In Parshas Balak, the Torah describes for us in graphic detail, one of the most colorful stories in the Chamishei Chumshei Torah, that of Bilham and his donkey traveling on their way to curse Bnei Yisroel. The Psukim inform us of the various Nissim which Hashem caused in order to place road blocks in Bilham’s way. A simple reading of the Psukim reveals three clear Nissim which transpired. First, we are told “Vatereh HaAson es Malach Hashem” - Hashem allows the donkey to see the Malach standing in its path and causes the donkey to turn off the road. A few Psukim later, the Torah tells us “Vayiftach Hashem es Pi HaAson – Hashem opened up the mouth of the donkey and allowed it to speak to Bilham. The final Nais, “Vayigal Hashem es Einei Bilham” – Hashem allows Bilham himself to see the Malach obstructing his path, with sword in hand. Curiously, of these three Nissim, the Torah only describes two of them with a Lashon of Nes.
When Hashem gives the donkey the power of speech, the Torah clearly indicates the extraordinary nature of what is transpiring – “HASHEM opened up the mouth of the donkey”. Similarly, when Bilham is permitted to see the Malach the Torah says “HASHEM opened the eyes of Bilham”, once again highlighting Hashem’s direct intervention. In contrast, when the donkey sees the Malach, no special indication of divine involvement is mentioned. The Pasuk simply states that the donkey saw the Malach. Why with respect to two of the Nissim does the Torah note the Yad Hashem, yet for the donkey seeing the Malach no such grand pronouncement is made?
Rashi is apparently troubled by this question and notes that there is nothing unusual about an animal seeing a Malach, stating that they are only hidden from people. This explanation however places Rashi at odds with numerous Rishonim who understand that the higher place one occupies in the Seder Bereshis the more they are permitted to see and understand. It is difficult to understand why a Malach would be hidden from people yet visible to every garden rodent.
To understand this difficulty it is necessary to examine what criteria the Torah uses in defining what is to be considered a Nes. Obviously, for Hashem, it is no more difficult to stop the sun in the sky than to put fruit on the trees. Nevertheless, not every break with Tevah is a “Nes” by Torah standards. Our Psukim reveal a rather significant Limud for us as to what the Torah considers to be a “Nes”. This standard apparently is whether a persons Bichira Chafshi is being infringed upon.
When the donkey is permitted to see the Malach, this causes the donkey alone to stop his progression. Bilham himself has no idea why the donkey is stopping or that an intervention with Tevah is happening. This is not considered a Nes by Torah standards. On the contrary, this inconvenience was an attempt to allow Bilham the chance to change his mind completely independently. The trip has become difficult, the donkey is not cooperating etc., all reasons why Bilham might abandon his mission. In contrast, when the donkey speaks to Bilham, it is obvious that a break with Tevah is occurring and Bilham is forced to deal with that reality. It is this Giluy Shechina to a human, which cannot help but affect his Bechira, that the Torah defines as a Nes. Even there, Hashem does not instruct the donkey to reveal the mortal danger of continuing, just to try and dissuade Bilham from his path. Hashem still gives Bilham the opportunity to change his mind “on his own” – breaking with Tevah only to the extent necessary. Finally, when Bilham is permitted to see the Malach with his sword drawn in front of him, his Bechira is taken away altogether, continuing means certain death. That is the most extreme form of intervention and must be classified as a Nes.
With this Limud we gain a valuable insight into how precious our Bichira Chafshi is to the Ribono Shel Olam. Not only does he go to great lengths to preserve our choice but the Torah doesn’t even consider the most extreme breaks with Tevah as miraculous if peoples Bechira is not affected. If our Bichira is of such a priority to Hashem how careful we must be to always exercise it in the most judicious manner.
This Mehalech also allows us to answer one of the most unusual teachings of our Avos – “Kashe Lzaveg K’Kriyas Yom Suf” - It is as hard for Hashem to match up a couple as it was to split the sea. What does this expression mean when it discusses something that Hashem does as “kasha”?, Obviously there is nothing beyond Hashem’s ability – let alone “difficult”? It is no more difficult for Hashem to split the sea than to put fruit on the trees.
Chazal tell us that Kriyas Yam Suf was the quintessential Giluy Shechina – the ultimate revelation of Hashem to our world. Indeed, Rashi explains that what happened at the Yam was heard around the world. At that moment, everyone knew that Hashem Echad. For Bnei Yisroel, at Kriyas Yam Suf there was absolutely no Bechira – noone could deny the Yad Hashem divinely guiding Bnei Yisroel thru the Yam and simultaneously drowning the Mitzriyim.
This is “difficult” for Hashem. The Briya was designed to preserve our Bechira Chafshi, at any cost. It is only in the most unusual circumstances that Hashem allows his direct intervention to be revealed and consequently infringe upon a person’s free choice.
The only near equivalent is marriage. We exist to learn, understand and grow so we can exercise our Bechira to fulfill the Ratzon Hashem. When a person marries, they are by definition and design forfeiting a great deal of their free choice. From that point on, every decision, minor or major, necessarily has to take into account another person.
Despite Hashem’s primary desire of preserving our free choice, he invented and endorsed the institution of marriage. If it was important enough for Him to some degree to compromise our Bechira, how valuable and treasured should we all treat our spouses. In compromising B'Chira, Hashem has clearly enunciated that Shalom Bayis appears to be every bit as important as any of his precepts.