"God opened the mouth of the donkey and it said to Balaam, 'What I have done to you that you struck me three times?'" Numbers 22:28

By Rabbi Barry Lerer, July 3, 2014

This week's parashah tells the amazing story of Balaam the non-Jewish prophet, who was commissioned by Balak the king of Moab to curse the Children of Israel. On his way to curse them, God sent an angel to confront him.

The Torah tells us that whereas Balaam could not see the angel, his donkey could and tried to veer out of the way. Balaam was frustrated with the donkey and hit it three times. The donkey miraculously spoke to Balaam and rebuked him for his lack of appreciation for all that he had done for him. Not surprisingly, Balaam, was stunned.

The Midrash teaches us that if Balaam was unable to answer his donkey, how much more will we feel speechless and ashamed before God on the final Judgment Day.

Rashi tells us that the donkey died immediately after this incident because God felt that it would be too difficult for Balaam's dignity were it to stay alive, as people would say "There goes the donkey that rebuked Balaam".

But had the donkey remained alive, it would surely have served as a reminder to anyone who saw it and would cause them to mend their ways in order to avoid the embarrassment of their final Judgment Day. Was it worth killing the donkey just to spare the evil Balaam's dignity?

Seemingly, the answer is yes, and in doing so, God is teaching us a very important lesson about how careful we have to be when it comes to other people's honour. Even someone who would go so far as to curse the chosen people of God deserved to have their honour intact, even if it meant forfeiting the chance of teaching the world an important lesson. How much more so should we go out of our way to give honour and respect to everyone, both enemies and friends.

Last updated: 2:24pm, July 3 2014