Parashas Balak

Bilaam’s second blessing to the Jewish People begins with a praise of Hashem (Bamidbar 23:19-20): “God is not a man, that He would be false, nor a son of man that He would retract. Would He proclaim and not perform, speak and not fulfill?” The Maggid notes that, on the surface, this praise seems odd. Ostensibly, Bilaam is praising Hashem for taking care not to go back on His word. This seems not much of a praise. Indeed, even in regard to a mortal man, it is not really a praise to say “He keeps his word.” We expect people to keep their word; we would not regard doing so as a point of merit, but rather would regard failing to so so as a flaw. How, then, can we view Bilaam’s statement about Hashem as a genuine praise?
After raising this question, the Maggid proceeds to sharpen it. The Midrash, in Bereishis Rabbah 53:4, links Bilaam’s words to the verse that begins the Torah’s account of Yitzchak’s birth (Bereishis 21:1): “Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said, and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken.” Slightly earlier, in Bereishis Rabbah 53:1, the Midrash notes that Hashem makes a point of telling us that He is not like those who speak but do not do. He directs Yechezkel HaNavi to declare in His Name (Yechezkel 17:24): “I am Hashem – I have spoken and I have done.” Here we find Hashem Himself taking pride that He does as He says. Why does Hashem view such conduct as showing His greatness?
The Maggid then answers as follows. For mortal man, speech and action are separate processes. Hence, it is possible for a person to make a promise and not fulfill it. The promise could be a false one, i.e., made with the intent not to fulfill it. Or the person could retract on a promise he initially intended to fulfill, and later decide not to fulfill it. But with Hashem, both of these scenarios are logically impossible, because, for Him, speech and action are not separate processes. Rather, when Hashem declares that something should come to be, the declaration itself makes it come to be. As David HaMelech says regarding Hashem’s creation of the world (Tehillim 33:9): “He spoke, and it came to be – He commanded, and it stood firm.”
Thus, when the Torah states “Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said,” the Torah is indicating that at very moment that Hashem promised Sarah a child, He set in motion the process leading to this outcome.  We can see this hint by reading the Hebrew phrase ka’asher amar not as “in the manner that He had said” but rather as “when He had said.” The message is that when Hashem made the promise, its eventual fulfillment was an automatic result.
Blessed Be the One Who spoke, and the world came to be!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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