Copy Right 2022
Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
Bilaam And the Messiah-4/
Raising Righteous Peoples
The story of the tiny holy spark
that turned into a huge flame of faith
Review: Observing Procreation
At this point in our story, the prophet Bilaam has already examined Israel from the Baal Plateau, looking critically at their mode of procreation. Are they what they claim to be, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? And as we’ve seen, YHVH answered him: Yes, they are, since they keep the purity of family life. Bilaam voiced YHVH’s words loudly, yet in his heart he knew that – like the She-donkey in Her first revelation – he had been given some freedom to deviate to the right or left and find a blemish in Israel’s procreation.
Review: Observing Faith
Then he climbed up on a higher level – the Scout Fields – from where he examined Israel’s faith. Are they indeed loyal to YHVH as they claim? And as before, YHVH put words in his mouth saying that yes, Israel’s faith is pure and sincere, they do believe in the Shema and recite it twice daily, and they enthrone G-d on Rosh Hashanah as a King of the Universe. Here again, Bilaam voiced YHVH’s praising words by his mouth, yet in his heart he knew that even in that second revelation he was given degree of freedom to deviate and find a blemish in Israel’s faith.
Now he was ready to climb up on a highest revel of the Head of the Peor and examine Israel’s camp. Are they a civilized nation, or wild oxen and a cloud of locust as King Balak described them? Can they serve as an example of a good society to all Mankind as Jacob had pledged to do?
But on the way up, something happened to Bilaam as he says in his own words:
The word of Bilaam son of Beor,
the word of a man with one closed eye,
The words of the one who hears the words of El,
who sees the vision of Shadai,
While fallen and with open eyes.
As he is saying, he has encountered another Attribute of G-d called Shaddai, which means Breast.
Shaddai refers to G-d’s capacity as the One Who Nourishes Mankind, like a Gardener Who Cultivates and Nourishes Mankind towards a goal.
Thus, G-d has different Attributes.
He is the CREATOR
He is the JUDGE ELKM, who created the world for Judgment
He is the MERCIFUL Attribute YHVH, who forms with ELKM the Heavenly Court,
He is the KING of the Universe, who leads history,
He is the OWNER of the Heavens and Earth, AaDoNaI,
and He is also Shaddai, the GARDENER who cultivates and nourishes Mankind and raises righteous people.
Billaam saw Shaddai examining people’s semen and eggs looking for a drop from where a righteous person would rise.
To Bilaam great surprise, such a drop was embedded in King Balak, who stood there by him, who was an arch enemy of Israel. That realization caused Bilaam to burst in a laughter, for which he lost one eye.
Seeing El Shaddai at that point also meant that henceforth, in his Third revelation, Bilaam would see how Shaddai cultivates Mankind to produce a righteous person.
The name El Shaddai also appears in G-d’s’ words to Moses when he sent him the first time to Pharaoh. G-d is quoted saying:
“I Am YHVH,
I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai,
but with my name YHVHI did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6: 2-3)
Indeed, G-d appeared to the patriarchs as El Shaddai, promising them that they would be fruitful and multiply and they would become the fathers of many tribes and kings. Hence, El Shaddai is the One Who Nourishes and cultivates Mankind to raise righteous people according to His Wishes.
With that awareness on his mind, the prophet Bilaam stood with King Balak on the Head of the Peor, from where they saw Israel’s entire camp. And like before, Bilaam ordered the king to offer seven bulls and seven rams on seven altars, invoking the Seven Commandments. And like before, both stood in sincere prayer, which made a good impression in the Heavenly Court.
This point is essential to our story since King Balak had a holy spark in his soul, that could be cultivated by El Shaddai.
Comparing Israel to the Peor
Bilaam also recalled that during this third revelation he would have no freedom to deviate from the words he would say. Like the She-donkey standing before the Angel of YHVH, he would have to crouch on the ground with total submission. Moreover, this time his mouth and his heart would concur. He would agree with what his mouth would say
And that wasn’t difficult at all. Seeing Israel from the Head of the Peopr, comparing Israel’s faith to the filthy Peor worshipping, Israel looked very good even in Bilaam’s scrutinizing eye.
