By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
In this week’s parashah, Balak sends messengers to Bilam that he should go curse the Jewish nation. Bilam tells the messengers to stay overnight while he asks Hashem what to do. Hashem tells him not to go and then the pasuk tells us that Bilam got up in the morning and told the officers of Balak to return to their land because Hashem refused to allow him to go with them. The Ohr Hachaim discusses how the pasuk specifically mentions that Bilam got up in the morning. He notes that it’s to tell us how Bilam had tzaros ayin, stinginess, and he hurried to send the officers away before it became time to eat, so that he would not have to feed them.
We see something powerful from this. If a person has the opportunity to anticipate the need of another, but holds back from filling that need when he is perfectly capable of doing so, that is considered tzaros ayin. It does not matter that the need in the case of Balak’s officers had not even surfaced at that moment. The fact that they would get hungry in a short while, which Bilam realized and yet he refrained from providing food, was enough to hold against him and reference his misdeed in the pasuk, even though at the moment that Bilam sent them away they were not at the point of actually requiring a meal.
Take the following scenarios: We see that things are starting to get hectic, so we lock ourselves in the room with an “important call.” When a spouse is starting to look frazzled, we choose to take that minute to make our grand escape because “the store is going to close and I must get there right away.” We know our spouse needs a suitcase to pack up for a trip and we can’t be bothered to get it down from the attic so we just head to bed so that she’ll have to do it herself.
The first step in staying away from stinginess is to work on anticipating the needs of our spouses and family members. Knowing when our spouse might need a second pair of hands, when our child might need a filling snack, when our spouse might need a friendly phone call—these and many more are opportunities for us to practice the art of giving. We should all merit to be the givers, not miserly and stingy like Bilam. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.