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Bilam and his talking donkey: It's not a fairy tale

אדם מתבונן במשקפת

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

A most mysterious story -- some would call it a fairy tale -- is recounted in this week's Torah portion. The evil Bilam is riding on his donkey on the way to curse Israel. But the ride is not a smooth one. The donkey behaves strangely. She goes off the road, presses herself and Bilam's leg against the stone wall of a vineyard, and finally lays down and refuses to move. Bilam strikes the donkey with a stick and then the donkey wondrously begins to talk, questioning Bilam as to why he is beating her.
In the Zohar -- the principle text of the Kabbalah -- it is written that a talking donkey is not a miracle or an exceptional case. Such seemingly unusual occurrences are happening all the time, but we do not notice them. The world is full of messages and the story of Bilam and his donkey is just one example of how reality speaks to us. We need only to be sensitive to those messages and listen for them since everything that happens is meant to teach us something. Before we just rush forward we should contemplate the signs and messages.


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