June 16, 2024
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Bilaam’s True Nature

As we encounter this week’s sidra, it might pay to reflect upon Bilaam’s true nature:

a) He only had one eye. (Sanhedrin 105a, based on Bamidbar 24:3)

b) In his prophecy, he says “ketoafot re’em lo, he has the horn of the unicorn,” in Bamidbar 23:22 (as translated by the Targum HaShiv’im).

c) He could fly, and there was a flying battle between Pinchas using the Shem Hameforash pursuing Bilaam using sorcery to fly. (Midrash Rabbah on Balak)

d) He was royalty; as Bela ben Beor, he was one of the kings of Edom. (See Bereishit 36:32, and Ibn Ezra there)

e) His name is a contraction of bala’am, swallower of a people.

Thus:

He was a (a) one-eyed, (b) one-horned, (c) flying (d) purple (e) people eater.

Josh Waxman
Teaneck
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