Compiled for Matzav.com by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
1) What’s different about parshas Bilam?
2) Can a nevuah be rescinded?
3) Are the brachos of Bilam enduring?
4) Is Mashiach far or near?
5) Story: What Yid isn’t mechakeh for Mashiach?!
1 – What’s different about parshas Bilam?
וישם ה’ דבר בפי בלעם (כג:ה)
The Gemara at the end of the first perek of Bava Basra says that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote his seifer and parshas Bilam. The obvious question is, what is distinct and unique about parshas Bilam? Why is it different from any other part of the Torah?
There is a famous Chazal on the pasuk, v’lo kam navi od b’Yisrael k’Moshe (V’Zos Ha’Bracha 34:10), b’Yisrael lo kam aval b’umos ha’olam kam…zeh Bilam (Medrash Rabbah, parshas Nasoh, 14:20). Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin explains what this means as follows. The Gemara in perek Ha’nechenakin says that no two neviim prophesy with the same exact style and words. The reason for this is that nevuah, in general, is not a word for word communication from Hashem; rather, there is a mareh nevuah, and the navi needs to use his power of intellect and imagination to decipher the meaning of that prophetic vision. What that means, then, is that nevuah is filtered, to an extent, through individual understanding of the navi who received that nevuah. No two people are exactly alike, so no two neviim will say exactly the same thing, because each one has his particular angle involved. This is what Chazal mean when they say that all neviim besides Moshe Rabbeinu looked through the aspaklaryah sheh’einah meirah, the glass that is not perfectly clear. According to the extent of the purity of the navi’s mind and heart is the extent to which his nevuah will be clearer. The navi needs to receive the nevuah, interpret it, and then transmit it.
Moshe Rabbeinu was on such a high level that there was no tint in his glass at all. As the Ruach Chaim writes, his physical body did not present any chatzitza whatsoever. Therefore, his nevuah was with 100% absolute clarity.
Now, when the Torah talks about different events that happened and things that different people said, it’s not the pshat that Moshe Rabbeinu was recording a historical occurrence. Rather, Hashem specifically instructed him precisely what to write down in the Torah (and that is what makes those words Torah; that Hashem told him, write such and such in the Torah -editor’s elaboration-).
Regarding Bilam, his nefesh was so terribly tainted that had he received a mareh nevuah like regular neviim, his interpretation thereof would have been so skewed that nothing truthful of the original nevuah would remain. Therefore, Hashem had no choice, as it were, but to skip that step, and just give him the actual words of the nevuah. Therefore, when it came time for Moshe to write the words of Bilam’s nevuah, in this one instance, he was in fact recording what already was, because those words were yotzei mefurash mi’pi Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, so he just needed to be maatik what was already said (meaning, those words were already Torah even before Hashem instructed Moshe to write them in the Torah, because they were a direct, word for word communication -editor’s elaboration-. See Rambam in Hilchos Yesodei Ha’Torah 7:6, where he writes, “All prophets…see what they see in a mashal or chidah, Moshe Rabbeinu [though did not receive his nevuah] through a Malach, as it says, ‘peh el peh adaber bo’, and it says, ‘and the word of Hashem was to Moshe face to face’…meaning that there was no mashal, rather he would see the davar clearly without chidah and without mashal…”, see also Pirush Ha’Mishnayos on perek Cheilek in the 13 ikarim in the seventh yesod -editor’s note-.)
2 – Can a nevuah be rescinded?
“לא איש א-ל ויכזב ובן אדם ויתנחם ההוא אמר ולא יעשה ודבר ולא יקימנה” (כג:יט)
Based on this understanding of the difference between the nevuah of all other neviim and that of Moshe Rabbeinu, we can understand why it is that Chazal say the gezeirah of a regular navi can be rescinded. Since there is an independent koach mixed into the communication from Hashem – since, harei, the navi has to interpret it according to his understanding – it is possible for it to become nullified.
