Radical Blessings

June 24, 2018 at 1:15 AM , , ,

“…Come, I will advise you… what this people will do to your people at the end of days…” – Bamidbar 24:14

לְכָה אִיעָצְךָ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה הָעָם הַזֶּה לְעַמְּךָ בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים – במדבר כד, יד

Fearing that the Jews would wage war against him and conquer his land, Balak, the king of Moav, summoned the prophet Bilaam and asked him to curse them. Bilaam, however, knew that Balak had nothing to fear, for as a prophet, he certainly knew that G-d had commanded Bnei Yisrael, “Do not distress Moav, and do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as an inheritance” (Devarim 2:9).

Nevertheless, Bilaam made no attempt to reassure Balak, because he himself was eager to harm Bnei Yisrael and was excited by this opportunity to curse them. As Rashi (on 22:11) notes, “Bilaam hated them more than did Balak.” Whereas Balak hated the Jews because he felt threatened by them, Bilaam hated the Jews fundamentally and irrationally—pure, simple, baseless hatred.

days of mashiach

Despite Bilaam’s enthusiasm, things did not go to plan. “…Hashem, your G-d, did not want to listen to Bilaam. So Hashem, your G-d, transformed the curse into a blessing for you, because Hashem, your G-d, loves you” (Devarim 23:6).Not only did G-d force Bilaam to bless the Jews instead of cursing them, He transformed the curses themselves into blessings. And since Bilaam had hoped to unleash his unfounded hatred in his curses, the blessings G-d forced him bestow were extraordinary, reflecting G-d’s fundamental and unconditional love for His people.

This explains why Bilaam’s blessings also foretell the future and final redemption of the Jewish people. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) says that Moshiach’s arrival will be b’hesech hadaas, which literally means “in absence of cognizance.” On a simple level, this means that the precise moment of the Redemption cannot be known in advance, so Moshiach’s arrival will automatically catch us off guard. According to the teachings of Chassidus (Tanya, Igeres Hakodesh 4), this Talmudic statement also means that the era of Moshiach will be characterized by an absence of daas—knowledge and cognizance. This will not be due to a lack of knowledge, but because a deep-seated, fundamental and super-rational connection to G-d will be revealed in the conscious mind of every Jew. It is therefore most fitting that the super-rational era of Moshiach is foretold in the radical blessings of the irrational Bilaam.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 38, pp. 88-89


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