Parashas Balak

Bilaam introduces his third blessing to the Jewish People with the following preface (Bamidbar 24:3-4): “The word of Bilaam son of Beor, the word of the man of the open eye. The word of the one who hears God’s utterances and beholds the Almighty’s vision ….” His final blessing has a similar preface. Rashi, following the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105a, notes that Bilaam’s use of the phrase “man of the open eye” rather than “man of open eyes” alludes to his being blind in one of his eyes. The Maggid asks: Why was Bilaam led to call attention to his being blind in one eye – what relevance does this have to his message? The Maggid then offers a remarkable answer.
He begins by noting that the word “see” is often used to signify perceptiveness or discernment.  For example, in ancient times, a prophet was called a “seer” (Shmuel Alef 9:9). Similarly, the Sages distinguish between’s Moshe’s prophetic level and that of other prophets by saying that Moshe saw like a person looking through a clear glass, while the other prophets saw like a person looking through a clouded glass (Yevamos 49b).
The Maggid then presents the following analogy. Consider two merchants selling their wares at a fair. The first merchant has superb merchandise, while the second has merchandise with some drawbacks. If a very knowlegebleable customer shows up, the first merchant will be overjoyed. He knows he will not need to spend a lot of time haggling with the customer and trying to explain to him how good his merchandise is; the customer will readily buy at a price appropriate to top-quality goods. The second merchant, on the other hand, will prefer not to deal with this customer, for he knows that he will recognize the faults in his merchandise. The second merchant would rather deal with a customer who is not knowledgeable – or, better yet, a customer with impaired eyesight, or one who arrives at dusk, who will not be able to see well enough to notice the faults.
Hashem acted similarly, the Maggid says. Hashem planned to present someone a panoramic vision of the Jewish People over the course of history, in order to induce him to give all Jewish generations a copious blessing. Now, He knew that certain generations would have, along with their merits, some significant faults. He therefore did not want to present the vision to someone of exemplary perceptiveness and discerning, for such a person would see the faults and would be less effusive in blessing the people. Instead, He chose to present the vision to Bilaam, a man of impaired vision. Bilaam was the one who “beholds the Almighty’s vision” – he sees only what Hashem shows him, only what Hashem wants him to see. He would see only the virtues openly exhibited by the people, and not their hidden faults. He therefore would bless the people with a full heart.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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