Bolok: Listen to your donkey!

Go through life with your eyes open

This week, the Torah takes us out of the Jewish camp to nearby Moab. King Bolok, who wasn’t too happy with his new neighbours, sent out Bil’am who had prophetic abilities on par with those of Moshe Rabeinu.
The Chofetz Chaim makes an interesting observation.
Each story in the Torah is sectioned into paragraphs, each ending with singular letter pey ((ף or samek (ס). The story of Bolok and Bil’am reads like one long paragraph, with no lone peys or Samekhs in sight!
The Chofetz Chaim goes on to explain that the Torah was written by Moshe, as dictated word for word by G-D. The single Peys and Samekhs were points at which Moshe, in his great humility, would stop and contemplate what he had just written. BIl’am wasn’t in the habit of contemplating. Stubborn as the mule he used, His default modus operandi was to jump into something without considering the ramifications of what he was doing. Act first, think later- if he had to think at all.
When his donkey sat down in the middle of the road and became the only donkey ever to talk, Bilom was completely unmoved. It didn’t make the slightest dent on his conscience. When he felt he was right, nothing could convince him otherwise. The Midrash tells us that Bilaam had previously been advisor to Pharaoh. Before the plague of hail, the people were warned to take their cattle indoors. Bilom was one of the handful of people who ignored that advice, and had his cattle wiped out by blocks of fire and ice from Heaven.
We all have our ‘talking donkey’ moments. Things happen to us, often unexpected. Miraculous things, challenging things. These things should shake us up and remind us to refocus, to show us when we are perhaps veering off the right path. But too often our eyes are closed, and we miss what’s right in front of us. When we keep our eyes open, we will identify the opportunities in our path without having to be prodded by Hashem.
Our donkeys are talking to us. Are we listening?

Chofetz Chaim

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