I believe the portion this week dwelt with Balaam, tasked with by King Barak to do something about the out of control surge of proto-Jewish refugees squatting in Midian. They were illegal immigrants. They were in numbers that had become a blight upon the land. They were escaped slaves from Egypt. So, Balaam is told to curse them (and I suppose, get them to hie thee from hither to a yon unknown)?.
So Balaam set forth on his ass. Question--high and mighty as he was, why is Balaam set upon an ass? Or his ass? Is the original Aramaic as funny as it is in translation--Balaam's ass. And he sets forth to curse the Jews. No seraphim with flaming sword available, I suppose. Doth he bite his thumb at them as well?
So off he and some lackeys go. "And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand." Still not a flaming one, though. And it was one angel---seraphim are plural. "And the ass turned aside." The ass turns aside three times, crushing Balaam against a wall, laying down, etc. Each time, the ass is "smote," beaten I suppose. Finally, Balaam curses his ass. And "the Lord opened the mouth of the ass and she...." It's a female too. As always, females taking care of males who are ungrateful. And this is what she said, "What have I done unto thee, that thee has smitten me these three times?" And Balaam said...."because thou has mocked me."
Really? He has a talking philosophical ass who sees what a man cannot, and this is his first response? Anybody else would reply like Max's mother, in the old joke: "You can talk. In fact, you can talk quite well. Why have you never said anything before? Well, up to now, everything was alright."
The second thought--if Balaam was not shocked by the sudden palaver, it implies that perhaps he has had dialogues in the past with his ass.
The third thought--not what does my ass see that I cannot/willnot--but--thou has mocked me? You made fun of me. What does it matter that you tried to save my life, you disrespectful harridan. It doesn't matter that his ass has saved his life. It only matters that she was disrespectful.
What Balaam in fact does is deny his ass and deny all the good work she has done for him in the past, with a simple monosyllable: "Nay." (So he becomes a horse). Again--it doesn't matter that your better judgment saved my personal ass. It only matters that you disobeyed my direct order. It doesn't matter what services she has provided in the past. What has she done for him lately? But, even though he has become an ass, the Lord opens his eyes. And now Balaam sees the angel and the sword. (Neil Young--I see the needle and the damage done). And the seraph chastises Balaam and tells him if not for the ass, he would have been slain. So the ass reasons with him and he turns into a horse, but an angel threatens him and all of a sudden, he is the soul of reason.
So he looks upon the tents of the refugees and finds them admirable. He is the source of "How goodly are your tents O Jacob."
He does the right thing at the end, but it doesn't mean he is rewarded. He is slain shortly thereafter, as he was trying to return home. No word on the fate of his ass. She deserved better. But, as a female, she probably was not promoted.
As an ass, she was allowed to protest. A fate not allowed the matriarchs. Sarah died, because she could not prevent Abraham from taking Isaac. She probably would not have liked Rebecca, who in fact betrayed Isaac a second time. Isaac the schnook. Rebecca had two sons--she got to play favorites.
A final question--Balaam and the talking ass. How can anyone take the Bible literally? And if you do, how can you eat any meat--if animals have the consciousness, conscienseness, morality, and philosophize--how can you eat a superior being. How can anyone say man is made in the image of G-d? Maybe the ass was.