Secondly, Israel’s camp was perfectly organized, with four wings, each made of three tribes with their sides on their flags, and the tabernacle at the center. Billaam was impressed indeed. No, these people are not like wild oxen and a locust cloud that King Balak had described. The prophet’s heart and mouth concurred, as the Angel predicted. Henceforth he decided to bless Israel wholeheartedly, as it says:
And Billam saw that it was good in the eyes of YHVH to bless Israel
So, he did not go as every other time towards divination,
but he set his face towards the wilderness.
And Billam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes,
and the Spirit of ELKM was upon him. He declaimed his parable and said:
How goodly are your tents, Oh Jacob,
our dwelling places, mishkenot, O Israel!
Bilaam was impressed not only by the camp’s perfect order, but also by the tents’ arrangement. The tents of Israel were set up in such a way that no person could watch and coved his neighbors’ tents. Each family lived privately and in modesty. This camp fit to be the Shechinah’s Dwelling in their midst.
Then he said:
“How good are your Dwellings, mishkanot, Israel” –
The word mishkaenot, referred to tabernacles in plural, to many of them. Hence, as the Rabbis pointed out, Bilaam was rewarded here with a prophetic power to see the “tabernacles” in the Holy Land, like in Gilgal, Giveon and Shiloh. His prophecy took him fast forwards four hundred years, into the era of Israel’s judges in Samuel time.
And the society he saw there impressed hm even more. This was a society in which the Shechinah dwelled, where tabernacles stood for praying, where tens of Torah academies filled the scene, full oof people studying Torah, as he continues saying in parables:
“Stretching out like brooks, like a garden by the river,
like aloes planted by YHVH, like cedars by water,
water shall flow from his wells,
and his seeds shall be like abundant water
What is water if not Torah? This was the proper environment for El Shaddai to cultivate and grow righteous fruits, righteous people.
Moreover, Bilaam saw how the Torah spreads out like brooks, like a garden by the river. The Torah is not frozen in time but rather flows like river to help El Shaddai to fertilize the mind and the bodies of Israel.
The Torah expands like water flow to answer the generation’s needs. The source is the written Torah, yet there is also an Oral Torah that was either given orally to Israel by Moses, or expanded by the sages of Israel in the Land of Israel.
Ruth and her Grace
How does the Oral Torah work?
As if to answer his question, Bilaam saw now two women crossing the fields between Moab and Judea. The women seemed very poor, wearing shabby clothes and walking barefoot. One was about forty years old, and the other was much older, perhaps twice as much. They clung to each other with love, making their way in the thorny fields.
The older one said: “My beloved daughter-in -law, Ruth, go back now to your people, to your mother’s home. I have nothing to offer you anymore, no money, no other son who could marry you. What can you gain by staying with me?”
But Ruth, said:
“Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you,
for wherever you go I’ll go, where you lodge, I will lodge,
your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d,
where you die I will die and there I will be buried.
Thus, may YHVH do to me and more,
if anything, but death separates me from you.”
(Ruth 1: 15-17)
Hers was a great act of Hessed, grace, since she was not obligated by any law to cross the border of Israel and support her mother-in-law, Naomi. The prophet Bilaam was impressed, even surprised, for he noticed that Ruth came from no other but King Balak, who lacked Hessed. Moab, rooted in Sodom and Gomorrah, lacked any Hessed. If so, wasn’t Ruth the product of El Shaddai who brought her up through several generations, from Sodom to Balak to her, making her such a graceful person?
A Link- King Eglon
The rabbis have pointed on a link in the chain of generation between Balak and Ruth, that can show how El Shaddai works.
Ruth’s father, King Eglon, a grandson of Balak, was a sworn enemy of Israel who invaded the Land of Judea and subjected the Israelites for 18 years. One of Israel’s judges, E-hud, a lefthanded person, hid a dagger on his right leg and thus managed to bypass the Moabite guard and enter King Eglon’s place with a precious gift. “king! I have a secret word of ELKM to you,” Eud told the king so the King stood up in G-d’s honor, and they were left alone. Eud then stabbed his dagger into Eglon’s fat belly so he set fatally wounded on his chair while Ehud could escape unnoticed. Thus, King Eglon died with ELKM’s name on his lips. The Rabbis said that a reward, he begot Ruth. A voice came out of Heavens saying: Eglon, since you stood up from your throne in my honor, therefore you’ll have sons who will sit on my Throne in Israel.” Thus, Eglon was a link of good soul between Balak and Ruth, on which El Shaddai could work and cultivate.
