Monday, July 06, 2009

what happened to Bilam's horse

The officers of Moav who accompanied Bilam were surprised that such an important person was riding a donkey and not a horse. Bilam at first made excuses and said his horse was out in the pasture, but his donkey spoke and blurted out that in fact Bilam always kept it around because he was was committed bestiality with it (Sanhedrin 105b).

What kind of silly excuse is it to say the horse is in the pasture -- so go get it!

I heard in the name of the Pnei Menachem of Ger a bekiyus fact that answers this question. Chazal (Sota 11) tell us that Iyov, Bilam, and Yisro were all advisers to Pharoah. After Moshe warned of the plague of barad, the Torah relates that the servants of Pharoah who feared Hashem took their animals in, while those who did not pay heed and ignored Moshe left their animals out to be killed. Targum Yonasan explains that "HaYarei es dvar Hashem" who took his animals in refers specifically to Iyov, while "Asher lo sam libo el dvar Hashem" who left his animals out refers specifically to Bilam.

That's what Bilam meant when he said he left his horse out in the pasture -- he left it out in makkas barad and it got killed, while the donkey which he kept inside with him was spared.


  1. I think Bilaam had ample opportunity in the intervening forty years to get a new horse...

    The Wolf

  2. He also had ample opportunity to become a yarei dvar Hashem but didn't...

    (i.e. the practical question of where the horse was is trivial; chazal are using it as a hook to say something about Bilam's character).

  3. At risk of legitimizing Wolf's comment, I would say that Bilaam's entourage of animals were more in the way of familiars, and they can't just be picked up at Farm & Fleet.
    For New Yorkers: Farm & Fleet: Commercial Farm and Trucking supplies.

  4. So there really was no question about his horse, rathe chazal were just trying to teach us something about bilaam's character?

  5. Just to clarify - the Pnei Menachem as I heard it did not say that, but I think that is how to learn the gemara. In general, the whole discussion of the chamor is there to tell us that Bilam had a netiya to chumriyus as opposed to ruchniyus (Maharal).

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