְׂמֵחִים הֵן אוֹכְלִים עִם כָּל מַלְכוּת וּמַלְכוּת וְאֵין עוֹלֶה לָהֶם מִן הַחֶשְׁבּוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כג, ט): וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב. (במדבר כג, י): מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב, מִי יוּכַל לִמְנוֹת מִצְווֹת שֶׁהֵן עוֹשִׂין בֶּעָפָר, (דברים כב, י): לֹא תַחֲרשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר, (דברים כב, ט): לֹא תִזְרַע כַּרְמְךָ כִּלְאָיִם. (במדבר יט, ט): וְאָסַף אִישׁ טָהוֹר אֵת אֵפֶר הַפָּרָה, (במדבר ה, יז): וּמִן הֶעָפָר אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בְּקַרְקַע הַמִּשְׁכָּן. (ויקרא יט, כג): שָׁלשׁ שָׁנִים יִהְיֶה לָכֶם עֲרֵלִים, וְכֵן כֻּלָּם. (במדבר כג, י): וּמִסְפָּר אֶת רֹבַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, הָרְבִיעִית שֶׁלָּהֶן, מִי יוּכַל לִמְנוֹת אֻכְלוּסִין שֶׁיָּצְאוּ מֵאוֹתָן שֶׁהָיוּ חוֹטְפוֹת וּמְחַבְּבוֹת אֶת הַמִּצְווֹת, (בראשית ל, טו): וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמְעַט קַחְתֵּךְ אֶת אִישִׁי. (בראשית ל, ג): הִנֵּה אֲמָתִי בִלְהָה בֹּא אֵלֶיהָ, (בראשית ל, ט): וַתֵּרֶא לֵאָה כִּי עָמְדָה מִלֶּדֶת. (בראשית טז, ג): וַתִּקַּח שָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם אֶת הָגָר, (במדבר כג, י): תָּמֹת נַפְשִׁי מוֹת יְשָׁרִים, מָשָׁל לְטַבָּח שֶׁבָּא לִשְׁחֹט פָּרָתוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ, הִתְחִיל הַמֶּלֶךְ רוֹאֶה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִרְגִּישׁ שֶׁהַמֶּלֶךְ רוֹאֶה הִתְחִיל מַשְׁלִיךְ אֶת הַסַּכִּין וּמְשַׁפְשֵׁף בָּהּ וּמְמַלֵּא אֶת הָאֵבוּס לְפָנֶיהָ, הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר תֵּצֵא נַפְשִׁי שֶׁבָּאתִי לְשָׁחֲטָהּ וַהֲרֵי זְנַחְתִּיהָ. כָּךְ בִּלְעָם אָמַר תֵּצֵא נַפְשִׁי שֶׁבָּאתִי לְקַלֵּל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֵךְ. (במדבר כג, יד): וַיִּקָּחֵהוּ שְׂדֵה צֹפִים רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה, רֹאשׁ שֶׁיֵּשׁ פְּרָצִים שָׁם, שֶׁשָּׁם מֵת משֶׁה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ג, כז): עֲלֵה רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה, יֵשׁ פִּרְצָה גְדוֹלָה מִזּוֹ שֶׁרָאָה בַּנְּחָשִׁים וְהָיָה סָבוּר שֶׁשָּׁם יִכְלוּ.

19 (Numb. 23:7) “So he took up his theme and said, ‘From Aram, Balak the king of Moab has brought me, from the hills of the east.’” I was one of the exalted ones,31Ramim. The midrash links this word with ARAM in Numb. 23:7. but Balak has brought me down to the pit of corruption. (Ibid.) “Brought me (yanheni, rt.: nhh),” [is to be understood] just as you say (in Ezek. 32:18), “bring (rt.: nhh) the masses of Egypt [and cast them down [… unto the lowest part of the netherworld along with those who go down to the pit].”32Thus Numb. 23:7 comes to mean that Balak BROUGHT (rt.: NHH) Balaam down to the grave. The unusual Biblical translation is necessary to fit the sense of the midrash. Another interpretation (of Numb. 23:7), “From Aram”: I was with the highest (ram) of the high, and Balak has brought me down from my glory. [The matter] is comparable to one who was walking with the king. When he saw [some] robbers,33Gk.: lestai. he left the king and toured along with the robbers. When he returned to be with the king, the king said to him, “Go with whomever you have toured with, because it not possible for you to walk with me again.” Similarly Balaam had been bound to the holy spirit. When he paired himself with Balak, the holy spirit departed from him. So he returned to being a diviner as in the beginning. Thus it is stated (at his execution in Josh. 13:22), “Balaam ben Beor the diviner….” Therefore did he yell out, “I was high up (ram), and Balak brought me down.” Another interpretation (of Numb. 23:7), “From Aram, he has brought me”: [Balaam] said to [Balak], “We are alike, even both of us, for being ungrateful, because were it not for their father Abraham, there would have been no Balak. Thus it is stated (in Gen. 19:29), ‘And it came to pass that when God destroyed the cities of the plain, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot away.’ Except for Abraham, he would not have delivered Lot from Sodom; and you are one of the children of the children of Lot.34As a Moabite, Balak was descended from Moab, the son of Lot. See Gen. 19:37. Moreover, if it were not for their father Jacob, I should not have been present in the world, because Laban had sons only through the merit of Jacob, since it is written at the beginning (in Gen. 29:9), ‘Rachel came with the sheep.’ Now if he had sons, how was his daughter a shepherdess? As soon as Jacob came there, sons were given to him, as stated (in Gen. 31:1), ‘Now he heard the things that Laban's sons [were saying].’35Jewish tradition gives three views on Balaam’s relation to Laban: That he was Laban himself, that he was Laban’s nephew, and that he was Laban’s grandson. See Ginzberg, vol. III, p. 354; vol.. V, p. 303, n. 229; vol. VI, pp. 123f., nn. 722f.; p. 130, n. 764. And it also says [that Laban said] (in Gen. 30:27), ‘I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.’” (Numb. 23:7, cont.) “Come, curse Jacob for me”: Whoever curses [the Children of Jacob] is cursing himself, since it is stated (in Gen. 12:3), “and the one who curses you, I will curse.” It also says (in Gen. 27:29), “cursed be those who curse you.” (Numb. 23:7) “Come, curse [Jacob] for me […].” If you had told me to curse another people, for example, the Children of Abraham and Isaac, I would have been able [to do so]. But Jacob? When a king selects a portion for himself, and someone else gets up and speaks disparagingly about it, will he keep his life? Now these people are the Holy One, blessed be He’s, heritage, His portion, and His treasure. Thus it is stated (in Deut. 32:9), “For the Lord's share is His people; Jacob the portion of His heritage.” And it is written (in Exod. 19:5), “and you shall be My treasure.” (Numb. 23:7, cont.) “And come, denounce Israel:” When a king takes a crown and puts it on his head, and someone says of it that it is nothing, will he keep his life? Now in regard to these people it is written about them (in Is. 49:3), “Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Numb. 23:8) “How shall I curse [the one] whom God has not cursed”: When they deserved to be cursed, they were not cursed: When Jacob went in to receive the blessings, he went it with deception. As it is written (in Gen. 27:16), “[Then she clothed his arms and the hairless part of his neck] with the skins of goat kids.” His father said to him (in Gen. 27:18), “Who are you?” He said to him (in vs. 19), “I am Esau, your first-born.” Does not the one who puts forth a lie with his mouth deserve to be cursed? Yet not only [was he not cursed], but he was blessed; as stated (in Gen. 27:33), “he shall also be blessed.” So how do I curse them? (In the words of Numb. 23:8) “God has not cursed.” Another interpretation (of Numb. 23:8), “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?” According to universal custom, when a legion36Lat.: legio. rebels against the king, it incurs the penalty of death. Now since these denied and revolted against Him, when they said [about the calf] (in Exod. 32:4), “This is your god, O Israel,” was it not necessary to have Him destroy them at that time? [Still] He did not cease to cherish them. Instead He had clouds of glory accompany them. Nor did He withhold the manna and the well from them. And so it says (in Exod. 32:4), “When they made a molten calf,” (in Neh. 9:18-20), “You in Your great mercies did not abandon them in the desert […]; and You did not withhold Your manna from their mouth […].” How can I curse them? (Numb. 23:8) “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed” When He commanded them concerning the blessings and the curses, He mentioned them (as the people) in connection with the blessings where it is stated (in Deut. 27:12), “These shall stand [on Mount Gerizim] for blessing the people;” but He did not mention them in connection with the curses. Thus it is stated (in vs. 13), “And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse.” Moreover, when they sin and He plans to bring a curse upon them, it is not written that He Himself is bringing them (i.e., the curses); but with respect to the blessings, He Himself is blessing them; for so it says (in Deut. 28:1, 8), “And it shall come to pass that, if you diligently obey […], the Lord your God will set you high [over all the nations of the earth]. The Lord will command the blessing to be with you.” But with respect to the curses, it is written (according to Deut. 28:15), “And it shall come to pass that, if you do not obey […], then [all these curses] shall come upon you,” [i.e.,] of their own accord. Ergo (in Numb. 23:8), “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?” (Numb. 23:9) “For from the top of the rocks I see him,” in order to make the hatred of that evil man (i.e., Balaam) known to you. As from his blessing you may know his thoughts. To what is he comparable? To someone who came to chop down a tree. One who is not an expert chops off the branches one at a time and becomes tired, but the clever one exposes the roots and [then] chops it down. Similarly that wicked man said, “Why shall I curse each and every tribe? Rather I will go to their roots.” When he came to touch them, he found them hard [to cut]. It is therefore stated (in Numb. 23:9), “For from the top of the rocks I see him.” Another interpretation (of Numb. 23:9): “For from the top of the rocks,” these are the patriarchs; (ibid., cont.) “and from the hills I behold him,” these are the matriarchs. (Numb. 23:9, cont.) “Here is a people dwelling alone”: When He makes them rejoice, no nation rejoices along with them. But when the nations are rejoicing in this world, they (i.e., the Children of Israel) eat with each and every kingdom, and no one is charging [such pleasures] against their account (rt: hshb).37In other words the pleasures that Israel enjoys in this world are not to be deducted from their pleasures in the world to come. It is so stated (in Numb. 23:9, cont.), “and they shall not be reckoned (rt.: hshb) among the nations.” (Numb. 23:10) “Who has counted the dust of Jacob”: Who is able to count the commandments which they carry out upon the dust: (In Deut. 22:10,) “You shall not plow with an ox and an ass”; (in Deut. 22:9,) “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed”; (in Numb. 19:9,) “Then someone clean shall gather the ashes of the heifer”; (in Numb. 5:17,) “[Then the high priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel] and some of the dust which is on the floor of the tabernacle”; (in Lev. 19:23,) “[Moreover, when you come into the land and plant any tree for food, you shall count its fruit as forbidden,] three years it shall be forbidden to you, [it shall not be eaten]”; and so on with all of them. (Numb. 23:10, cont.) “Or numbered the sand (rb') of Israel,” [i.e.,] their copulations (rt.: rb')38For this interpretation, cf. Nid. 31a. Who can number the masses39Gk.: ochloi. that have emerged from them, from those women who seize on and cherish the commandments (of procreation), as stated (in Gen. 30:15), “But she said to her, ‘Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband?’” [And so too (in Gen. 30:3, 9),] “Here is my maid Bilhah; go into her.” “When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, [she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife].” [And so too (in Gen. 16:3),] “So Abraham's wife Sarai took her maidservant Hagar the Egyptian… [and gave her to her husband Abraham as a wife].” (Numb. 23:10, cont.) “Let me die the death of the upright”: The matter is comparable to a butcher who came to slaughter a cow that belonged to a king. The king began to take notice. When [the butcher] realized [what was happening], he began by discarding the knife, then giving [the cow] a rubdown [and] filling the feeding trough for it. He began to say, “Let my life be forfeit for coming to slaughter it; but observe that I have [now given it sustenance].” Similarly Balaam said, “Let my life be forfeit for coming to curse, but I will bless [them].” Ergo (in Numb. 23:10), “let me die the death of the upright!” (Numb. 23:14) “So he took him to the Field of Zophim at the top of Pisgah”: He saw that [Israel would be] breached there, for it was there that Moses died, as stated (in Deut. 3:27), “Go up to the top of Pisgah …, [for you shall not cross over this Jordan].” Is there a breach greater than this? What he saw was through divinations, and he was of the opinion that because of him they would fall there.

