According to our sages, Bilam's talking donkey was one of ten (or fifteen, depending on the source) things created during the twilight hour before the First Shabbat of Creation.
Other "twilight" creations include:
- The rainbow which Hashem showed Noach after the Mabul (flood);
- The mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach and his men;
- The opening of Miriam's well that accompanied the Bnei Yisroel in the desert;
- The Mann that the Bnei Yisrael ate in the Midbar (desert).
- The miracle performing staff of Moshe.
- The Shamir - a thread-like worm, which, when placed upon any rock would split it. This amazing worm was used to cut the stones for the building of Shlomo Hamelech's (King Solomon) Bait Hamikdash (holy temple), since it was forbidden to use any metal tools during the construction.
- The Luchot upon which Hashem would engrave the Aseret Hadibrot (ten commandments). They were two translucent blocks, six handbreadths long by six handbreadths wide by three handbreadths thick. The lettering (Alef-Bet) and the words that were engraved in the Luchot were also created at this time. These letters, which appeared to float, could be read from all four sides.
There is also a tradition that Shaidim - demons- were created at twilight, as well as the burial place of Moshe, and the ram sacrificed by Avrohom instead of Yitzchok his son, during the Akaida.
A further tradition relates that the cave where Moshe, and later Eliyahu Hanavi (the prophet Elijah) hid, was also created at that time as well as the staff of Aharon, and the "garments" of Adam.
There is also an opinion to the effect that the Clouds of Glory that protected the Bnei Yisrael in the desert were created at the same time.
All these miraculous creations have one thing in common. They each had a very special place in this world. And yet, by nature, they are not of this world. You might say they are residents of "The Twilight Zone."
The miracle of the talking donkey was meant to impress upon Bilam that speech is a gift from Hashem. Just as He could invest a dumb beast with the power of speech, so He would prevent Bilam from making any unfavorable utterances against the Bnei Yisroel.
But Bilam did not get the message.
The talking donkey clearly demonstrates the extent of Bilam's wickedness and the intensity of his desire to harm the Bnei Yisroel.
His vindictive cruelty was so great and his nature so corrupt, and his lust for money so immense, that he remained oblivious to all these promptings, and persisted in his intent to curse the Bnei Yisroel.
Yet as soon as the donkey finished speaking, the Malach killed it, because Hashem is merciful even towards the wicked, and wanted to spare Bilam the disgrace of people saying of the donkey, "Here is the animal that silenced Bilam. Here is the animal that put Bilam to shame!" Hashem is concerned with human dignity, even Bilam's.
Another reason the Malach killed the donkey is so that the pagans would not make an idol out of such a wondrous creature. Since it had now fulfilled the specific task assigned to it since the days of creation - to speak on this occasion, it could no longer continue living in any case.
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Page last updated - 06/21/2020