The Lampooned Prophet

Rabbi Shai Held

Parashat Balak

The story of Balaam, the famed gentile seer hired to curse Israel, is complex and elusive. What kind of man is Balaam—a villain, a saint, or something in between? And why does he endure such a savage critique in the episode with the donkey? A subtle reading indicates deep character flaws in Balaam, but that doesn't change the fact that we can learn an important lesson from him: you do not need to be perfect in order to be God's vessel. (5774)