We Shall Prevail


Pirkei Avot 5:6 lists ten miracles that were created on the friday of creation, right before twilight:

  1. The mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach
  2. The mouth of the well that supplied the Jewish people with water in the wilderness
  3. The mouth of the donkey (who spoke in Parshat Balak)
  4. The rainbow from Noah's ark
  5. The manna
  6. Moshe's staff
  7. The Shamir worm that cut the stones for the Beit HaMikdash

8, 9, 10. The letters, the writing and the tablets of the ten commandments.

Why does the talking donkey rank with all of those other miracles?

Why does the Torah, which does not usually waste words, spend so much time describing a talking donkey and the episode of Bilam, a non-Jewish prophet and sorcerer who wanted to curse Israel?

As Bilam rushed to curse Israel, his donkey saw an angel holding a sword in his hand. The donkey swerved to avoid the angel. Since Bilam didn't see the angel he began to hit his donkey.

At this point, Bamidbar 22:26 we read "And God opened the mouth of the donkey and she said to Bilam, What have I done to you that you have hit me these three times?"

According to Rashi in Bamidbar 22:23, the donkey saw more than Bilam did on three occasions: "The donkey saw, but Bilam did not see for God granted an animal greater perception than a man".

The midrash in Bamidbar Raba 20:12 explains the importance of why the donkey spoke: To teach Bilam that the mouth and the tongue are in God's power. If Bilam sought to curse, Bilam's mouth was in God's power.

In the end, against his will, Bilam ended up blessing rather than cursing the Jewish people with the famous phrase that we recite each morning, Bamidbar 24:5, "Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov, Mishkenotecha Yisrael", "How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisrael".

Balak, the king of Moav, who had called on Bilam to curse the Jewish people was angry and said (Bamidbar 24:10): "I called you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them".

Bilam's response was (Bamidbar 24:13): "Even if Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of HaShem to do good or evil on my own. I will speak only what God declares."

A clear message from Parshat Balak is that those who want to curse Israel and the Jewish people will not get away with it.

Let's hope and pray that God will deliver us from our enemies in Israel and throughout the world.