A teaching of Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, from Or Torah and Likutei Amarim 38.

וַיַּרְא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֹׁכֵן לִשְׁבָטָיו Bilaam saw Israel dwelling by tribe. Numbers 24:2

Our sages interpreted this to mean that, when Bilaam looked down on the Israelite encampments, he saw that their openings were not set one against another [so that they should not peer into each other’s tents]. (1) He said, “These people deserve to have the Divine Presence rest upon them.” This actually hints at Torah scholars: when they sit together, each one giving his own interpretation of a verse in Torah or a saying in the Talmud, if (God forbid) they do so in provocation and disrespect, saying “My interpretation is better than the others’,” then woe unto them and their souls, it would be better had their afterbirth been turned over on their faces! But if each one means only to say Torah and to glorify it, then joy to them and their souls. This is the meaning of “He saw that their openings,” that is, their mouths, “were not set one against another” (2). Rather, each one gives his interpretation for the sake of heaven — and so he said, “These people deserve to have the Divine Presence rest upon them.”


Sources: The openings of their tents… Bava Batra 60a; It would be better…after Yerushalmi Berachot 1:5.

1) This was a sign of modesty and the cause for Bilaam’s blessing that followed: “How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your sanctuaries, Israel” (24:5)   2) The teaching cites Micah 7:5 as an example of “openings” meaning “mouths.”

This entry was posted in Balak, Concepts, Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, Hasidic Masters, Parsha, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to

  1. yiddishword says:

    I love your translations, and I have been following them for a while now. It seems you left out this phrase: מוטב שתהפוך שלייתם על פניהם– the translation of which goes according to Brachot 1:5 where it says someone who studies Torah with the intent not to practice it, “it would have been better for him had the afterbirth in which he lay been turned over his face and he not come into the world.” You might want to amend your translation to add that in…

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