MESSIAH-3/How did Bilaam loose one eye?


© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Bilaam and the Messiah-3/How did Bilaam loose One Eye?
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Reaching Moab, the prophet knew that if he insists, he would be given three chances to scrutinize Israel and search a blemish in order to curse them in his heart. These three chances would come with increasing restrictions.
The first revelation, about Israel’s origin would leave him a large leeway to deviate in his heart from the praising words of his mouth
The second revelation, about their faith, would leave him less leeway.
The third revelation, about their society would leave him with absolutely no leeway to deviate to the right or left. His lips should say whatever his heart would feel.


Bilaam’s first revelation: Israel’s Procreation

At first, King Balak took the Prophet Bilaam to a low level plateau, from where he would see only the outskirt of Israel’s camp, as it says:

“And it came to pass on the morning
that Balak took Bilaam and brought him up
into the Baal Platforms (Bamot Baal.)
And he saw from there the outskirts of the people.”
(Numbers 22:41)

As an experienced prosecutor, King Balak knew that to taint a person, one needs only to focus on a certain fault, however small, then magnify it in the court’s eyes. This strategy is easier than smearing a person as a whole.
This is why, the rabbis said, the wise king took the Prophet to a low-level hill from where he could see only the outskirt of Israel’s camp. Seeing their entire camp, he figured out, would be too overwhelming.

But there was another reason for checking Israel from that height. The name Baal Platforms says it all. The Canaanite deity Baal was in charge of FERTILITY and PROCREATION. Its worshippers indulged in wild sexual orgies and practiced sacred prostitution (no wonder it was so popular.) From that ‘low height’ the prophet gazed at Israel’s ‘low part’ of the body, meaning: into their procreation.

From there, the prophet could address King Balak’s first accusation against Israel’s origin. Were they indeed what they claim to be, the descendants of the patriarchs?

Invoking the Seven Commandments
Following the prophet advice, the King abandon IDOLATRY, at least temporarily, and adapt the Seven Commandments. To support his new position he offered seven oxen on seven altars, invoking the Seven Commandments.

Then the prophet walked away into the field, not unlike his She-Donkey had done on her first revelation. He stood there alone, wrapped in a sincere, humble prayer (‘Shefi’) that invoked Abraham’s submission (Numbers 23: 3).
So effective was his prayer, the rabbis said, that it shattered the Heavenly Court. Israel was in peril. If he would find a blemish in their procreation, he would pierce their defense in YHVH eyes!

As the verse says, his prayer was answered and YHVH finally appeared to him. She placed praising words of Israel in his mouth, yet Bilaam knew that at the same time he was given a leeway to deviate, find a blemish in Israel and curse them IN HIS HEART.

Returning from the field to King Balak’s seven altars, the prophet opened up his words by praising the king, and himself, in a bombastic way:

“and he took up his discourse and said
Balak, the King of Moab, has brought me from Aram
Out of the mountains of the east, saying
Come, curse for me Jacob and come and express anger against Israel” (Numbers 23: 7)

After the praising introduction, the prophet addressed Israel’s origin, saying:

“What shall I curse, that whom El did not curse?
Against whom would I express rage, whom YHVH did no express rage?
For from the top of the rocks I see him,
and from the hills I behold him,
It is a people that dwell alone,
and among the nations it is not reckoned.
(Numbers 23:9-10)

The simple explanation is that the ‘rocks’ and ‘hills’ refer to the physical low-level surroundings of the Baal Platforms.
But the rabbis, thousands of years ago, saw here a POETRY, where words are symbols. The ‘rocks’ and the ‘hills,’ they insisted, refer to the Patriarchs. The ‘rocks’ are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the ‘hills’ are Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Hence the words that YHVH placed in the prophet mouth assured everyone that this ‘nameless company’ is indeed the descendants of the patriarchs. They are the legitimate Children of Israel, as they claim.
Why was he so sure? The prophet explains:

“Who can count the dust, afar, of Jacob,
and the number of the ‘fourth parts,’ rova, of Israel?”