20 כ

וַיִּבֶן שִׁבְעָה מִזְבְּחֹת, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל בָּלָק הִתְיַצֵּב כֹּה עַל עֹלָתֶךָ, וַיִּקָּר ה' אֶל בִּלְעָם וַיָּשֶׂם דָּבָר בְּפִיו (במדבר כג, יד טז), כְּאָדָם שֶׁנּוֹתֵן בָּלִינוֹס בְּפִי בְּהֵמָה וּפוֹקְמָהּ לְהֵיכָן שֶׁיִּרְצֶה, כָּךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא פּוֹקֵם אֶת פִּיו, כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ: שׁוּב אֶל בָּלָק וּבָרְכֵם, אָמַר מָה אֲנִי הוֹלֵךְ אֶצְלוֹ לָפוּחַ אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ, בִּקֵּשׁ לֵילֵךְ לְעַצְמוֹ, נָתַן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לוֹ בָּלִינוֹס (במדבר כג, טז): שׁוּב אֶל בָּלָק וְכֹה תְדַבֵּר. (במדבר כג, יז): וַיָּבֹא אֵלָיו וְהִנּוֹ נִצָּב עַל עֹלָתוֹ. בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה כְּתִיב בּוֹ (במדבר כג, ו): הוּא וְכָל שָׂרֵי מוֹאָב, כְּשֶׁרָאוּ שֶׁלֹא הוֹעִילוּ כְּלוּם הִנִּיחוּהוּ וְנִשְׁתַּיְרוּ מִקְצָת שָׂרֵי מוֹאָב אִתּוֹ. (במדבר כג, יז): וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ בָּלָק מַה דִּבֶּר ה', שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁאֵינוֹ בִּרְשׁוּת עַצְמוֹ לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁהָיָה רוֹצֶה, יָשַׁב לוֹ וְהָיָה מְשַׂחֵק בּוֹ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה בִּלְעָם שֶׁהָיָה מְשַׂחֵק, אָמַר לוֹ בִּלְעָם עֲמֹד, אֵין אַתָּה רַשַּׁאי לֵישֵׁב וְדִבְרֵי הַמָּקוֹם נֶאֱמָרִים. (במדבר כג, יח): קוּם בָּלָק וּשְׁמָע הַאֲזִינָה עָדַי בְּנוֹ צִפֹּר, שְׁנֵיהֶם הָיוּ מָנֶה בֶּן פְּרָס, שֶׁהָיוּ עוֹשִׂין עַצְמָן גְּדוֹלִים מֵאֲבוֹתֵיהֶם. (במדבר כג, יט): לֹא אִישׁ אֵל וִיכַזֵּב, אֵינוֹ כְּבָשָׂר וָדָם, שֶׁבָּשָׂר וָדָם קוֹנֶה אוֹהֲבִים, מוֹצֵא אֲחֵרִים יָפִים מֵהֶם כּוֹפֵר בָּרִאשׁוֹנִים, וְהוּא אֵינוֹ כֵן, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לָשׁוּב מִשְּׁבוּעַת הָאָבוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנִים. (במדבר כג, יט): הַהוּא אָמַר וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה, אוֹמֵר לְהָבִיא עֲלֵיהֶן רָעוֹת, אִם עָשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה הוּא מְבַטְּלָן, אַתְּ מוֹצֵא כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כב, יט): זֹבֵחַ לָאֱלֹהִים יָחֳרָם וגו', וְעָשׂוּ אֶת הָעֵגֶל וְהָיוּ רְאוּיִין לִכְלָיָה, וְהָיִיתִי סָבוּר לְקַלְּלָן וּלְהַכְחִידָן, וּמְעַט עָשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה, וּבִטֵּל (שמות לב, יד): וַיִּנָּחֶם ה' עַל הָרָעָה, וְכֵן בִּמְקוֹמוֹת הַרְבֵּה שֶׁאָמַר עַל יְכָנְיָה (ירמיה כב, ל): כִּי לֹא יִצְלַח מִזַּרְעוֹ אִישׁ, וְאוֹמֵר (חגי ב, כב): וְהָפַכְתִּי כִּסֵּא מַמְלָכוֹת וְהִשְׁמַדְתִּי חֹזֶק מַמְלְכוֹת הַגּוֹיִם, (חגי ב, כג): בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נְאֻם ה' צְבָאוֹת אֶקָחֲךָ זְרֻבָּבֶל בֶּן שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל עַבְדִּי נְאֻם ה' וְשַׂמְתִּיךָ כַּחוֹתָם עַל לִבִּי, וּבִטֵּל מַה שֶּׁאָמַר לְאָבִיו (ירמיה כב, כד): חַי אָנִי נְאֻם ה' כִּי אִם יִהְיֶה כָּנְיָהוּ בֶן יְהוֹיָקִים מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה חוֹתָם עַל יַד יְמִינִי כִּי מִשָּׁם אֶתְּקֶנְךָּ. וְכֵן בְּאַנְשֵׁי עֲנָתוֹת (ירמיה יא, כג): וּשְׁאֵרִית לֹא תִהְיֶה לָהֶם, כֵּיוָן שֶׁעָשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה קִיְּמָן, דִּכְתִיב (נחמיה ז, כז): אַנְשֵׁי עֲנָתוֹת מֵאָה. לֹא הִבִּיט אָוֶן בְּיַעֲקֹב (במדבר כג, כא), אָמַר בִּלְעָם אֵינוֹ מִסְתַּכֵּל בָּעֲבֵרוֹת שֶׁבְּיָדָם וְאֵינוֹ מִסְתַּכֵּל אֶלָּא בַּגֵּאוּת שֶׁלָּהֶן, (במדבר כג,כא): ה' אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וּתְרוּעַת מֶלֶךְ בּוֹ, אָמַרְתָּ לִי (במדבר כב, ו): לְכָה נָא אָרָה לִּי יַעֲקֹב, פַּרְדֵּס שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ שׁוֹמֵר אֵין הַגַּנָּב יָכוֹל לְהַזִּיקוֹ, וְאִם יָשֵׁן לוֹ הַגַּנָּב נִכְנָס, וְאֵלּוּ (תהלים קכא, ד): הִנֵּה לֹא יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְהֵיאַךְ אֲנִי יָכוֹל לְהַזִּיקָן. ה' אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ בָּלָק הוֹאִיל וְאֵינְךָ יָכוֹל לִגַּע בָּהֶן מִפְּנֵי משֶׁה מְשַׁמְּשָׁן, רְאֵה זֶה שֶׁעוֹמֵד אַחֲרָיו מַה יִּהְיֶה, אָמַר לוֹ אַף הוּא קָשֶׁה כְּמוֹתוֹ, וּתְרוּעַת מֶלֶךְ בּוֹ, תּוֹקֵעַ וּמֵרִיעַ וּמַפִּיל חוֹמָה. (במדבר כג, כב): אֵל מוֹצִיאָם מִמִּצְרָיִם, אָמַרְתָּ לִי (במדבר כב, ה): עַם יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם, מֵעַצְמָן, וְאֵינוֹ כֵן אֶלָּא הוּא הוֹצִיאָם. (במדבר כג, כב): כְּתוֹעֲפֹת רְאֵם, כָּךְ הוּא מִדָּתוֹ חָטְאוּ קִמְעָא הוֹרִידָן כָּעוֹף, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ט, יא): אֶפְרַיִם כָּעוֹף יִתְעוֹפֵף כְּבוֹדָם, זָכוּ מַעֲלָן וּמְרוֹמְמָן כָּעָב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ס, ח): מִי אֵלֶּה כָּעָב תְּעוּפֶינָה. (במדבר כג, כג): כִּי לֹא נַחַשׁ בְּיַעֲקֹב וְלֹא קֶסֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, הֲרֵי אַתְּ מְחַזֵּר וּמְנַחֵשׁ וּמְקַסֵּם בְּאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם תִּשְׁלֹט בָּהֶם, וְהֵם אֵינָם כֵּן, כְּשֶׁהֵן צְרִיכִין לְהִלָּחֵם בְּשׂוֹנֵא עוֹמֵד כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְלוֹבֵשׁ אוּרִים וְתֻמִּים וְנִשְׁאַל בְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וְכָל הַגּוֹיִם מְקַסְּמִים וּמְנַחֲשִׁים, וְאֵלּוּ מְשַׁבְּרִין אוֹתָם בִּתְשׁוּבָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה מד, כה): מֵפֵר אֹתוֹת בַּדִּים וְקֹסְמִים יְהוֹלֵל. (במדבר כג, כג): כָּעֵת יֵאָמֵר לְיַעֲקֹב וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל מַה פָּעַל אֵל, רָאֲתָה עֵינוֹ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל יוֹשְׁבִין לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כְּתַלְמִיד לִפְנֵי רַבּוֹ לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא וְשׁוֹאֲלִין מִמֶּנּוּ כָּל פָּרָשָׁה וּפָרָשָׁה לָמָּה נִכְתְּבָה, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ישעיה כג, יח): כִּי לַיּשְׁבִים לִפְנֵי ה' יִהְיֶה סַחְרָהּ לֶאֱכֹל לְשָׂבְעָה וְלִמְכַסֶּה עָתִיק. וְאוֹמֵר (ישעיה ל, כ): וְלֹא יִכָּנֵף עוֹד מוֹרֶיךָ וְהָיוּ עֵינֶיךָ רֹאוֹת אֶת מוֹרֶיךָ, וּמַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת רוֹאִין אוֹתָן וְשׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָן מָה הוֹרָה לָכֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָן יְכוֹלִין לִכָּנֵס בִּמְחִיצָתָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כָּעֵת יֵאָמֵר לְיַעֲקֹב וגו'. הֶן הֶן עָם כְּלָבִיא יָקוּם (במדבר כג, כד), אֵין אֻמָּה בָּעוֹלָם כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהֶם, הֲרֵי הֵן יְשֵׁנִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה וּמִן הַמִּצְווֹת וְעוֹמְדִין מִשְּׁנָתָן כַּאֲרָיוֹת וְחוֹטְפִין קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמַמְלִיכִין לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וְנַעֲשִׂין כַּאֲרָיוֹת וּמַפְלִיגִין לְדֶרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, לְמַשָֹּׂא וּמַתָּן, אִם נִתְקַל אֶחָד מֵהֶם בְּכֻלָּם אוֹ אִם מְחַבְּלִין בָּאִין לִגַּע בְּאֶחָד מֵהֶן, מַמְלִיךְ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (במדבר כג, כד): לֹא יִשְׁכַּב עַד יֹאכַל טֶרֶף, כְּשֶׁהוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים ו, ד): ה' אֶחָד, נֶאֱכָלִין הַמְחַבְּלִין מִפָּנָיו וּמְלַחֲשִׁין אַחֲרָיו: בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד, וּבוֹרְחִין, וְהוּא נִסְמָךְ בִּקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע מִשּׁוֹמְרֵי הַיּוֹם לְשׁוֹמְרֵי הַלַּיְלָה, וּכְשֶׁבָּא לִישֹׁן מַפְקִיד רוּחוֹ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים לא, ו): בְּיָדְךָ אַפְקִיד רוּחִי. וּכְשֶׁנִּנְעַר מַמְלִיךְ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, הַשּׁוֹמְרִים בַּלַּיְלָה מוֹסְרִין אוֹתוֹ לְשׁוֹמְרֵי הַיּוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קל, ו): נַפְשִׁי לַה' מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר, לָכֵן בִּלְעָם אוֹמֵר אֵי זוֹ אֻמָּה כָּזּוֹ. (במדבר כג, כד): וְדַם חֲלָלִים, מִתְנַבֵּא שֶׁאֵין משֶׁה מֵת עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן נְקָמָה בּוֹ וּבַחֲמֵשֶׁת מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לֹא יִשְׁכַּב עַד יֹאכַל טֶרֶף, זֶה בִּלְעָם, הֱוֵי: וְדַם חֲלָלִים יִשְׁתֶּה. (במדבר לא, ח): וְאֶת מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן הָרְגוּ עַל חַלְלֵיהֶם. (במדבר לא, ו): וּכְלֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ זֶה הַצִּיץ שֶׁכָּתוּב בּוֹ (שמות כח, לו): קֹדֶשׁ לַה', (במדבר לא, ו): וַחֲצֹצְרוֹת הַתְּרוּעָה בְּיָדוֹ, אָמַר לָהֶם משֶׁה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע עוֹשֶׂה לָהֶם כְּשָׁפִים וּפוֹרֵחַ וּמַפְרִיחַ לַחֲמֵשֶׁת הַמְלָכִים, הַרְאוּ לוֹ אֶת הַצִּיץ שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גָּלוּף עָלָיו וְהֵן נוֹפְלִין, תֵּדַע שֶׁכֵּן כְּתִיב (במדבר לא, ח): וְאֶת מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן הָרְגוּ עַל חַלְלֵיהֶם אֶת אֱוִי וְאֶת רֶקֶם וְאֶת בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר, מַה בִּקֵּשׁ אוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע עִם מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן, לֹא כָךְ כְּתִיב (במדבר כד, כה): וַיָּקָם בִּלְעָם וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב לִמְקֹמוֹ, אֶלָּא מִשֶּׁשָּׁמַע שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בַּעֲצָתוֹ עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף, חָזַר לִטֹּל מֵהֶן שְׂכָרוֹ, לְכָךְ כְּתִיב בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר עִם חֲמֵשֶׁת מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן.

