Friday, April 8, 2022

Bilaam's Miracle

It's important, even at times of tragedy and challenge, to keep our spirits up. In that vein, here is a story that a neighbor of mine told me this morning, as a sequel to yesterday's post about my sons' misunderstandings of their teachers' Hebrew. Like me, he is a British oleh.

A few years ago, on erev Shabbat parashat Balak, I picked up my son from gan. I asked him if he had learned about the story of Bilaam. 

"Yes, Daddy!" he said excitedly. 

"And did a special miracle happen in a story with Bilaam?"

"Yes, Daddy!" he replied.

"Did something speak?" I asked.

"Yes, Daddy!" he replied, his eyes shining with wonder. "The newspaper! The newspaper spoke!"

(For those who don't get it - donkey is aton, newspaper is iton!)


  1. When I was in second grade in Brooklyn, NY in the 60's, my 4th grade 'rebbe', a wonderful man, was teaching us the pasuk in Shemot 16 33 (" ויאמר משה אל אהרן קח צנצנת אחת ותן שמה מלא העמר מן והנח אתו לפני י-ה-ו-ה למשמרת לדרתיכם") which speaks about G-d's command to Moshe Rabbeinu to place a pitcher of Mahn ("Manna") in the Holy of Holies. I thought I heard him say "to place a *picture* of Mahn". For years after that I thought Moshe painted a picture of Mahn and placed it in the Holy of Holies. Even today, my brain first thinks "picture", then corrects itself to "pitcher".

  2. My son was similarly confused when he was in gan, and the kindergarten teacher was telling the story of Yonah, in preparation for Yom Kippur. My son thought that a dog swallowed Yonah (since דג sounds like "dog").

    Okay, that was a simple mistake. What made it even more confusing, was that the teacher's name was Yonah (it's the type of name that can be used for a man or a woman, like "Simchah")!

  3. Hebrew University's student newspaper is called Pi Ha'aton.

  4. Now if your son said that the newspaper has spoken the truth, that WOULD be a great miracle.

  5. When I was in Yeshiva and Hebrew was being given as a language (sad, but what can you do) the teacher said we were learning how to count numbers. He said Eleph was 1000, Alpayim was 2000. He asked does anyone know how to say 3000? One of the students said "sure, 3000 is Shlapyaim!"

  6. Cute story which also demonstrates the care needed with low age chinuch

    When I was a child we had a visitor, an old blind man who remembered nach lessons from many years ago. והמלך לא ידעה he clearly recalled from his schooldays to mean that "king David was so old he didn't know who the maiden was"

  7. The donkey did not speak to Balaam. He just imagined it.


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