The prophet Bilaam understood all that, yet seeing Ruth pressing to go with her mother in law, he wished to call her up and warn her – Do not go to Judea! Don’t you know that you can never be accepted into their congregation, as Moses says in Deuterono
‘An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter the congregation of YHVH,
even their tenth generation shall not enter the congregation of YHVH, to eternity!
Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road
when you were leaving Egypt and because he had hired against you
Bilaam the son of the Beor from Aram to curse you!” (Deuteronomy 23: 4-6
Ruth, however, kept pressing on. Hugging the older woman – Naomi – they reached Judea at the harvest season, between Passover and Shavuot, which is a time of much Grace in Israel, since poor people came to the fields to collect the many portions of the crop that the owners
had to leave out for them by the Grace of the Torah.
Israel’s society was indeed, the one that Jacob dreamt about – a society where the compassionate Laws of the Shechinah were part of the Laws of the Land.
Hands of YHVH
Bilaam could also see the Hand of YHVH , of Hessed, operating behind the scene.
As it happened, Ruth accidentally wondered into a field owned by Boaz,
a remote kin of Naomi’s former husband who was obliged to marry Ruth according to the Levirate Laws – if she is accepted into Israel.
Boaz, like Naomi and Ruth, was a man of grace and much Hessed.
The word Hessed, Grace, is repeated numerous times through the Scroll of Ruth. For example:
Oh, return each to your mother house,
may YHVH deal with Hessed with you (1: 8)
“And Naomi said to her daughter in law
blessed he to YHVH who for not failing His Hessed
to the living or to the dead (2: 20)
“And he (Boaz) said: be blessed to YHVH my daughter,
you’ve made your latest way of Hessed greater than the first,
in that you’ve not gone after the younger men be poor or rich” (3: 10)
Thus Hessed, which stands for the Angel of YHVH, is ruling over the story of Ruth, the opposite of what Moab stood for.
The Power of the Oral Torah
How could Boaz marry Ruth, a Moabite woman?
The scroll says that Boaz approached the elders at the gate of their city, the local court, and asked them to let him marry Ruth, the Moabite woman, in order to redeem Naomi’s late husband’s field.
So they told him:
“You are lucky, because just yesterday – temol shilshom – the prophet Samuel passed by our town and taught us, without referring to you, Boaz, that according to the Oral Torah, only a male Moabite is forbidden to join Israel, excluding Moabite females. So yes, you may marry her, and –
“May YHVH make the woman who is coming into your house
like Rachell and like Lea, both of whom built up the house of Israel.
May you prosper in Ephrat be famous in Beith Le chem
And may your house be like the house of Peretz whom
Tamar bore to Judah, through the seeds which
YHVH will give you by this woman.”
Ruth then married Boaz, and she bore him a son named Oved
who is the father of Ishai, the father of David.
The prophet Bilaam saw all that as he says in parables:
“His king shall be exalted over Agag,
and his kingdom shall be upraised…”
The first King Who exalted over Agag – refers historically to King Saul,
The King Who is upraised, refers to King David, whose kingship is forever.
A Formula to Raise a Messiah
Bilaam saw now how El Shaddai works, the formula by which he raises and cultivates precious soul like King David. It takes people conducting pure family life and rooted in the patriarchs, people who also keep true faith, who builds a society where the Shechinah can Dwell. These three ingredients are necessary for El Shaddai, the Gardener, to raise a precious soul like David, the King of Israel and the author of Psalms.
The Talmud says that the origin of David remained contested for generations.
When David stood up against Goliath, King Saul asked Who is this lad? Who is his father? So, a man named Doeg stepped forwards and said: “I know his father Ishai. He is not one of us since he is a grandson of a Moabite woman.”