19 (Numb. 23:14-16) “And he built seven altars [and offered a ram and a bull on each altar]. Then he said unto Balak, ‘Stand here [beside your burnt offerings and let me make myself available to the Lord over there]….’ And God appeared to Balaam and he placed a word (davar) in his mouth”: Like a man who places a bit upon the mouth of his animal and twists him to where he wants [it to go]. So was the Holy One, blessed be He, twisting his mouth. When he said to him, “Return to Balak and bless them,” he said, “Why should I go to him to anguish him?” [So] he sought to go to [his own home] and not to Balak. The Holy One, blessed be He, put a bit into his mouth, [and said] (in Numb. 23:16, cont.) “Return to Balak and speak thus.” (Numb. 23:17) “So he came unto him, and there he was standing beside his burnt offerings [together with the ministers of Moab].” Concerning the first occasion, it is written (in Numb. 23:6), “with all the ministers of Moab.” When they saw that they had derived no benefit at all, they left him; and only a small portion of the ministers of Moab were left with him. (Numb. 23:17) “Balak said to him, ‘What did the Lord say’”: When he saw that [Balaam] was not in control of himself to say what he wanted, [Balak] sat himself down and mocked him. As soon as he saw that he was mocking him, Balaam said to him, “Get up from there. It is not fitting to sit while the words of the Omnipresent are being spoken.” (Numb. 23:18) “Rise up Balak and listen; give ear to me, you son of Zippor”: Both of them were [distinguished] sons of [undistinguished] fathers, for they had made themselves greater than their fathers.40On the importance of having a distinguished lineage, see, e.g., Ta‘an 21b. [Hence] (in Numb. 24:3), “An oracle of Balaam son of Beor (literally, his son is Beor)”; (in Numb 23:18) “give ear to me, you son of Zippor (literally, his son is Zippor)!” 41The unusual wording of Numb. 23:18 and 24:3 suggests that Balak and Balaam both had fathers undistinguished enough to be called their sons. (Numb. 23:19) “God is not a human, that he should speak falsehood”: He is not like flesh and blood. [When a person of] flesh and blood acquires friends and finds others nicer than they, he forsakes the former ones. But [the Holy One, blessed be He,] is not like that. It is not possible [for Him] to be false to the oath of the early ancestors. (Ibid., cont.) “Has he promised and not fulfilled”: (This phrase can also be read as, “He has promised and not fulfilled.”) When he promises to bring evils upon them, He will cancel them, if they have repented. You find it written (in Exod. 22:19), “Whoever sacrifices to a god shall be devoted to destruction.” When they made the calf, they merited destruction. So I thought to curse and destroy them. But when they repented a little, He suspended [any punishment] and (according to Exod. 32:14) “The Lord repented of the evil which He had planned to do to His people.” And so too in many places. As he said to Jochaniah (in Jer. 22:30), “as none of his seed shall succeed….” But He said (in Hag. 2:22), “And I will overturn the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the might of the kingdoms of the nations,” [since it is stated] (Hag. 2:23), “’On that day,’ declares the Lord of Hosts, ‘I will take you, O My servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and make you as a signet.’” And so He suspended what He said to his [grand]father (in Jer. 22:24), “’As I live,’ declares the Lord, ‘if you, O King Coniah, son of Jehoiakim, of Judah, were a signet on My right hand, I would tear you off even from there.’” And so with the men of Anatoth, it is written (in Jer. 11:23), “No remnant shall be left of them, for I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth.” [But] once they repented, see what is written (in Neh. 7:27), “The men of Anatoth were one hundred [and twenty-eight].” (Numb. 23:21) “No one has beheld falsehood in Jacob […]”: Balaam said, “He does not pay attention to the transgressions in their hands, He only pays attention to their merit.” (Numb. 23:21, cont.) “The Lord their God is with him”:42In the Biblical context the HIM would normally refer to Israel, but the midrash understands this HIM in the singular throughout this paragraph. You (Balak) said to me (in Numb. 23:7), “Come, curse [Jacob] for me.” If an orchard has no keeper, a thief is able to harm it; or if the keeper falls asleep, the thief will enter [it]. But in the case of these people (according to Ps. 121:4), “Behold, the One keeping Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” So how can I harm [Israel]? (Numb. 23:21) “The Lord their God is with him (i.e., Moses)”: Balak said to him, “Since you cannot touch them because of Moses, who protects them, look at [Joshua,] his successor, and what he will be.” He said to him, “He also will be strong like him.” (Numb. 23:21, cont.) “A royal war cry is within him.” He is blowing [a trumpet], giving a war cry, and throwing down a wall.43I.e., the wall of Jericho. (Numb. 23:22) “God brings them out of Egypt”: You said to me (in Numb. 22:5), “’Here is a people that has come out of Egypt,’ on their own. But that is not so. Rather [God] brought them out.” (Ibid., cont.) “Like the heights44Rt.: T‘P. The word can also mean “horns” and is so translated in most English versions in order to fit the context of the next word (R’M), which is then understood to mean “wild ox.” See the following note. of His loftiness (r'm)”:45In most translations the word is understood to mean “wild ox,” but the midrash regards it as a derived from the root RWM, a verb meaning “to be high.” Such is His nature. [When] they sinned a little, He brought them down like a bird, as stated (in Hos. 9:11), “Ephraim's glory shall fly away like a bird.” [When] they are worthy, He raises them up and exalts (rt.: rwm) them on high like a bird. Thus it is stated (in Is. 60:8), “Who are these that fly like a cloud?” (Numb. 23:23) “There is no augury in Jacob and no divination in Israel”: Here you are (Balak) practicing augury and divining in what place you may prevail against them, but they are not like that. When they have to fight against enemies, a high priest stands up and puts on urim and thummim, which are asked about [the will of] the Holy One, blessed be He. So all the gentiles practice divination and augury, but these (Israelites) prove them false through repentance. It is so written (in Is. 44:25), “Who frustrates omens of liars and confounds diviners.”46Cf. yShab. 6:9 (8d). (Numb. 23:23, cont.) “Now it is said for Jacob and for Israel, ‘What has God done?’”: His (i.e., Balaam's) eye saw that Israel was sitting (yoshevim) before the Holy One, blessed be He, like a pupil before his master in the future to come and was asking Him why each and every parashah was written; and so it says (in Is. 23:18), “for her47The midrash reads the HER as referring to Torah, but in the context of Isaiah the HER refers to Tyre as a harlot. profits shall belong to those who dwell (yoshevim) before the Lord […].” It also says (in Is. 30:20), “and no more shall your Teacher hide Himself, for your eyes shall see your Teacher.” The ministering angels will ask them, “What has the Holy One, blessed be He, taught you?” As they cannot enter their (i.e., Israel's) precincts, as stated (in Numb. 23:23), “now it is said for Jacob and for Israel, [‘What has God done?’]” (Numb. 23:24) “Here is a people rising up like a lion.” You have no nation in the world like them. Here they are sleeping away from the Torah and the commandments. [Then] having risen from their sleep, they stand up like lions. Quickly reciting the Shema', they proclaim the sovereignty of the Holy One, blessed be He. Then having become like lions, they embark on worldly business pursuits. If one of them should stumble with all of them, or if destroying demons come to touch one of them, he proclaims the sovereignty of the Holy One, blessed be He.48On reciting the Shema‘ to be safe from demons, see yBer. 1:1 (2d); Ber. 5a; M. Pss. 4:9. (Numb. 23:24, cont.) “It (a lion) does not sleep until it has eaten its prey”: When he (the reader) says (in the Shema' of Deut. 6:4), “the Lord is one,” the destroying demons are destroyed on his account, [and] they intone after him (as the liturgical response), “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever,” and flee.49In reciting the proper liturgical response to the Shema‘, even the demons recognize the sovereignty of the Holy One. Moreover, through the recitation of the Shema' he is sustained from the day watch to the night watch.50I.e., his guardian angels for the morning and the night. And when he goes to sleep, he entrusts his spirit into the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, as stated (in Ps. 31:6), “Into Your hand I entrust my spirit.”51Cf. Ber. 5a. Then when he awakens [and] proclaims the sovereignty of the Holy One, blessed be He, the night watch transfers him to the day watch. Thus it is stated (Ps. 130:6), “My soul [yearns] for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning, the watchmen for the morning.” For that reason Balaam says, “What nation is like this one.” (Numb. 23:24, cont.) “[And drunk] the blood of the slain”: He prophesied that Moses would not die, until he had taken vengeance upon him and the five kings of Midian, as stated (Numb. 23:24), “it does not sleep until it has eaten its prey,” this [prey] is Balaam; “and drunk the blood of the slain,” [these are the five kings of Midian. It is so stated] (in Numb. 31:8), “And they slew the five kings of Midian upon their corpses.” (Numb. 31:6) “With the vessels of the sanctuary”: This is the [high priestly diadem] plate upon which it is written (according to Exod. 28:36), “holy to the Lord.”52For a description, see Shab. 63b; Suk. 5a. (Numb. 31:6, cont.) “And the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his hand”: Moses said to Israel, “Balaam the wicked is practicing magic for you53Cf. the parallel account in Gen. R. 20:20, which reads, “for them.” and is making the five kings fly. Show him the [high priestly diadem] plate on which the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is engraved,54Galuf. Cf. Gk.: glufein (“to engrave.”) and they will fall down before you.” You know that it is so written (in Numb. 31:8), “And they slew the five kings of Midian upon their corpses […] and Balaam ben Beor [with the sword].” What did that wicked man want with the kings of Midian? Is it not in fact written (in Numb. 24:25), “Then Balaam arose and went back to his own place?” It is simply this: when he heard that twenty-four thousand [Israelites] had fallen (in Numb. 25:9) through his counsel,55See Deut. R. 1:2. he returned to get his wage. For that reason Balaam ben Beor is recorded (in Numb. 31:8) together with the five kings of Midian.

