Friday, June 29, 2007

Parshas Balak 5767

וַיִּפְתַּח יְהוָה, אֶת-פִּי הָאָתוֹן; וַתּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם, מֶה-עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ, כִּי הִכִּיתַנִי, זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים.

" Ad-noy opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Bil'am: 'What have I done to you, that you have hit me these three times'?"

Rashi to verse 33 tells us that in the end, the donkey was killed. He reasons that Hashem killed the donkey lest the common observer say, "this is the one that drove away Bil'am with her admonishment, and he was unable to reply." This, says Rashi, would violate Billam's Kavod haBriyos/human dignity. However, R' Avraham Grodzinsky in his "Toras Avraham" asks why should we be so concerned with the Kavod haBriyos of Billam, this non-Jewish man that was on his way to curse the Jewish people? In fact, we see that not only did Kavod haBriyos trump "Tzaar Baalei Chaim"/not harming animals, but it even went as far as to trump the killing of the animal.

He answers that nevertheless, Billam, as wicked as he was, was created in the Image of G-d, just like every other creation. It isn't within our human grasp to know the amount of Kavod that should be given to each person. Rather, all we know is that everything that is here on earth is here because Hashem wants it to be here, and that in and of itself is reason enough to give every person a certain amount of Kavod. Thus, Jew or non-Jew, good or evil, every person deserves a proper amount of Kavod.

It happens too often where a good, G-d fearing Jew will act one way around Jews and in Jewish settings, but act so differently in public; almost as if one doesn't need to act with the same Middos and afford proper Kavod to non-Jews as well. At least as I see it, one needs to remember that "bein adam l'chaveiro" includes non-Jews as well. And if this isn't the case, not affording proper Kavod to non-Jews will inevitably lead to a Chillul Hashem; something that if people thought about their actions before doing them, would be minimized.

We see a similar idea in this weeks Parsha in the Medrash (to 22:9) that tells us that the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish prophets is that Jewish profits have mercy on both Jews and non-Jews alike; however, we see that Billam, the non-Jewish prophet, seeked to destroy an entire nation from the map. R' Yechezkel Levinstein in his "Ohr Yechezkel" notes that we see from this that Hashem wants Jews to be compassionate, even for non-Jews. He says that we, as Jews, are obligated to be connected to the terrible tragedies and problems of the world; not just to view them as "their" problems. He says that if the concept of "Tzaar Baalei Chaim" is D'oraisa, then all the more so should one be obligated to afford respect to all people, Jews and non-Jews alike.

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