“Fate leads the willing, and drags along the reluctant.” -Seneca

Bilaam son of Beor was a particularly nasty character. He was no friend of ancient Israelites and rabbinic commentaries depict him as a completely evil sorcerer who was eternally damned. Nonetheless, he reached the heights of prophecy and technically is said to have achieved the level of divination of Moses himself.

The Ohr Hachayim (on Numbers 24:3) wonders as to the makeup of Bilaam and what attributes enabled him to achieve his prophetic proficiency. He identifies three characteristics: birth, work and destiny.

Bilaam was born with an innate capability to pierce the material world. His physical and mental attributes were such that he could more easily appreciate and interact with the spiritual world. However, the gifts of birth are not sufficient to accomplish anything.

Bilaam was a hard worker. He was ambitious, highly ambitious. He applied himself and learned all the dark arts. He mastered what was known to man about the supernatural. He commanded demons and directed kings. His hard work made him great, but that was not enough to account for his singular prophetic achievement (which led to his obliteration, but that’s another story).

Bilaam was destined to reach prophecy. God required a gentile to reach the prophetic stature of Moses. God wanted the nations of the world to have their own figure that could commune more directly with God. True, Bilaam twisted his powers for his own avarice and consciously shunned the word of God. But he had the capacity. He had the skills. He had the connection. He was meant to reach prophecy, and that fate is what, together with his personal attributes and his work ethic drew him to the pinnacle of the spiritual world (for a brief moment, anyway).

May we follow a fortunate fate and desist from dreary destiny.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Julie Grey, a Hollywood master wordsmith and fellow blogger. Welcome to Israel. To intertwined fates and glorious destiny.