21 כא

וַיִּשָֹּׂא מְשָׁלוֹ וַיֹּאמַר (במדבר כד, ג), הֲלָכָה מִי שֶׁאָכַל וְלֹא נָטַל יָדָיו מַה יְּהֵא חַיָּב, שָׁנוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ נְטִילַת יָדַיִם לִפְנֵי הַמָּזוֹן רְשׁוּת, לְאַחַר הַמָּזוֹן חוֹבָה, מַעֲשֶׂה בִּשְׁעַת הַגְּזֵרָה בְּחֶנְוָנִי אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהָיָה מְבַשֵּׁל בָּשָׂר טָהוֹר וּבְשַׂר חֲזִיר וּמוֹכֵר, שֶׁלֹא יַרְגִּישׁוּ בּוֹ שֶׁהוּא יְהוּדִי, וְכֵן הָיָה מִנְהָגוֹ כָּל מִי שֶׁנִּכְנַס לַחֲנוּת שֶׁלּוֹ וְלֹא נָטַל יָדָיו, יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהוּא עוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים וְנוֹתֵן לְפָנָיו בְּשַׂר חֲזִיר, וְכָל מִי שֶׁנָּטַל יָדָיו וּמְבָרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהוּא יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמַאֲכִילוֹ בָּשָׂר טָהוֹר, פַּעַם אַחַת נִכְנַס יְהוּדִי לֶאֱכֹל שָׁם וְלֹא נָטַל יָדָיו וְהָיָה סָבוּר שֶׁהוּא עוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים, נָתַן לְפָנָיו בְּשַׂר חֲזִיר אָכַל וְלֹא בֵּרַךְ, בָּא לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמּוֹ חֶשְׁבּוֹן עַל הַפַּת וְעַל הַבָּשָׂר אָמַר לוֹ יֵשׁ לִי עָלֶיךָ כָּךְ וְכָךְ, מִן הַבָּשָׂר שֶׁאָכַלְתָּ שֶׁחֲתִיכָה עוֹלָה עֲשָׂרָה מָנֶה, אָמַר לוֹ אֶתְמוֹל אָכַלְתִּי אוֹתָהּ בִּשְׁמוֹנָה וְהַיּוֹם אַתָּה רוֹצֶה לִטֹּל מִמֶּנִּי עֲשָׂרָה. אָמַר לוֹ זוֹ שֶׁאָכַלְתָּ שֶׁל חֲזִיר הִיא, כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ כָּךְ עָמְדוּ שַׂעֲרוֹתָיו, נִבְהַל וְנֶחְפַּז, אָמַר לוֹ בְּצִנְעָה יְהוּדִי אֲנִי וְנָתַתָּ לִי בְּשַׂר חֲזִיר, אָמַר לוֹ תִּפַּח רוּחֲךָ שֶׁכְּשֶׁרָאִיתִי שֶׁאָכַלְתָּ בְּלֹא נְטִילַת יָדַיִם וּבְלֹא בְּרָכָה, הָיִיתִי סָבוּר שֶׁאַתָּה עוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים. מִיכָּן שָׁנוּ חֲכָמִים מַיִם רִאשׁוֹנִים הֶאֱכִילוּ בְּשַׂר חֲזִיר, אַחֲרוֹנִים הָרְגוּ אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ, מַעֲשֶׂה בְּאָדָם אֶחָד שֶׁאָכַל קִטְנִית וְלֹא נָטַל יָדָיו וְיָרַד לַשּׁוּק וְיָדָיו מְטֻנָּפוֹת מִן הַקִּטְנִית, רָאָה אוֹתוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ הָלַךְ וְאָמַר לְאִשְׁתּוֹ אוֹמֵר לִיךְ בַּעֲלִיךְ סִימָן שֶׁאָכַל עַכְשָׁו קִטְנִית שַׁגְרִי לוֹ אוֹתָה טַבַּעַת, נָתְנָה לוֹ. אַחַר שָׁעָה בָּא בַּעְלָהּ אָמַר לָהּ הֵיכָן הַטַּבַּעַת, אָמְרָה לוֹ בָּא פְּלוֹנִי בְּסִימָנִין שֶׁלְּךָ וּנְתַתִּיהָ לוֹ, נִתְמַלֵּא עָלֶיהָ חֵמָה וַהֲרָגָהּ. לְפִיכָךְ כָּל שֶׁאֵינוֹ נוֹטֵל יָדָיו לְאַחַר הַמָּזוֹן כְּהוֹרֵג נֶפֶשׁ, וּלְכָךְ הִזְהִיר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲפִלּוּ בְּמִצְוָה קַלָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב, מז): כִּי לֹא דָבָר רֵק הוּא מִכֶּם כִּי הוּא חַיֵּיכֶם, אֲפִלּוּ דְּבַר מִצְוָה שֶׁאַתָּה רוֹאֶה אוֹתָהּ רֵקָה וְקַלָּה, בָּהּ חַיִּים וַאֲרִיכוּת יָמִים. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אִם שְׁמַרְתֶּם מִצְווֹתַי, אֲנִי מַפִּיל שׂוֹנְאֵיכֶם לִפְנֵיכֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים פא, יד טו): לוּ עַמִּי שֹׁמֵעַ לִי, כִּמְעַט אוֹיְבֵיהֶם אַכְנִיעַ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה בִּלְעָם הֵיאַךְ מְשַׁמְּרִים יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמִּצְווֹת הַקַּלּוֹת, אָמַר מִי יוּכַל לְקַלֵּל אֶת אֵלּוּ שֶׁשּׁוֹמְרִים מִצְוֹתָיו וּשְׁמוֹ מְשֻׁתָּף בָּהֶן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כג, כא): ה' אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ. הַמְקַלְּלָם כְּאִלּוּ מְקַלֵּל פְּנֵי שְׁכִינָה, שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ מְעֹרָב בִּשְׁמָן. הִתְחִיל הוֹפֵךְ לִמְשָׁלִים (במדבר כג, ז יח): וַיִּשָֹּׂא מְשָׁלוֹ וַיֹּאמַר, זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (משלי כז, יד): מְבָרֵךְ רֵעֵהוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל וגו', כְּשֶׁבָּא בִּלְעָם לְקַלֵּל אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל, עִקֵּם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת לְשׁוֹנוֹ וְהִתְחִיל לְבָרֵךְ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, ו): וְלֹא אָבָה ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל בִּלְעָם וַיַּהֲפֹךְ ה' וגו', נָתַן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כֹּחַ בְּקוֹלוֹ וְקוֹלוֹ הָלַךְ מִסּוֹף הָעוֹלָם וְעַד סוֹפוֹ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּשְׁמְעוּ הָאֻמּוֹת שֶׁהוּא מְבָרְכָן, מִנַּיִן, אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקַּפָּר כְּתִיב לְהַלָּן (דברים ה, יט): קוֹל גָּדוֹל וְלֹא יָסָף, שֶׁהָיָה הוֹלֵךְ מִסּוֹף הָעוֹלָם וְעַד סוֹפוֹ, וְכָאן כְּתִיב: מְבָרֵךְ רֵעֵהוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל וגו', שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ (במדבר כד, יד): לְכָה אִיעָצְךָ, וְהָרַג עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, יֵשׁ קְלָלָה כָּזוֹ.

