According to Rashi and the Rambam, a significant portion of Bilaam's prophecy depicts the Messianic era. The Ramban, in fact, understands this to be the entire thrust of the prophecy, a theme developed by later commentaries.
The Sefer Hachaim for example, interprets the verse, "When (Israel) kneels down and rests like a lion, who will stir it up?" to mean that when a generation experiences mounting dis-tress, their sense of futility is indicative of the impending redemption. This pasuk's message was of such significance that our Sages wanted to incorporate Bilaam's prophecy into Kerias Shema.
In a related depiction of the Messianic era, the Talmud tells of the prophet Yeshayahu cursing the Jewish people with eighteen curses. He was not satisfied, however, until he said, "The youth shall pride themselves over the elders, and the base over the honorable."
This means that the opinion of those who are devoid of mitzvos will take priority over that of those who are filled with mitzvos.
A glaring question confronts us. Did Yeshayahu have his heart set against Bnai Yisrael with such passion that he needed this last and harshest curse to ease his wrath? It is obvious that the navi had other intentions.
Yeshayahu understood that this last curse, depicting a generation of unmitigated chutzpah, will be a precursor to the Mashiach, as is pointed out in the mishnah that insolence will be widespread in the days leading up to his arrival.
Yeshayahu, in his vision, saw the abject despair of Bnai Yisrael at the end of days. He saw the break-down of society in the most disgraceful fashion.
Nonetheless, since he knew that in its wake the Mashiach would appear and rescue the Jewish people from the brink of disaster, he was relieved and comforted.
The famed Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, saw the very same idea in the final words of the Tisha B'Av elegies, which liken the end of days to a woman giving birth. Though the labor pains are excruciating and the woman screams out in pain, her family, hearing her cries, anticipate the imminent birth of a child and the pleasures that they hope to derive from the blessed new addition.
This Tuesday is the 17th of Tammuz, the an-niversary of Moshe Rab-beinu's smashing the two luchos when he witnessed the Jewish nation worshipping the Golden Calf.
But while the luchos were broken, the Sefas Emes points out, their holy letters returned to the heavens, and when Bnai Yisrael will be worthy the first luchos will again illuminate the world. In essence, the 17th of Tammuz is a Yom Tov.
Appropriately, this parshah, with Bilaam's prophecy should serve to inject the Messianic dream into our hearts, in order that we not fall into total despair during the upcoming Three Weeks, which brought about the most tragic events of our nation history.
By combining our mourning during this period with a rededication to the quality of our observance, we are assured that the signs of redemption are tangible and that the period of our exile is concluding.
Rabbi Baruch Taub
Rabbi Taub is the Rabbi of the Beth Avraham Yosef Congregation, Toronto, Canada.
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