The Rambam says that only a negative prophesy can theoretically not come true (if the people do teshuva, as in Ninveih), but a positive prophesy has to come true. The reason for this, says the Rambam, is that the Torah explicitly says that the way to know if someone is a false prophet is if his prophesy does not come true (parshas Shoftim 18:22), so there must be a category of nevuah that has to come true. And what’s with the Gemara in Brachos (4a) that says Yaakov Avinu was scared of Eisav despite Hashem having promised him protection because “shemah yigrom ha’cheit”? That is because it was a private communication from Hashem to Yaakov Avinu, not a prophesy to a navi who was commanded to transmit it to the People.
The Tanchuma (in parshas Masei) is mashma lichora different from the Rambam because it says that “lo ish keil v’yechazeiv” going on a nevuah l’tovah and “diber v’lo yekimenah” is going on a nevuah l’raah, and it gives “heref mimeni v’ashmideim” (parshas Eikev 9:14) as an example. And by “heref mimeni” it was dvar Hashem to Moshe but not a nevuah that was given to be transmitted to the People. Yeish l‘ayein.
3 – Are the brachos of Bilam enduring?
“וברך ולא אשיבנה” (כג:כ)
The Yalkut says that everything that Klal Yisrael eats in this world is from the brachos of Bilam. Bilam’s nevuah encompassed the entire history of Klal Yisrael. Lichora this is not like the Gemara in Sanhedrin that says all of the brachos of Bilam reverted to curses except for what was said about Batei Kneisiyos and Batei Midrashos, “mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov…”. Yeish l’ayein.
4 – Is Mashiach far or near?
“אראנו ולא עתה אשורנו ולא קרוב” (כד:יז)
The Rambam counts being mechakeh for Mashiach as one of the 13 ikarim. The least common denominator of mechakeh is knowing that he could come any day. Beyond that is the anticipation of his coming. The Chafetz Chaim would say it is like waiting for a bus in the middle of the day that is running late. The longer you’ve been waiting, the more sure you are that it’s just around the corner and will arrive any second. The Baal Ha’Tanya adds that when one davens for the geulah that is called being mechakeh. Part of that is knowing that our teffilos can make a difference, that it works.
The Daas Zekeinim says that it is Bilam that says “not now, it is not close”, but Moshe says “chash asidos lamo – the future is soon to come”. By a Goy, a gap in time is like ancient history. If you talk to a Goy about George Washington they don’t feel any connection to him or his time period at all. By a Yid, though, a gap in time does not really mean anything. For us, Rabi Akiva Eiger, the Ketzos and the Nesivos, the Nefesh Ha’Chaim…we feel close to them. Yidden are very clear about the past and the future. Time does not separate a Yid from the past and the future. We live with both the past and the future. Just look at how all the Rishonim speak about bi’as ha’Mashiach – they were living in a time that was the lowest of the low for Klal Yisrael, with constant persecution both religious and physical, and yet their words reflect an unmistakable emunah b’chush that Mashiach is just around the corner; as if they are just sitting and waiting for him to come.
Another explanation of the dichotomy between Bilam’s “v’lo karov” and Moshe’s “chash asidos lamo” is b’itah achishenah. Furthermore, even within the b’itah there exists an achishenah, as the Gaon says that there are numerous possible kitzin aside from the definitive final keitz.
(Audio Recording, available here: http://nermichoel.org/index/shiur/category/sefer-bamidbar/subcategory/balak/speaker/rabbi-twersky)
5 – Story: What Yid isn’t mechakeh for Mashiach?!
A bachur went to Rebbi to discuss shidduchim with him. He told Rebbi that since being mechakeh for Mashiach is from the ikarei emunah, he wants to make sure that the girl he marries is a mechakeh l’Mashiach. Rebbi told him (not an exact quote; it’s the gist of it), “Don’t make an issue of it while you are dating. What Yid nowadays is not mechakeh for Mashiach?! You just have to walk out on the streets for a few minutes to see how terrible the matzav is and you cannot help but want Mashiach to come already. Just what, by many people their longing for Mashiach is not ripened and developed. So, after you’ll be married, you will employ your pedagogical skills to cultivate that heightened, conscious awareness in your home.”