21 (Numb. 24:3) “So he took up his theme and said.”56These words also appear in Numb. 23:7, 18; 24:15, 20, 21, 23, but the context of this verse certainly fits the sense of the midrash. A legal teaching: In the case of one who eats without washing his hands, what penalty will he incur? Thus have our masters taught: Washing hands before the meal is an option; after the meal it is an obligation.57Hul. 105a, but not in the Mishnah. It once happened at the time of [religious persecutions] that there was an Israelite shopkeeper who would cook [and sell] both clean meat and pork, so that they would not notice that he was a Jew. Now his custom was this: Whenever anyone came into his shop and did not wash his hands, he knew that he was a foreigner and he would set pork before him; but whenever anyone washed his hands and recited the blessing, he knew that he was a Jew and would serve him clean meat. Once a certain Jew came in to eat there but did not wash his hands. Thinking that he was a foreigner, he set pork before him. He ate without saying the blessing. When he came to settle the account with him for the bread and for the meat (the pork was expensively priced). He said to him, “I have such and such against you over the meat which you have eaten, for the slice is worth ten manah.”58Gk.: mna. He said to him, “Yesterday I ate it for eight. Now today you want ten!” He said to him, “This which you ate is from a hog.” When he said this to him, his hair stood on end, for he became terrified and afraid. He said to him privately, “I am a Jew and you have given me pork!” He said to him, “A curse upon you! When I saw that you ate without washing your hands and without a blessing, I thought that you were a foreigner.” Hence the sages have said, “The [omission of the] first water (before the meal) caused him to serve him pork; [the neglect of] the latter water (after the meal) took a life.”59Yoma 83b; Hul. 106a. [The second part of the previous statement is due to] a story about a certain person who ate pulse without washing his hands. When he went down to the marketplace, his hands were filthy from the pulse. When an acquaintance of his saw him, he went and said to his wife, “Your husband has mentioned as a token60Siman. Gk.: semeion. to you [of my authenticity] that he has just now eaten pulse.61I.e., the fact that he knew what his friend had just eaten would be evidence of his having spoken with him. Send him that ring.” [So] she gave it to him. After a time her husband came. He said to her, “Where is the ring?” She said to him, “So and so came with your tokens, and I gave it to him.” Becoming filled with rage, he arose and killed her. Therefore the sages have said, “Whoever does not wash his hands after the meal is like one who takes a life.” Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, has warned Israel not to transgress even insignificant commandments, as stated (in Deut. 32:47), “For it (the Torah) is no empty thing for you, in that it is your very life.” Even some commandment that you consider to be empty and insignificant has within it life and length of days. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, “If you keep My commandments, I will cast down your enemies before you,” as stated (in Ps. 81:14-15), “O that my people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways. Then I would virtually subdue their enemies.” When Balaam saw how Israel observed [even] the insignificant commandments, he said, “Who can curse these people, when they observe commandments and when His name is shared with them.” It is so stated (in Numb. 23:21), “The Lord their God is with them.” Whoever curses them is as if he curses the face of the Divine Presence, because His name is joined with them.”62I.e., the name El (“God”) forms part of the name Israel. He began turning to oracles, as stated (in Numb. 24:3), “So he took up his theme.” This text is related (to Prov. 27:14), “[Whoever rises early in the morning to] bless his neighbor in a loud voice [shall have it reckoned to him as a curse].” When Balaam came to curse Israel, the Holy One, blessed be He, diverted his tongue, so that he began to bless. It is so stated (in Deut. 23:6), “But the Lord your God did not want to heed Balaam; so the Lord your God turned [the curse into a blessing for you].” The Holy One, blessed be He, put power in his voice and his voice went from one end of the world to the other, so that the nations would hear that he was blessing [Israel]. Now it is stated concerning him (in Prov. 27:14), “Whoever [rises early in the morning to] bless his neighbor in a loud voice [shall have it reckoned to him as a curse].” [This is] as stated (in Numb. 24:14), “come, let me advise you.” Then he killed twenty-four thousand. There is no curse [as damaging] as this.

22 כב

וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּשִּׁטִּים (במדבר כה, א), הֲלָכָה, בִּזְכוּת כַּמָּה דְבָרִים נִגְאֲלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם, שָׁנוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ בִּזְכוּת אַרְבָּעָה דְּבָרִים נִגְאֲלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם, שֶׁלֹא שִׁנּוּ אֶת שְׁמוֹתָן, שֶׁלֹא שִׁנּוּ אֶת לְשׁוֹנָם, וְלֹא גִלּוּ מִסְטוֹרִין שֶׁלָּהֶם, שֶׁמּשֶׁה אָמַר לָהֶם (שמות ג, כב): וְשָׁאֲלָה אִשָּׁה מִשְּׁכֶנְתָּהּ כְּלֵי כֶסֶף וּכְלֵי זָהָב, וְהָיָה הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה מֻפְקָד אֶצְלָם שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ וְלֹא גִּלָּה אֶחָד מֵהֶם לַמִּצְרִיִּים, וְלֹא נִפְרְצוּ בַּעֲרָיוֹת, שֶׁכֵּן כְּתִיב (שיר השירים ד, יב): גַּן נָעוּל אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה, אֵלּוּ הַזְּכָרִים, (שיר השירים ד, יב): גַּל נָעוּל מַעְיָן חָתוּם, אֵלּוּ הַבְּתוּלוֹת, תֵּדַע לָךְ שֶׁהֲרֵי אַחַת הָיְתָה וּפִרְסְמָהּ הַכָּתוּב (ויקרא כד, י): וַיֵּצֵא בֶּן אִשָּׁה יִשְׂרְאֵלִית. וְכָל אוֹתָן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה לֹא סָרְחוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר עַד שֶׁבָּאוּ לַשִּׁטִּים, לְכָךְ כְּתִיב: וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּשִּׁטִּים וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת, שִׁטִּים שֶׁעָשׂוּ שְׁטוּת, (משלי ו, לב): נֹאֵף אִשָּׁה חֲסַר לֵב. וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת, יֵשׁ מַעְיָנוֹת שֶׁמְּגַדְּלִין גִּבּוֹרִים, וְיֵשׁ חַלָּשִׁים, וְיֵשׁ נָאִין, וְיֵשׁ מְכֹעָרִין, וְיֵשׁ צְנוּעִין, וְיֵשׁ שְׁטוּפִין בְּזִמָּה, וּמַעְיָן שִׁטִּים שֶׁל זְנוּת הָיָה, וְהוּא מַשְׁקֶה לִסְדוֹם, אַתָּה מוֹצֵא שֶׁאָמְרוּ (בראשית יט, ה): אַיֵּה הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ אֵלֶיךָ הוֹצִיאֵם אֵלֵינוּ וגו', וּלְפִי שֶׁנִּתְקַלֵּל אוֹתוֹ מַעְיָן, עָתִיד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיַבְּשׁוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יואל ד, יח): וּמַעְיָן מִבֵּית ה' יֵצֵא וְהִשְׁקָה אֶת נַחַל הַשִּׁטִּים, מִימוֹת אַבְרָהָם לֹא נִפְרַץ אֶחָד בִּזְנוּת, כֵּיוָן שֶׁבָּאוּ לַשִּׁטִּים וְשָׁתוּ מֵימָיו נִפְרְצוּ בִּזְּנוּת.

“And Israel abode in Shittim…” (Bamidbar 25:1) This is the law. Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of many things. Our Rabbis taught: Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of four things. They did not change their names, they did not change their language, they did not reveal their secrets. Moshe said to them “…and every woman shall ask of her neighbor, and of her that live in her house, vessels of silver and vessels of gold…” (Shemot 3:22) They kept this command hidden between them for twelve months and not one of them revealed it to the Egyptians. They did not breakdown into forbidden sexual relationships, as it is written “A locked up garden is my sister, my bride…” this refers to the men, “…a locked up spring, a sealed fountain,” (Shir HaShirim 4:12) and this refers to the virgins. You should know this, because there was one who transgressed and the Torah publicized it “Now, the son of an Israelite woman and he was the son of an Egyptian man went out among the children of Israel…” (Vayikra 24:1) All the forty years in the wilderness they did not go astray until they came to Shittim. Therefore it says “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry…” (Bamidbar 25:1) It was called Shittim because there they did foolishness (shtut), “He who commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding…” (Mishle 6:32) ‘the people began to commit harlotry’ There are springs which raise mighty people and there are those that raise weaklings, those that raise beautiful people and those that raise ugly ones, those that raise modest people and those that raise people steeped in licentiousness. The spring of Shittim was one of harlotry, and it watered Sodom. You find that they said “Where are the men who came in to you? Bring them out to us…” (Bereshit 19:5) Since that spring was accursed, in the future the Holy One will dry it out, as it says “…and a spring will issue from the house of the Lord and will water the valley of Shittim…” (Yoel 4:18) From the days of Avraham no one had broken out in harlotry. Once they arrived at Shittim and drank from its waters, they burst forth.