Hearing Doeg, Saul’s uncle, Aviner the Son of Ner, drew his sword and pressed it firmly against Doeg’s throat, saying: “If I ever hear that false rumor from you, I’ll cut your throat. Don’t you know that the prophet Samuel taught us that the Oral Torah says that the prohibition refers only to Moabite males and not to Moabite woman?”
Thus, whoever denies the validity of the Oral Torah denies also David’s legitimate Kingship.
The Holiday of Shavuot
This explains why the holiday of Shavuot, we celebrate both the giving of the Torah – both written and oral – as well as the birthday and death of King David. The Oral Torah and the Kingship of David are intertwined.
Balak’s Dream Solution
The prophet Bilaam now turned to King Balak and said: “I have a solution to your dream. Your daughter will join Israel and her son will rule Israel forever! Are you happy to hear that?”
But King Balak wasn’t happy at all. As it says
Balak’s anger flared against Bilaam and he clapped his hands.
Balak said to Bilaam: to curse my enemies did I summoned you, and behold! You’ve continually blessed them these three times! Now, flee to your place! I said I would honor you, but -behold, YHVH has withheld you from honor!” (Numbers 24: 11)
Bilaam said to Balak: Did I not speak to your emissaries which you have sent for me saying: If Balak were to give me his household of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the words of YHVH to do good or bad on my own. Whatever YHVH speaks, that shall I speak. And now behold! I go to my people. Come, I shall advice you what these people will do to your people in the end of Days!
He declaimed his parable and said:
The worlds of Bilaam the son of the Beor,
The words of the man who has lost one eye,
The words of the one who hears the saying of El,
And knows the knowledge of the Supreme One,
Who sees the sight of Shaddai, whil;e falling with uncovered eye
I shall see him, but not now. I shall look at him, but it is not near,
A star has issued from Jacob, and a scepter -bearer
has been risen from Israel,
and he shall crush the nobles of Moab,
and undermine the Children of Shet…
For if Cain shall be laid to waist…. (Numbers 24: 22)
The Star of Jacob refers to the Messiah, the son of David.
He would overcome Moab, the ones who would challenge his Kingship
And he would overcome the Children of Shet – who worship Mercy only
And overcome the Children of Cain – who worship ELKM alone or Allah.
It is said that Bilaam was not pleased. He would not go home without his house full of silver and gold. So, he turned to King Balak and said:
“I have another solution to your dream. Do you want to hear it?”
The King’s eyes lightened up. “Go on,” he said.
“Only if I get my compensation,” the prophet said.
“You’ll get it if I am satisfied,” the king said.
“Here is my advice to you. You can disrupt El Shaddai work by cutting off Israel’s roots to their patriarchs and also taint their faith…”
“How?” the King asked, delighted.
“Follow your dream, Balak. Let your daughter and her girlfriend dress up with their finest clothes, let then take baskets of fruits and wine and go to Israel’s camp. Let them set up their tents among Israel. Instruct the girls to entice Israel’s males and draw them into their tents, where they would serve the Peor prior of any sexual relationships. This is simple, since throwing trash to the Peor face would not seem bad by Israel’s men. This way you’ve accomplished both- tainting theri procreation and faith. The Shechinah would depart from them and they would be wiped out of history. You might even stop Ruth from coming!”
King Balak agreed to so called “Bilaam’s Council” and sent his daughter and other Moabite girls to the camp of Israel, where they caused the death od 24 thousands Israel’s Men. Only later Israel waged war against Mydyan and killed Billaam “for the council he gave to King Balak.” (Numbers 31:9)
Raising Righteous Peoples
What Bilaam discovered in his prophecy pertains no only to the Messiah. It is the way to raise righteous people with the guidance of El Shaddai. The Talmud describes how Yeshivah students argue between themselves whose Rabbi was “qualified’ to be a Messiah. None of those Rabbis King David’s descendants and none would be elected as a King of Israel. But all of them were righteous, using their Torah to fertilize their student’s mind.
What Bilaam discovered was the way Mankind should progress to become Very Good in YHVH ELKM’ s Eyes. If Homo Sapience is about to change and grow, let it be not only technologically savvier. Let humanity grow spiritually, making YHVH’s values our Laws of the Land.