The story of Bilam's speaking donkey is intriguing to say the least. The Ibn Ezra brings some differing opinions about what exactly happened.
The Ramban notes that Chazal do not make a big deal out of the donkey's ability to SEE the angel, rather its ability to speak. He writes that the Torah's message to the man (and through him to us) who was known for his power of speech, is to realize מי שם פה לאדם – that the great spiritual power of speech is a gift from Hashem, and granted to us – or a donkey if that is His will. Seeing an angel is quite impressive but the sense of sight in itself is not as lofty and belongs to all (or most) creatures.
The Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh explains the "mechanism" of this miracle, by saying that the three failed attempts at passage were not random, but rather a triple exposure of the אתון to spirituality. Each time it sensed the Angel before it, it absorbed some spiritual character until it had (3 times is hergel na'aseh teva) the spiritual, noble, G-D given ability to speak.
Perhaps I may add a thought regarding this spiritual mechanism.
Even after these three experiences, there still was one part of the story missing that was needed for the donkey to speak. Bil'am got angry and hit his donkey. This was the "makeh b'patish". The last straw. The Zohar tells us that when a person gets angry, there is a shift in his spiritual state. His soul departs temporarily and is replaced by another spirit.
The Maharal speaks about the fact that the Torah notes the kind of animals that all our leaders used. It is stated that the "car of choice" of Avraham, Moshe, and even Moshiach, is Chamor - a male donkey, while Bil'am chose an Asson – a she-donkey. This represents the fact that our leaders did not connect at all with CHOMER – materialism, they rode above it and took charge over their material instincts entirely. There is no connection between a male and a male. Bil'am on the other hand was totally attached to his material instincts, so much so that he rode (and according to the medrash he even "bonded" with) a female donkey.
Perhaps we can say that the donkey's speaking to him was also figuratively HIS OWN CHOMER speaking to him. His Chomer took on a spiritual sense. He invested so much of his own spirit into physical matters of desire, that the physical became imbued with HIS own spirit, and all it took was some anger to totally transmit his nishmas chaim – his ability to speak, to the animal he was so attached to.
While this is a novel approach to Bil'am, it is a lesson to be aware of for us all. Material matters have no importance on their own, and their entire excuse for existence – and meaning - is only to serve a person's spiritual endeavors. When a person puts too much "life" into mundane matters he is infusing false meaning and his own spirituality into them. A car, sandwich, sport, or suit can take on a life of its own – usurping the spiritual energy of the person who lovingly speaks about them too much.
The positive side is true as well. We have the ability to infuse so much positive energy into other people, and into the mitzvos that we do. If we endearingly speak about our seder of learning, about Shabbos, about other Jews we can literally give new life to all of them.
חיים תלוי ביד הלשון – Let's make the most of it!
לעילוי נשמת ר' נח צבי ב''ר דוב ז''ל
Posted By Dovi milstein to DRASHOS at 7/12/2017 07:44:00 AM