23 כג

וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת אֶל בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב (במדבר כה, א), בּוֹא וּרְאֵה מַה כְּתִיב בִּיצִיאָתָן מִמִּצְרַיִם (שמות יד, ב): דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיָשֻׁבוּ וְיַחֲנוּ לִפְנֵי פִּי הַחִירֹת, מַהוּ פִּי הַחִירֹת, מָקוֹם קָבוּעַ לִזְנוּת הָיָה, וּלְפִי שֶׁהִצְנִיעוּ עַצְמָן בִּיצִיאָתָן מִמִּצְרַיִם נִקְרָא פִּי הַחִירֹת, וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁהִפְקִירוּ עַצְמָן לַאֲנָשִׁים, כְּתִיב: וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת, וַיָּחֶל הָעָם, כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר הָעָם, לְשׁוֹן גְּנַאי הוּא, וְכָל מָקוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְשׁוֹן שֶׁבַח הוּא, (במדבר יא, א): וַיְהִי הָעָם כְּמִתְאֹנְנִים. (במדבר כא, ה): וַיְדַבֵּר הָעָם בֵּאלֹהִים וּבְמשֶׁה. (במדבר יד, א): וַיִּבְכּוּ הָעָם בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא. (במדבר יד, יא): עַד אָנָה יְנַאֲצֻנִי הָעָם. (שמות לב, כה): וַיַּרְא משֶׁה אֶת הָעָם כִּי פָרֻעַ הוּא. (שמות לב, א): וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל אַהֲרֹן, וְכֵן כֻּלָּם. וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת, זְרֹק מַטֶּה לָאֲוִיר לְעִקָּרוֹ נוֹפֵל, מִי שֶׁפָּתַח בִּזְנוּת תְּחִלָּה, הִשְּׁלִים לְבַסּוֹף, אִמּוֹתֵיהֶם הִתְחִילוּ בְּזִמָּה (בראשית יט, לא לד): וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה, לְכָה נַשְׁקֶה אֶת אָבִינוּ יַיִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָה, וַיְהִי מִמָּחֳרָת וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה הֵן שָׁכַבְתִּי אֱמֶשׁ, לִמְּדַתָּה אֲחוֹתָהּ, וּלְפִיכָךְ חָסַךְ הַכָּתוּב עַל הַצְּעִירָה וְלֹא פֵּרְשָׁהּ, אֶלָּא (בראשית יט, לה): וַתִּשְׁכַּב עִמּוֹ, וּבַגְּדוֹלָה כְּתִיב (בראשית יט, לג): וַתִּשְׁכַּב אֶת אָבִיהָ. אוֹתָהּ שֶׁפָּתְחָה בִּזְּנוּת תְּחִלָּה הִשְׁלִימוּ בְּנוֹתֶיהָ אַחֲרֶיהָ לִזְנוֹת אֶל בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב. (במדבר כה, ב): וַתִּקְרֶאןָ לָעָם לְזִבְחֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן, שֶׁהָלְכוּ בַּעֲצָתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לא, טז): הֵן הֵנָּה הָיוּ לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּדְבַר בִּלְעָם לִמְסָר מַעַל בַּה'. עָשׂוּ לָהֶם קְלָעִים וְהוֹשִׁיבוּ בָּהֶם זוֹנוֹת וּבִידֵיהֶן כָּל כְּלֵי חֶמְדָה, וְהָיְתָה זְקֵנָה יוֹשֶׁבֶת מִבַּחוּץ וּמְשַׁמֶּרֶת לַיַּלְדָה שֶׁהָיְתָה לִפְנִים מִן הַחֲנוּת, כְּשֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל עוֹבְרִין לִטֹּל חֵפֶץ בַּשּׁוּק זְקֵנָה אוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ בָּחוּר אִי אַתָּה רוֹצֶה כְּלִי פִּשְׁתָּן שֶׁבָּא מִבֵּית שְׁאָן, וְהָיְתָה מַרְאָה לוֹ וְאוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ הִכָּנֵס לִפְנִים וְתִרְאֶה חֲפָצִים נָאִים, הַזְּקֵנָה אוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ בְּיוֹתֵר, וְיַלְדָה בְּפָחוֹת, מִכָּאן וָאֵילָךְ אוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ יַלְדָה הֲרֵי אַתָּה כְּבֶן בַּיִת שֵׁב בְּרֹר לְעַצְמְךָ, וְצַרְצוּר יַיִן מֻנָּח אֶצְלָהּ וַעֲדַיִן לֹא נֶאֱסַר יַיִן שֶׁל גּוֹיִם, נַעֲרָה יוֹצְאָה מְקֻשֶּׁטֶת וּמְבֻסֶּמֶת וּמְפַתָּה אוֹתוֹ וְאוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ לָמָּה אָנוּ אוֹהֲבִין אֶתְכֶם וְאַתֶּם שׂוֹנְאִין אוֹתָנוּ, טֹל לְךָ כְּלִי זֶה חִנָּם, הֲלוֹא (בראשית מב, יא): כֻּלָּנוּ בְּנֵי אִישׁ אֶחָד, בְּנֵי תֶּרַח אֲבִי אַבְרָהָם, אֵין אַתֶּם רוֹצִים לֶאֱכֹל מִזִּבְחוֹתֵינוּ וּמִבִּשׁוּלֵינוּ, הֲרֵי לָנוּ עֲגָלִים וְתַרְנְגוֹלִים שַׁחֲטוּ כְּמִצְוַתְכֶם וְאִכְלוּ, מִיָּד מַשְׁקַתּוּ הַיַּיִן וּבוֹעֵר בּוֹ הַשָֹּׂטָן, הָיָה נִשְׂטֶה אַחֲרֶיהָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ד, יא): זְנוּת וְיַיִן וְתִירוֹשׁ יִקַּח לֵב, וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים בִּלְעָם צִוָּה אוֹתָם שֶׁלֹא לְהַשְׁקוֹתָם, שֶׁלֹא יִדּוֹנוּ כִּשְׁתוּיֵי יַיִן אֶלָּא כִּמְזִידִין. כֵּיוָן שֶׁהָיָה תּוֹבְעָהּ אוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ אֵינִי נִשְׁמַעַת לָךְ עַד שֶׁתִּשְׁחַט זֶה לִפְעוֹר וְתִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לוֹ, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים אֵינִי מִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה, וְאוֹמֶרֶת לוֹ אֵין אַתָּה אֶלָּא כִּמְגַלֶּה עַצְמְךָ, וְהוּא נִשְׂטֶה אַחֲרֶיהָ וְעוֹשֶׂה כֵן. זוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים הַפּוֹעֵר עַצְמוֹ לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר זוֹ הִיא עֲבוֹדָתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כה, ב): וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן, וַיִּצָּמֶד יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר (במדבר כה, ג), בַּתְּחִלָּה הָיוּ נִכְנָסִין בְּצִנְעָה, וּלְבַסּוֹף נִכְנָסִין צְמִידִים צְמִידִים, זוּגוֹת, כְּעִנְיָן שֶׁל צֶמֶד בָּקָר. דָּבָר אַחֵר, כְּאָדָם צָמִיד בִּמְלַאכְתּוֹ, וַיִּצָּמֶד, כִּצְמִידִים עַל יָדֶיהָ, רַבִּי לֵוִי אָמַר זוֹ גְזֵרָה קָשָׁה מִן הָעֵגֶל, דְּאִלּוּ בָּעֵגֶל כְּתִיב (שמות לב, ב): פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב, וּבְכָאן, וַיִּצָּמֶד, כִּצְמִידִים. בָּעֵגֶל נָפְלוּ שְׁלשֶׁת אֲלָפִים, וְכָאן עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף. (במדבר כה, ד): וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל משֶׁה קַח אֶת כָּל רָאשֵׁי הָעָם וְהוֹקַע אֹתָם, רַבִּי יוּדָן אָמַר רָאשֵׁי הָעָם תָּלָה עַל שֶׁלֹא מִיחוּ בִּבְנֵי אָדָם. רַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה אָמַר לֹא תָּלָה רָאשֵׁי הָעָם, אֶלָּא אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה הוֹשֵׁב לָהֶן רָאשֵׁי סַנְהֶדְרִיּוֹת וְיִהְיוּ דָּנִים כָּל מִי שֶׁהָלַךְ לִפְעוֹר. אָמַר, מִי מוֹדִיעָן, אָמַר לוֹ אֲנִי מְפַרְסְמָן, כָּל מִי שֶׁטָּעָה הֶעָנָן סָר מֵעָלָיו וְהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ זוֹרַחַת עָלָיו בְּתוֹךְ הַקָּהָל, וְיִהְיוּ הַכֹּל יוֹדְעִין מִי שֶׁטָּעָה וְיִתְלוּ אוֹתוֹ, תֵּדַע לְךָ שֶׁהוּא כֵּן (במדבר כה, ה): וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה אֶל שֹׁפְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִרְגוּ אִישׁ אֲנָשָׁיו וגו'.

