In Parshas Balak, Balak, the king of Midian, hires the magician Balaam to curse Bnei Yisrael. The pesukim show that Balaam had a relationship with Hashem as the prophet for the Non-Jewish nations. Chazal teach us that the reason Hashem set up this relationship was because otherwise, the non-Jews could claim that had they had their own prophet, they also would have kept the Torah. Balaam had this relationship and he still used it for evil, thereby taking away any claims from the non-Jews.
Even though Balaam was a Navi, he was on a lower level than the typical one. Typically, when a Navi received a prophecy, he would be awake and his body would convulse and seize from the force of the extreme holiness coursing through it. It was not necessarily a pretty sight to behold. These convulsions came from the fact that a typical physical body cannot handle such extreme holiness. Balaam, however, only received prophecy in his sleep. He was not holy enough to receive prophecy as a message, it could only be in a dream.
There was an even bigger difference between a typical Navi and Moshe, however. Moshe, was able to talk with Hashem while he was awake without any convulsions at all. Just as if he was talking with another human being, by all appearances having a normal conversation. In Chazal this is known as “Aspaklaria Hameirah” and no other prophet in history ever reached this level of prophecy.
Interestingly enough, the medrash lists several differences between the prophecies of Balaam and Moshe that seem to show that Balaam’s nevuah was greater! Balaam always knew when he would speak with Hashem and what they would be speaking about. He also was able to speak with Hashem in any physical position, even when lying down. Moshe on the other hand, never knew when and what he would be speaking about with Hashem, and he also always stood when speaking to Hashem. What is the explanation behind these seeming advantages in Nevuah for Balaam?
The Ramban explains that Balaam’s advantages are really a result of his lower level of prophecy as compared to Moshe. While it is true that Moshe never knew what Hashem was going to tell him before they spoke and he never knew exactly when Hashem would appear to him, the whole idea of Moshe’s level of prophecy was that these ideas were completely unnecessary! Besides for Moshe having the level of “Aspaklaria Meirah”, or perhaps because of it, he had to be prepared to speak with Hashem at a moment’s notice, literally. Because of this, Moshe had no need for an advance warning of his conversation with Hashem, he essentially had an ongoing conversation with Him for the entire time Bnei Yisrael were in the desert. Balaam, however, only had specific times set up when he could speak with Hashem, and they would only discuss certain topics. As we mentioned earlier, Hashem spoke with Balaam only in order to take away any claims from the nations of the world, and therefore, He made sure Balaam was ready for those conversations in order that they should take place. So Balaam had to be properly prepared for those times and those topics or he would not be able to speak to Hashem at all. For that reason, Hashem gave Balaam advance warning.
This is also the reason why Moshe always stood in front of Hashem. Moshe’s conversation with Hashem was one Hashem treasured and treated as a real conversation and therefore, He made Moshe ‘stand on ceremony’, the way a person should while talking with Hashem, in order to show that it was a formal and serious discussion. However, His conversations with Balaam were more of a requirement than a desire to speak with him. Therefore, Hashem did not make Balaam stand on ceremony since He did not consider it an important conversation, completely the opposite of Moshe.
No matter how it appears, our prophets, and especially Moshe, will always be more precious to Hashem. Looking through the parshah, it is easy to pick out the theme, Bnei Yisrael are Hashem’s nation, and we are a pretty amazing people too.
Click here to join the "Summer of Subscribers"! Spots are filling up so reserve yours soon!
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.
Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!