Again, the simple explanation of his words is that the prophet was amazed by Israel’s numbers (rova, quarter of their numbers.) But a better insight is given by the rabbis who said: He was amazed by Israel’s WAY OF PROCREATION (rova):
He said: Who can count Israel’s young, circumcised males (‘ofer’) who enter marriages in their virginity?
And who can count the number of Israel’s young females, who enter marriage in their virginity?
They are unlike any other nation on Earth! They keep their sex life pure!
This is why I am sure, he told the king, that they are the descendants of the patriarchs. Their women were not molested in Egypt.

The prophet’s praising words of Israel’s procreation and origin angered King Balk. “I’ve hired you to curse them, and you’ve blessed them?”
But the prophet didn’t budge. “As I’ve told you, I can say only what YHVH says about them,” he said to the King.
In his heart, though, the prophet was searching for a blemish in Israel’s procreation, by which he could taint them in YHVH eyes! Would he find such a weakness?


Bilaam’s second revelation: Israel’s Faith

The frustrated King Balak then took Prophet Bilaam to a higher plateau, named “The Scouts’ Fields” (Numbers 24: 14.) From there, the prophet could see a larger segment of Israel’s camp. Would he find a blemish in Israel camp?

But the “Scout’s Fields” has a specific meaning. The scouts cover their brows by their hand to protect it from the bright sun, to see the horizon more clearly. This is how we cover our bows by our hands when we recite the Shema, saying: “Hear, Shema, oh Israel, YHVH (is) our ELKM, YHVH is One.” It is the cry of Judaism, the essence of our faith.

Hence, from that level, the Prophet Bilaam examined Israel’s faith. Were they sincere when they recite the Shema? Do they believe in Oneness? Is their faith pure?

Again, to support his posture, the king followed the prophet’s advice and offered YHVH seven oxen on seven altars, invoking Noah’s Seven Commandments. The king “stayed on course” (Numbers 23:15) and did not revert to idolatry (Rashi.) Then they all stood in sincere prayer that shook Heavens.

When YHVH appeared to the prophet, She placed praising words in Bilaam’s mouth regarding Israel’s faith. But the prophet knew that he was also given a leeway to deviate and cure them in his heart. Though this time his freedom was less than in the first revelation.
Reporting to the king, the prophet said:

‘Rise up Balk and hear, give ear to me, you Son of Zippor!
E-L is not a man that He should be deceitful,
nor the son of man that He should relent,
Would He say and not do, or speak and not perform?”

Gone were the King’s titles and the bombastic words and praises. The king had been rude to Bilaam, and now Bilaam retaliated. Their relationship deteriorated.
<br The prophet continued:

“He had not behold iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel
YHVH, his ELoKiM, is with him,
and a trumpet blast of a King is with him…
Surely there is no divination in Jacob, nor sorcery in Israel…

The trumpets and the horns which Bilaam heard from Israel’s camp on that day, the rabbis said, were the silver trumpets and ram horns that Israel blew on Rosh Hashanah, the day of G-d’s Coronation!
Amazingly, the Noahide prophet watched Israel celebrating the only Biblical Holiday that is relevant to all Mankind, the anniversary of CREATION. And he was sincerely impressed.

Thus the prophet found out that
(1) Israel believe in YHVH ELoKiM Oneness.
(2) Israel does not worship idols
(3) Israel does not mix G-d with man, neither man with G-d.
(4) Israel enthrones G-d as their King on Rosh Hashanah by ‘ram horn’ and silver trumpets
(5) Israel does not believe in witchcraft or divination or astrology
(6) Israel does not believe in an independent Satan or Demon
(7) Israel faith is pure Monotheism, tolerating no deviation

The prophet proceeded to describe Israel’s faith:

“Behold, the people (of Israel) rise up like a lion cub,
and rise itself like a lion
It will not lie down until he eats from its prey
and drink the blood of the slain…’

Almost all non-Jewish Biblical scholars interpret these words as praising the military might of Israel.
But the rabbis, thousands of years ago, said that the prophet praised Israel’s faith.
They do not rise up WITHOUT RECITING THE SHMA,
and they do not lie down WITHOUT RECITING THE SHEMA.
Their entire day is warped up with YHVH ELKM Oneness.