23 (Numb. 25:1) “The people began to go whoring unto the daughters of Moab.” Come and see what is written in their leaving from Egypt: (In Ex. 14:2,) “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi-Hahiroth (which sounds like liberty, heiruth).” What is the meaning of Pi-Hahiroth? It was a place that was fixed for unchastity. And because they sheltered themselves [from it] in their leaving, it was called Pi-Hahiroth. But these [Moabite women] because they made themselves available to the people, it is written, (in Numb. 25:1), “the people began to go whoring [unto the daughters of Moab].” (Numb. 25:1) “The people began”: Every place that “the people” is mentioned, it is an expression of shame; but every place that “Israel” is mentioned, it is an expression of commendation: (In Numb. 11:1,) “Now the people were as murmurers [speaking evil in the ears of the Lord]”; (in Numb. 21:5,) “So the people spoke against God and against Moses”; (in Numb. 14:1,) “and the people wept on that night”; (in Numb. 14:11), “Until when will the people anger Me”; (in Exod. 32:25,) “And Moses saw that the people were wild”; (in Exod. 32:1,) “and the people gathered together against Aaron”; and similarly in all of them. (Numb. 25:1) “The people began to go whoring.” Throw a stick into the air,68Gk.: aer. [and] it falls to its place of origin (i.e., its root).69For this proverb in other contexts, see Gen. R. 53:15; 86:6. The one who had begun with the whoredom at first, finished with it in the end. Their matriarchs (i.e., the matriarchs of Ammon and Moab) began with whoredom (according to Gen. 19:31-34), “And the first-born said to the younger, ‘Let us give our father to drink […].’ So it came to pass on the next day that the first-born said unto the younger […].” She (the first-born) had instructed her in whoredom, and for that reason the Holy One, blessed be He, had pity on the younger and did not expose her. Rather (according to vs. 35), “and she slept with him”; but with reference to the elder, it is written (in vs. 33), “and slept with her father.”70Thus in the case of the elder, her incest was specifically mentioned. In the case of the one who began in whoredom at first, her daughters (i.e., the daughters of Moab) went after her to finish [it, as stated (in Numb. 25:1), “the people began] to go whoring unto the daughters of Moab.” (Numb. 25:2) “And they invited the people to the sacrifices for their gods”: Thus they (i.e., daughters of Moab) were going by the counsel of Balaam, as stated (in Numb. 31:16), “Here these women at the bidding of Balaam made the Children of Israel.”71ySanh. 10:2 (28cd); Sanh. 106a; PRE 47. They made themselves curtained stalls and installed harlots in them with every object of delight in their hands. Now a girl would have an old woman as an agent, for an old woman would be in front of the shop. During the time that Israel was passing by on the way to the marketplace, the woman would say to him, “Young man, surely you want objects of linen which have come from Beth-Shean!” Then she would show them to him and say to him, “Come inside and you will see fine things”; and when the old woman would tell him a high price, the girl would [give him] a lower one. From then on the girl would tell him, “You are like one of the family. Sit down and choose for yourself.” Now a jug of wine was placed by her, since the wine of gentiles had not yet been forbidden. Then out comes the girl, perfumed and adorned, and seduces him and says to him, “Why do you hate us, when we love you? Take for yourself this article gratis. We all are children of a single man, children of Terah, the father of Abraham. So do you not want to eat from our sacrifices and from our cooking? Here are calves and cocks for you; slaughter them according to your own precepts, and eat.” Immediately she has him drink the wine, and then the Satan burned within him, so that he became a fool for her, as stated (in Hos. 4:11), “Harlotry, wine and young wine sway the heart.” There are also those who say [that] Balaam commanded them not to have them drink the wine, so that they would not be judged as those who are drunk, but as willful sinners. When he sought her out, she said to him, “I am not listening to you until you slaughter it [as a sacrifice] to Peor and bow down to it.” But he would say, “I am not bowing down to idolatry.” And she would say to him, “You only need to reveal yourself to it.” And [since] he had become a fool for her, he would do so. This is what the masters said, “One who reveals himself (to defecate) to Baal Peor – this is its worship” (Sanh. 64a). It is so stated (Numb. 25:2), “and they bowed down to their gods.” (Numb. 25:3) “Thus Israel was joined (rt.: tsmd) to Baal Peor”: At the beginning, they went in chastely, but at the end they went as many teams of pairs, like a pair (tsemed) of oxen. Another explanation: Like a man tied to his work; joined (rt.: tsmd) [to Baal Peor] like bracelets (rt.: tsmd). R. Levi said, “This was more serious than the [sin of the golden] calf, for while in reference to the calf, it is written (in Exod. 32:2), ‘Take off the gold rings,’ here [it is written] (in Numb. 25:3), ‘was joined (rt.: tsmd) [to Baal Peor,]’ like bracelets (rt.: tsmd)]. Because of the calf about three thousand fell, but here (according to Numb. 25:9) [the number fallen is] twenty-four thousand.” (Numb. 25:4) “[…] Take all the heads of the people, and impale them [before the Lord in the sun].” R. Judan said, “He hanged the heads of the people, because they had not protested about the people.” R. Nehemiah said, “He did not hang them. Rather the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, ‘Appoint Sanhedrin72Sanhedraot. Gk. plural: synhedria. heads for them, and let them judge whoever went to Peor.’ He said to him, ‘But who will make such a one known?’ The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘I will expose them. In the case of whoever has gone astray, the cloud shall be peeled back from upon him, and the sun shall shine upon him in the midst of the congregation. Then they will know anyone who has gone astray and hang him.’” You know for yourself that it is so, as stated (in Numb. 25:5), “So Moses said unto the judges of Israel, ‘Each of you kill [those of] his own people [who have been joined to Baal Peor].’”

24 כד

וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּא וַיַּקְרֵב אֶל אֶחָיו (במדבר כה, ו), מָה רָאָה לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן, לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁלֹא חָלַק כָּבוֹד לֹא לַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא לַבְּרִיּוֹת, עָלָיו נֶאֱמַר (משלי כא, כד): זֵד יָהִיר לֵץ שְׁמוֹ עוֹשֶׂה בְּעֶבְרַת זָדוֹן. אָמְרָה לוֹ אֵינִי נִשְׁמַעַת אֶלָּא לְמשֶׁה, שֶׁכָּךְ צִוָּה אוֹתִי בָּלָק אַבָּא שֶׁלֹא לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶלָּא לְמשֶׁה רַבְּכֶם, שֶׁאָבִי מֶלֶךְ. אָמַר לָהּ הֲרֵי אֲנִי גָדוֹל כְּמוֹתוֹ, לְעֵינֵיהֶם אֲנִי אֲבִיאֵךְ, תְּפָשָׂהּ בִּבְלוֹרִיתָהּ וֶהֱבִיאָהּ אֵצֶל משֶׁה, אָמַר לוֹ בֶּן עַמְרָם זוֹ מֻתֶּרֶת אוֹ אֲסוּרָה, אָמַר לוֹ אֲסוּרָה הִיא לָךְ, אָמַר לוֹ זִמְרִי וְאוֹתָהּ שֶׁלָּקַחְתָּ מִדְיָנִית הִיא, מִיָּד נִתְרַשְּׁלוּ יָדָיו שֶׁל משֶׁה וְנִתְעַלְּמָה מִמֶּנוּ הֲלָכָה, וְגָעוּ כֻּלָּם בִּבְכִיָּה, דִּכְתִיב (במדבר כה, ו): וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים, לָמָּה בּוֹכִים שֶׁנִּתְרַפּוּ יְדֵיהֶם אוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה, מָשָׁל לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה לְבַת מֶלֶךְ שֶׁנִּתְקַשְּׁטָה לִכָּנֵס לַחֻפָּה לֵישֵׁב בְּאַפִּרְיוֹן וְנִמְצֵאת מְקַלְקֶלֶת עִם אַחֵר, שֶׁנִּתְרַפּוּ יְדֵי אָבִיהָ וּקְרוֹבֶיהָ. כָּךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּסוֹף אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה חָנוּ עַל הַיַּרְדֵּן לַעֲבֹר לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לג, מט): וַיַּחֲנוּ עַל הַיַּרְדֵּן מִבֵּית הַיְשִׁמֹת עַד אָבֵל הַשִּׁטִּים בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב, וְשָׁם נִפְרְצוּ בִּזְּנוּת וְרָפוּ יְדֵי משֶׁה וִידֵי צַדִּיקִים עִמּוֹ, וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים וְהוּא עוֹמֵד כְּנֶגֶד שִׁשִּׁים רִבּוֹא, (שמות לב, כ): וַיִּקַּח אֶת הָעֵגֶל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ, וְרָפוּ יָדָיו, אֶלָּא בִּשְׁבִיל פִּינְחָס שֶׁיָּבוֹא וְיִטֹּל אֶת הָרָאוּי לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁנִּתְעַצֵּל (דברים לד, ו): וְלֹא יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת קְבֻרָתוֹ, לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁצָּרִיךְ אָדָם לִהְיוֹת עַז כַּנָּמֵר, וְקַל כַּנֶּשֶׁר, וְרָץ כַּצְּבִי, וְגִבּוֹר כָּאֲרִי, לַעֲשׂוֹת רְצוֹן קוֹנוֹ, מִכָּאן אַתְּ לָמֵד שֶׁמְדַקְדֵּק עִם הַצַּדִּיקִים עַד כְּחוּט הַשַֹּׂעֲרָה.

24 (Numb. 25:6) “Just then one of the Children of Israel came and brought [a Midianite woman] unto his brothers [before the eyes of Moses and the eyes of the whole congregation of the Children of Israel]”: What reason was there for him doing so? [The incident serves] to teach you that he had respect neither for Heaven nor for mortals. It is stated concerning him (in Prov. 21:24), “An insolent73Heb.: Zed. and arrogant one, scorner is his name; [he acts with arrogant wantonness].” She said to him, “I am surrendering to no one but Moses, as so did my father, Balak, command me, to only surrender to Moses, your leader, since my father is a king” He said to her. “See that I am as great as he is, and [to show you,] I am bringing you before his eyes.” [Then] he seized her by her braid and brought her to Moses. He said to him, “Son of Amram, is this woman permitted or forbidden?” He said to him, “She is forbidden to you.” Zimri said [back] to him, “But that one that you took [as a wife] is a Midianite!” Immediately Moses’ hands weakened and the ruling (halakhah) slipped from his mind. They all wept bitterly. That is what is written (in Numb. 25:6), “they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Why were they weeping? Because they became weak at that time. A parable: To what is the matter comparable? To a king's daughter who had adorned herself for entering the wedding canopy [and] for sitting in the [bridal] palanquin.74Gk.: phoreion. When she was found indulging in immorality with another, her father and her kinsfolk became weak. So it was with Israel. At the end of forty years (as in Numb. 33:49), “they had camped by the Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittimn on the plains of Moab, and there they became lawless through unchastity. And they weakened Moses and the righteous who were with him, and they were crying. See that [Moses] had [previously] stood up to six hundred thousand [men] with the [golden] calf, as stated (Exod. 32:20), “And he took the calf that they had made.” And [now] he weakened? It was simply so that Phinehas would come and receive his due. Moreover, because [Moses] had been indolent [in the execution of justice], (according to Deut. 34:6) “no one knows his burial place.” [This fact serves] to teach you that one must be as strong as a leopard and as swift as an eagle to do the will of his Creator. From here you learn that the Holy One, blessed be He, is as meticulous with the righteous as a thread of hair.

