A Talking Donkey?

Parashat Balak

Parashat Balak tells the story of a non-Jewish prophet (Bilaam) who was hired to curse the people of Israel. Multiple times Bilaam attempted to curse Israel, and each time G-d caused him to speak a blessing instead of a curse.

In the middle of the parasha, Bilaam sets off on his donkey in another attempt to curse Israel. However, a strange thing happened. G-d sent an angel to bar the way of Bilaam. Upon seeing the Malach HaShem, the Angel of HaShem blocking its path, three times the donkey refrained from continuing and each time Bilaam beat the donkey. After the third time, G-d enabledthe donkey to speak, responding, “What is it I have done to you that you beat me these three times? (Num. 22:28)” It was not until G-d enabled Bilaam to see the Malach HaShem that Bilaam truly realized what was happening.

So what can we learn from this? Often many of us are like Bilaam. For one reason or another we become caught up in our own desires, blind to G-d’s purposes, and to the needs of the community around us. And when anyone or anything attempts to keep us from doing something in pursuit of those desires, we beat them too. So in the end, we are hurting not only ourselves, but those around us without any consideration.

And yet, other times in life we feel like the donkey. We are working so hard to do the right thing, and to avoid the entrapments along life’s path. However, it seems life just keeps beating us and beating us despite our best attempts. Like the donkey in the parasha, many of us often feel like screaming out, “Why do you continue to beat me?”

In either situation, we are letting our circumstances get the best of us. When we lose faith, lose hope, and lose sight of where HaShem is leading us, we end up getting beaten down by the world around us. We need to be people of clear vision. After all, the book of Mishlei (Proverbs) states, “Trust in HaShem with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge G-d, and G-d will make your path straight (3:5-6).”

May all of us be blessed to truly listen and follow G-d’s path for our lives. May we be followers of HaShem’s Torah, and heralds of the message of Messianic redemption. May we no longer kick against the goads, lost and beaten down by our own misguided desires. Rather, may each of us merit a prophetic vision for our unique purpose, and may we all witness the fullness of Israel in Messiah Yeshua.

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Talking Donkey?

  1. Chris Milligan says:

    While reading this with my daughters this week I started to think about what it was that prompted Hashem to send his avenging angel, since he had earlier given Bil’am permission to leave with the men. Perhaps, had Bil’am not encountered the angel, he would have caved in to Balak to speak a curse instead of the blessing that Hashem would provide. The warning to only speak the blessing that Hashem orders is given before the ordeal with the angel, and reiterated once again by the angel. The doubled message can imply that Bil’am was willing to do otherwise, but because of the intervention he was able to hold off the curses. That said he did still provide Balak with a way to kill 24000, but without the intervention it could have been much worse.
    Shabbat shalom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *