In this week’s parshah, Parshas Ki Seitzei, Moshe discusses with Bnei Yisrael the laws of different day to day cases that will come up during their life in Eretz Yisrael. In the third aliyah, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael the Halacha that any Ammonite or Moabite man can never become part of the Jewish Nation. The pasuk explains why, “…וַאֲשֶׁר שָׂכַר עָלֶיךָ אֶת בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר מִפְּתוֹר אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם לְקַלְלֶךָּ” “…and because he (the nation of Moab) hired Balaam the son of Beor from Pesor in Aram Naharayim against you, to curse you” (Devarim 23:5). This show of hatred can never be erased and therefore, no man from either of these nations can convert and join us.
The Torah continues, “וְלֹא אָבָה יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל בִּלְעָם וַיַּהֲפֹךְ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְּךָ אֶת הַקְּלָלָה לִבְרָכָה” “But Hashem, your God, refused to listen to Balaam, and Hashem, your God, reversed the curse to a blessing for you…” (23:6). The Kli Yakar asks two questions on this pasuk. First of all, how can a curse turn into a blessing? It’s one thing to give a blessing in place of a curse, but to switch the actual curse into a blessing is seemingly impossible! Secondly, the Gemarah in Sanhedrin (105b) says that by looking at the blessings that Balaam blessed the Jews with, you can see what his true intentions were. That which was in his heart to curse Bnei Yisrael instead came out as a brachah. However, the Gemarah says that only one curse actually changed into a blessing, the rest never reached “curse status”, rather they were blessings that Balaam was forced to say in place of curses. The only curse that was changed was that Balaam blessed Bnei Yisrael that there should always be Batei Medrash (Study Halls) and Shuls (Synagogues) wherever and whenever they are throughout history. Where did the Gemarah see this specific brachah from the pasuk? And why would this specific brachah be the one to change?
There is a general rule that Hashem does not like to change the laws of nature. There have been very few miracles where these laws were broken and every time they were, it is noted as a monumental occasion. Two of the most famous ones are the Giving of the Torah and the Splitting of the Red Sea. The same idea applies to blessings and curses, whenever someone attempts to curse Bnei Yisrael, Hashem takes the actual curse itself and uses it for something good. However, if this is impossible, Hashem will then, and only then, turn the entire curse around into a blessing. But His first intention is to take the curse itself and simply change its’ meaning to mean something good. For example, when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, they left under the planet Ra’ah, which signifies blood. While the Egyptians thought this meant the Jews would be slaughtered in the desert, Hashem simply made this blood the blood of the Milahs that Bnei Yisrael underwent.
With every curse that Balaam attempted to bring on Bnei Yisrael, there was no way to turn it around to mean something good so Hashem had to force Balaam to say them as blessings. However, there is a time where it is an advantage for Bnei Yisrael to not have Batei Medrash and Shuls and therefore, Hashem switched this curse directly to a blessing. When is this? When Bnei Yisrael do aveiros, instead of punishing the people themselves, Hashem will take His anger out on the bricks and mortar of our holy buildings. This is exactly what happened when the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, instead of wiping out Bnei Yisrael, Hashem destroyed the holy building and spared Jewish lives. In this way, we see how the actual words of the curse turned into a blessing. When Balaam said that there should not be any Batei Medrash or Shuls amongst Bnei Yisrael, he meant it as a curse, but Hashem changed it directly to a blessing, that there should be no Shuls instead of fewer people.
This teaches us an important lesson about Emunah, belief, in Hashem. He is always going to do what is right and also what it best for us at the same time. So even if something appears to be a curse, don’t worry, it’s just another opportunity for Hashem to turn something evil into the best situation for Bnei Yisrael.
For questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com