25 כה

וַיַּרְא פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר (במדבר כה, ז), וְכֻלָּם לֹא רָאוּ וְהָכְתִיב (במדבר כה, ו): לְעֵינֵי משֶׁה וּלְעֵינֵי כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶלָּא רָאָה מַעֲשֶׂה וְנִזְכַּר הֲלָכָה הַבּוֹעֵל אֲרָמִית קַנָּאִין פּוֹגְעִין בּוֹ. (במדבר כה, ז): וַיָּקָם מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה, מֵהֵיכָן עָמַד, אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיוּ נוֹשְׂאִין וְנוֹתְנִין בַּדָּבָר אִם הוּא חַיָּב מִיתָה אִם לָאו, עָמַד מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה וְנִתְנַדֵּב וְלָקַח רֹמַח בְּיָדוֹ, נָטַל שִׁנֵּי בַּרְזֶל בְּיָדוֹ וְהִנִּיחוֹ בְּחֵיקוֹ וְהִתְחִיל מִסְתַּמֵּךְ עַל הָעֵץ, שֶׁנִּתְיָרֵא מִפְּנֵי שִׁבְטוֹ שֶׁהִקִּיפוּ אוֹתוֹ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִגִּיעַ אֶצְלָם אָמְרוּ לוֹ לָמָּה בָּאתָ, אָמַר לָהֶם אַף אֲנִי בָּא לַעֲשׂוֹת צָרְכִּי, הִנִּיחוּהוּ וְנִכְנַס, שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא כֵן לֹא הִנִּיחוּהוּ לִכָּנֵס, (במדבר כה, ח): וַיָּבֹא אַחַר אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל הַקֻּבָּה, דָּקַר שְׁנֵיהֶם זֶה עַל גַּב זֶה לְתוֹךְ טֻמְאַת שְׁנֵיהֶם, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹמְרִים לֹא הָיְתָה שָׁם טֻמְאָה, וְקִנֵּא לִשְׁמוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וְעָשָׂה לוֹ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר נִסִּים, הַנֵּס הָאֶחָד, דַּרְכָּן לִפְרשׁ זֶה מִזֶּה, וְהִדְבִּיקָן הַמַּלְאָךְ. הַנֵּס הַשֵּׁנִי, סָתַם פִּיהֶם הַמַּלְאָךְ, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹא יִצְוְחוּ. הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, כִּוֵּן אֶת הָרוֹמַח כְּנֶגֶד הַקֳּבָה שֶׁלָּהּ, כְּדֵי שֶׁתְּהֵא זַכְרוּתוֹ נִרְאָה בְּתוֹךְ הַקֳּבָה מִפְּנֵי הַנּוֹקְרָנִין, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ אוֹמְרִים אַף הוּא נִכְנַס וְעָשָׂה צָרְכּוֹ. הָרְבִיעִי, הֶאֱרִיךְ הַבַּרְזֶל כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּדְקֹר אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם. הַחֲמִישִׁי, נָתַן כֹּחַ בִּזְרוֹעוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּגְבִּיהַּ אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם. הַשִּׁשִּׁי, נָתַן כֹּחַ בָּעֵץ לִסְבֹּל אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם. הַשְּׁבִיעִי, לֹא נִשְׁמְטוּ מִן הַזַּיִן אֶלָּא עָמְדוּ בִּמְקוֹמָן. הַשְּׁמִינִי, הֲפָכָן הַמַּלְאָךְ בְּרֹאשׁ הָרוֹמַח כְּתִקְנָן, לַרְאוֹת קְלוֹנָם לַכֹּל. הַתְּשִׁיעִי, לֹא הִטִּיפוּ דָם, שֶׁלֹא יִטַּמָּא פִּינְחָס. הָעֲשִׂירִי, שֶׁשָּׁמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא רוּחוֹתֵיהֶן שֶׁלֹא יָמוּתוּ וְיִטַּמָּא. הָאַחַד עָשָׂר, הִגְבִּיהַּ הַמַּלְאָךְ אֶת הַמַּשְׁקוֹף כְּדֵי שֶׁיֵּצְאוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם בֵּין כְּתֵפָיו תְּלוּיִן לְעֵינֵי הַכֹּל. הַשְּׁנֵים עָשָׂר. כְּשֶׁיָּצָא עָמְדוּ בְּנֵי שִׁבְטוֹ לִפְגֹּעַ בּוֹ, יָרַד הַמַּלְאָךְ וְנָגַף בָּהֶם. כְּשֶׁרָאָה פִּינְחָס שֶׁמְּבַקֵּשׁ לְכַלּוֹתָן, חֲבָטָן בַּקַּרְקַע וְעָמַד וְהִתְפַּלֵּל וְסִלְּקוֹ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (תהלים קו, ל): וַיַּעֲמֹד פִּינְחָס וַיְפַלֵּל, שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה אֶת הַדִּין, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כא, כב): וְנָתַן בִּפְלִלִים וגו', וּכְתִיב (במדבר כה, ט): וַיִּהְיוּ הַמֵּתִים בַּמַּגֵּפָה אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף, לְלַמֶּדְּךָ בְּכָל שָׁעָה שֶׁנּוֹפְלִים נִמְנִים, מָשָׁל לִזְאֵב שֶׁנָּפַל עַל הַצֹּאן, אָמַר בַּעַל הַצֹּאן לָרוֹעֶה חֲשֹׁב כַּמָּה חָסְרוּ, לְהוֹדִיעֲךָ כַּמָּה הַזְּנוּת מְרַחֶקֶת, שֶׁזֶּה יָחִיד וְעַל יָדוֹ נָפְלוּ עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה אֶלֶף מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (משלי טז, יד): חֲמַת מֶלֶךְ מַלְאֲכֵי מָוֶת וְאִישׁ חָכָם יְכַפְּרֶנָה וגו', מָשָׁל לְמֶלֶךְ שֶׁהָיָה עוֹבֵר וְסִיעָה שֶׁל נְעָרִים עוֹמְדִים, וְקִלֵּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ, נִתְמַלֵּא הַמֶּלֶךְ עֲלֵיהֶם חֵמָּה, בָּא תּוֹשָׁב אֶחָד שֶׁהָיָה בֵּינֵיהֶם וְנָתַן מִשְׂטָר אֶחָד לְאוֹתוֹ שֶׁקִּלֵּל אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ, מִיָּד שָׁכְכָה חֲמָתוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ. כָּךְ מִי גָרַם לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁתָּשׁוּב חֲמָתוֹ וְלֹא נִתְכַּלּוּ כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, הֱוֵי אוֹמֵר זֶה פִּינְחָס, לְקַיֵּם מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְאִישׁ חָכָם יְכַפְּרֶנָה. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה עַל יְדֵי סִרְחוֹן הֵם נִמְנִים, אֲבָל לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא (הושע ב, א): וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחוֹל הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר, בִּמְהֵרָה אָמֵן כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן.

25 (Numb. 25:7) “When Phinehas [ben Eleazar ben Aaron the priest] saw”: But did they all not see it? And is it not written (in vs. 6), “before the eyes of Moses and the eyes of the whole congregation of the Children of Israel?” It is simply that when he saw the deed, he remembered the ruling (halakhah); that one who cohabits with an Aramean woman will have zealots strike him down. (Numb. 25:7, cont.) “He arose from the midst of the congregation”: From where did he stand up? It is simply that, while they were involved in give and take on the matter of whether or not [the culprit] was liable for death, that man (Phinehas) stood up from the midst of the congregation and volunteered [to carry out the sentence]. (Numb. 25:7, cont.) “And [he] took a spear in his hand”: He put the iron prong in his hand, which he put in his bosom. Then he began [to approach] leaning on the wood like a staff,75I.e., with the iron prong hidden, the spear shaft seemed like a mere staff. because he was afraid of [the culprit's] tribe, as they surrounded him. When he reached them, they said to him, “Why have you come?” He said to them, “I also have come to fulfill my needs.” So they gave him permission, and he entered. For otherwise they would not have given him permission. (Numb. 25:8) “Then he went after the man of Israel into the tent, [and pierced both of them]”: He pierced both of them, the one on top of the other, through the unclean place (i.e., the private parts) of the both of them; lest Israel say there was no defilement there. He was zealous for the name of the Holy One, blessed be He. And twelve miracles occurred for him: The first miracle is that it is common that they would separate one from the other, but the angel adhered them together. The second miracle is that the angel closed their mouths that they not yell out. The third miracle is that [Phinehas was able to] direct [the spear precisely so that] the male genitals of [Zimri] were visible in the genitals of [Cozbi]; because they would have [otherwise] said, “[Phinehas] also went in and fulfilled his needs.” The fourth is that the iron expanded so that he could stab both of them. The fifth is that [the angel] gave him strength in his arm to raise both of them up. The sixth is that there was strength in the pole [of the spear] to lift both of them up. The seventh is that [Zimri and Cozbi] did not fall from the spear, but stayed in their place. The eighth is that the angel raised them up in the manner [of intercourse] on top of the spear for all to see their disgrace. The ninth is that they did not trickle blood, so that Phinehas would not become impure. The tenth is that the Holy One, blessed be He, kept their spirit [alive] so that he would not become impure. The eleventh is that the angel raised the lintel of the house chamber so that both of them would come out suspended in front of the eyes of everyone. The twelfth is when all the members of his tribe were ready to strike him down, an angel went down and smote them before him. When Phinehas saw that [the Holy One, blessed be He,] sought to destroy them, he struck [Zimri and Cozbi] on the ground. When he arose and prayed, [the plague] was removed. That is what is written (in Ps. 106:30), “Then Phinehas arose and interceded,”76The verse continues: AND THE PLAGUE WAS STOPPED. in that he gave the judicial verdict (din). Interceded (rt.: pll) can only denote a judicial verdict (din), since it is stated (in reference to making a reparation Exod. 21:22), “and he shall pay as the judges (rt.: pll) determine.” (Numb. 25:9) “And those who died from the plague […]”: [This is] to inform you that, on every occasion when they fell, they were numbered. There is a parable about a wolf who fell upon a flock of sheep. The owner of the sheep said to the shepherd, “Count how many were lost.” [This] is to inform you how much unchastity distances [from God]; as this was [just one] individual, and [yet] twenty-four thousand fell on his account. This is related to (in Prov. 16:14), “The king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man can appease it, etc.” There is a parable about a king who was passing by when a group of youths were standing in front of him. [When] one of them cursed him, the king was filled with anger against [all of] them. [Then] one of them came and socked the one who cursed the king, [and] the king’s anger was immediately subdued. So too, who caused the Holy One, blessed be He, to go back from His anger and not to destroy all of Israel? One would say it was Phinehas. Ergo, “but a wise man can appease it.” The Holy One, blessed be He, has said, “In this world it is on account of gross misconduct that they were counted; but in the world to come (according to Hos. 2:1), “The number of the Children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.” Amen, may it be [His] will.