The Israelites' iron dome

The Torah wants us to deduce something from the use of the word "regalim" instead of "peamim." The commentaries enlighten us.

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg
INN:DG

We read in our Parasha, of the rebuke of Balaam by his she-donkey:’What have I done to you that you struck me these שלש רגלים: three times? Am I not your she-donkey that you have ridden all your life until this day? Have I been accustomed to do such a thing to you? He said,:’No’.

We read earlier that, out of fear of the awesome appearance of the angel of Hashem, the she-donkey on three occasions, reacted unusually:The first time, going into the field; the second time, pressing Balaam’s leg against the wall, due to the angel standing in the path of the vineyards, a fence on this side, and a fence on the other side; and, on the third occasion, when the angel stood in a narrow place, left it no room to proceed, the she-donkey crouched beneath Balaam.

And, after Balaam struck it each time for its ‘disobedience’, it spoke, and rebuked him with the above words.

Our Sages, noting the unusual language used: three רגלים, instead of the more ‘literal’ words: three פעמים: times, see them as alluding to a deeper rebuke to Balaam:’You seek to uproot a nation which celebrates three רגלים: festivals each year?!’.

Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein expounds:’The word רגלים is only found in two places in scripture- here and in Parshat Mishpatim (23:14): ‘Three רגלים shall you celebrate for Me, each year’.

‘Our Sages therefore decided that this ‘excellent’ word merited that an allusion be drawn from it.

‘The ‘basis’ of their allusion-that it ‘warns’ Balaam that he is seeking to uproot a nation that celebrates three festivals- is the comment of Onkelos, on the passuk:(24:2)’He set his face towards the wilderness’: Balaam sought to recall the sin of the golden calf, which occurred in the wilderness.

‘However, as our Sages say, that sin- ‘These are your gods, Israel’- was atoned for by another ‘these’:(Emor 23:4)‘These are the festivals of Hashem that you will declare in their season’, whereby Hashem forgave Bnei Israel that sin.

‘Therefore, the allusion to the three festivals, is that Bnei Israel had been forgiven the earlier sin, for observing the three festivals, and that Balaam’s evil intentions towards them, would therefore not succeed’.

Rav David Pardo offers another exposition, as to the allusion that, due to the three רגלים, Balaam would fail: Our Sages (Sanhedrin 105.)relate that Balaam’s ‘special weapon’ was that he knew the exact moment of Hashem’s ire, and was able to make his accusation at that very moment; however, this would not be efficacious against Bnei Israel, because their strength in that area was even greater.

‘As our Sages relate, they were given the power over time, as their Beit Din decided- and bound heaven and earth, and even Hashem, when so doing, they alone determining the time on which Rosh Hashanah, and the other festivals, would fall.

‘They could, therefore, thwart any attempt by Balaam to use his special power, to arouse Hashem’s anger against them’.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch proffers the following answer, by first asking: ‘Why, of all the Mitzvot, was the observance of the three festivals, the Mitzvah that would defeat Balaam’s efforts? Why did Bnei Israel merit special divine protection because of it?’.

Answers the Rav:’The special trust that they exhibit in these three times each year, ascending (Ki Tissa 34:30) to ‘receive the Face of Hashem, in Jerusalem, trusting that their homes and possessions would be safe, in their absence, putting their faith in Hashem’s promise:’No one will covet your land, when you ascend to receive the face of your G-d three times a year’, on the three festivals, protected them throughout the ages, from those who wished to harm them.

‘This was the allusion to Balaam here:The nation that three times a year, celebrates, and puts its trust in Hashem, will be immune to your curses, because no curse by man will harm those who put their trust in Hashem, without hesitation or fear’.

Finally, the Kli Yakar ingeniously finds direct allusions in our Parasha, to each of the three festivals, in the three incidents we mentioned at the outset.

Expounds the sage:’We learn from the saying of our Sages, that the three ‘signs’ mentioned in our Parasha, allude to the three festivals.

‘We start with Succot, which we celebrate at the beginning of the year, in Tishrei, which is the time (Mishlatim 23:16):‘When you gather your deeds from the field’; it is alluded to in our Parasha, in the first incident:(22:23)’So the she-donkey turned away from the road and went into the field’.

‘And you, Balaam, want to uproot the nation that, on this festival of the in-gathering from the fields, offers seventy cows for the well-being of all seventy nations? To do so, would be ‘the end’ of all these nations!

‘We then read:(22:24)’The angel of Hashem stood in the path of the vineyards’, an allusion to Pesach’, the time of the exodus from Egypt; on which we read:(Ps’ 80:9)’You caused a grapevine to journey out of Egypt; you expelled nations and implanted it’.

‘And you, Balaam want to reverse the order, and uproot the vineyard- Israel- and maintain those it supplanted, the other nations?

‘Finally, Shavuot, on which we received the Torah, which is alluded to in the third incident:(22:26)’The angel of Hashem stood in a narrow place, where there was no room to turn right or left’.

‘This alludes to the giving of the Torah, which, we read:(Mishlei 3:16)’Length of days is at its right, at its left, wealth and honor’.

‘Further, had Bnei Israel not accepted the Torah, the world would be returned to תוהו ובוהו: nothingness (Shabbat 88.),and all the nations would be nullified; and you, Balaam, want to uproot the nation which celebrates the festival which saved all of the nations?!’.

-לכבוד הארוסין של נכדתנו האהובה, מיה קורי, לשקד עמגר

ולרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.



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