How could Bilaam know God, but not even understand his own animal. This leads to a reconstruction of Bilaam’s discussion with his famous donkey. Each passage is based on the donkey saying a verse back to Bilaam.
This is probably something you did not know from the Bible. Not usually taught in Hebrew school.
This is the conclusion of the passage. Bilaam did not really know God—he only knew when exactly during the day God would get angry. This would assumedly help him in his attempt to curse Israel.
This statement is here because it again connects with the Bilaam and with God’s wrath. Note that “Israel’s enemies” is a euphemism. The statement should read “none would have remained in Israel.” But the copyist did not even want to write such a terrible statement.
God’s wrath is brief, as we have seen before.
Two verses are brought to show that God’s wrath lasts only a moment.
Abaye provides a natural phenomenon by which to determine when God’s wrath occurs.
Again we hear of a “min” perhaps a Jewish-Christian, who is troubling a rabbi with verses. R. Joshua b. Levi thinks he can curse the min at the exact moment when God’s wrath is let loose. But it does not work—he can’t get the exact time write. So don’t try this at home. Furthermore, a righteous person should not be asking for others to be punished.
God’s moment of wrath occurs at the hour of the morning when kings put on their crowns and bow down to the sun.
Judgement is dished out during the first three hours of the day, when kings wake up, put on their crowns and bow down to the sun. Since God tends to be angry at this time, an individual should not pray the Musaf prayer for Rosh Hashanah lest God examine his deeds too closely and judge him accordingly.
The congregation (minyan) can pray at that time because the collective merits of the community are sufficient.
One can pray shacharit, the morning prayer, as an individual knowing that some congregation somewhere will be praying at that time.
Earlier we said that God sits in judgment during the second three hours of the day, not the first. So why not pray during the first three hours, when we could assume that God’s mercy would be greater?
There are two ways of solving the problem. The first is to switch the order of what God does at what time during the day.
The second is to note that it would be better to pray when God is not studying Torah. Torah is “truth”—there is no hiding what one has done. It is absolute, without any mercy. But “judgment” can involve a measure of mercy. Thus it would be better to pray when God is acting as a judge, one involved in the lives of humans, then as something akin to a philosopher, who only cares about absolute truth and justice.
This statement appeared earlier in the context of God asking the non-Jews to perform the mitzvot at the end of days.
This midrash on Isaiah was the basis of the long eschatological drama with which the tractate opened. It is brought here again because it is another related statement by R. Joshua b. Levi.
This is another statement by R. Joshua b. Levi about Jews and non-Jews in the world to come.
Joshua b. Levi defends the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf. The verse proves the faith of the Israelites that stood at Sinai.
Here R. Yohanan offers the same explanation as above, but this time including a reference to David’s sin with Bathsheva. While we might find it difficult to accept justification for sinning, this is an excellent justification for why we remember our sinning ancestors. The stories we tell are not of perfect individuals or communities. They are of deeply flawed and human characters, struggling to do the right thing, but often succumbing to temptations.