Balak 5767 (2007)

A Drash for Balak (5767)

by Marc Mangel

Given the ease with which  God manipulated Pharoh’s  mind, the

story of Balaam and his animal is quite remarkable. God

intervenes twice in this episode: first to give the animal

speech (v 28) and then to give Balaam revelatory

sight (v 31).  So, there must be important

things for us to learn.

 

God did not have to give the animal revelatory

sight – only speech. Rashi tells us that God has given animals

the permission to see more than people can see –

and that if we could see all that animals see our

minds would become scrambled.  Animals

are generally able too see both harmful

spirits and benevolent angels.

 

This has led to long discussions about whether animals have souls.

The general conclusion is that they do not have souls as we

do, but it is clear that they have a presence – a force.

Anyone who has ever come home to a house after

a pet of long-standing has died can sense the absence of the force in the house.

 

Second, notice how Balaam responds when the ass turns aside

from the angel – he gets angry and hits the animal.  The

midrash teaches us the we should learn from this

example that when we become irritated at

someone else for going against our wishes,

we should use it as a cue that we might

be going against HaShem’s

wishes.

 

In this way, we can use otherwise irritating situations as opportunities for self-improvement and for building a dwelling place for God in this world.

The Midrash especially emphasizes that we go against God’s

wishes when we shout at  another person for not listening to

us.  If we listen to God’s wishes about how to treat

another rperson, we will always talk politely and

respectfully.

 

Our behavior creates the dwelling place for God in this world. And

the end of the haftorah gives us as good a guide as any:

“What HaShem seeks from you:  only the performance

of justice, the love and kindness and walking

humbly with your God”.

 

May we all do this.

Shabbat shalom

 

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