How do we know that this is the right interpretation? For in the Temple time, thousands years ago, the rabbis at that time instituted to incorporate those very words of Bilaam in our daily practice of reciting the Shema. Years later, though, it was omitted because it made the daily service too long.

They took it away from the Shema, but they left it in the code of Torah Laws about the Shema. Every child in Israel, a male or a female, learns that in the morning we need to wake up like lions and recite the Shema, and in th evening we lie down like lions and recite the Shema again.
The king’s inflamed anger
By these praising words of Israel’s faith, the prophet answered the king’s second accusation against Israel’s faith. YHVH vouched for the truthfulness of their belief in Oneness. Yet, in his heart, the prophet knew he could still find a blemish in them and curse them in his heart.

This time King Balak became extremely enraged. Turning to the prophet he said:

“Neither curse them nor bless them!” (numbers 23: 25)

He meant: I don’t need your service anymore!
Would the prophet proceed, never the less?
At that very point, the prophet had an unexpected VISION:


How did the Prophet Bilaam loose one eye?

You can see his VISION form his subsequent words. Instead of going away, the prophet turned to the king and said:

“This is the speech of a man whose one eye has been blocked
Who has fallen, with a vision….” (Numbers 24:3)

The text infers that Bilaam had lost one eye, and that he had a VISION. Or he lost the eye BECAUSE of his vision. What happened? Here is the story:

Soon after the Baal Plateau revelation, after Bilaam examined Israel’s procreation and faith,
Bilaam had a weird VISION: He ‘saw’ G-d, looking at people’s semen and eggs!
“Good gracious,” Bilaam said “why are you engaged in such a filthy work?”
G-d answered: “I’m searching for the drop from which a righteous person would rise…”
Bilaam laughed. “G-d, do you see such a drop?”
“Yes,” G-d said. What Bilam saw next, was so surprising that he fell on the ground in astonishment, as it is said:
“…the speech of a man who ENVISIONS Shaday, who has fallen with opened eyes..”
In his VISION, Bilaam saw such a ‘drop from where a righteous man would come’ embedded in no other than King Balaks himself, in his sperms!
Such a drop, fertilized by solid faith, would bring up a righteous person.
It is as if G-d was engaged in genetic engineering. He found a drop in King Balak semen, which would be nourished by faith to grow into a righteous parson.
Who could this righteous person, Bilaan could not yet tell.
But that VISION shocked the prophet to his core.
That shocked him so much that he fell on the ground.
How in the world could a seed of a “righteous man” be hidden in this sworn antiIsrael semen?
Wasn’t Moab separated forever from Israel?
Wasn’t Moab’s culture a Sodomite culture?

“G-d! Are you kidding me?” the prophet laughed in disbelief.
G-d frowned, and as a result Bilaam lost one of his eyes, as he says:
“This is the speech of the man who has one closed eye!”
(Numbers 24: 3.)

Had not the She Donkey crushed Bilaam’s legs into the wall on her second revelation?
Bilaam should have been careful in his second revelation in Moab. He should have known that his scrutiny of Israel’s faith would come with a price: a bodily damage. And now he lost his eye!

Oh, don’t cry for Bilaam. With his only one remaining eye he could see more than others would ever see with two eyes!

This is why the prophet decided to stay with the king despite his constant humiliation. The king had already discharged him without compensation, but now the prophet hopped that his new insight would restore his fame in King Balak’s eyes.