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In Bava Basra 14b, a ברייתא is quoted as saying "Moshe wrote his book (i.e. the Pentateuch), Parashat Bil'am, and [the Book of] Iyov." Why did the ברייתא even raise the issue of Moshe's authorship of Parashat Bil'am?

Does "Parashat Bil'am" in the ברייתא refer to Parashat Balak, which speaks of Bil'am, or another book? If so, do we know more about this book?

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Recall that Bilam's level of prophecy rivaled -- and possibly surpassed -- Moshe's. It's been suggested that the whole episode is one giant paragraph because usually the paragraph breaks were there to give Moshe time to digest; but Bilam's was beyond what he could understand. Hence the Gemara is saying that while Bilam's prophecy was higher, Moshe was still given a transmission to record (even if he didn't necessarily comprehend it). –  Shalom Jun 12 '13 at 18:27
@Shalom according to reb solaveitchik... –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jun 12 '13 at 19:04
@double-aa did you learn bout that yourself or did you watch the naked archeologist to found out bout that one? m.youtube.com/watch?v=NHXksyaYIqA it is good stuff. I love this guy. Check out his site and all the other shows he did too. –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jun 12 '13 at 23:31
@mori never seen that show before. –  Double AA Jun 13 '13 at 1:29

3 Answers 3

Parashath Bilaam is written with stories that Mosha Rabbeinu never experienced, for example the story with the donkey, no one was there but the donkey bilaam and the maloch. Also the sacrifices and such is from the perspective of bilaam and not Mosha Rabbeinu. Therefore, the gamoro in BB is saying that Mosha Rabbeinu did write it even though the perspective is not from Banei Yisroel but an outside source.

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Moshe didn't experience any of sefer B'reishit either. –  Monica Cellio Jun 12 '13 at 18:15
This sounds reasonable, +1. Did you make it up, or do you have a source for it? –  msh210 Jun 12 '13 at 18:15
@MonicaCellio, but he could have heard about it from those who did. Not (easily) so with Bil'am. –  msh210 Jun 12 '13 at 18:15
Not as easily, but Bilaam does make another appearance, and there was all the contact with the Moabites (Balak's people). Or, as with B'reishit, God could have told him. –  Monica Cellio Jun 12 '13 at 18:17
Elazar meets bilam when at war with midyan. Perhaps they schmoozed. –  Double AA Jun 12 '13 at 18:43

Levi Ginsburg in his commentary to the Yerushalmi explains that apparently there were people who claimed that the story of Bilaam was not realy part of the Torah but was added to it from an external source (he brings proof that such a claim existed from other sources in Chazal). Therefore, Chazal wanted to refute this and said that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote this as well and it is indeed part of the Torah.

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Interesting. It would make sense that people would think this is from outside sources because there is definitely concurrence with the Bilaam of other local mythologies as @DoubleAA referenced –  Charles Koppelman Jun 18 '13 at 19:17

Maharil Diskind (based on the Rambam in Shemoneh Perakim) explains it like this:

A prophet experiences prophecy through the channel of his personality. Therefore, no two prophets ever prophesize with the same style (Sanhedrin 89a). Every prophet puts the stamp of his/her own personality on their prophecy. However, Moshe Rabbeinu saw the prophecy directly, unadulterated. This is expressed in the gemara's analogy that all other prophets saw through a dim lens, while Moshe saw through a bright lens (Yevamos 49b)- their lenses were tinted with their own personalities, while Moshe saw the pure prophetic image/message.

There was one other exception. Sifri Devarim 357:10:

ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה בישראל לא קם אבל באומות העולם קם. ואיזה זה? זה בלעם בן בעור

-no prophet rose up among the Jews like Moshe (Devarim 34:10), but among the nations there did arise, and who was it? Bilaam . Bilaam was given the "gift" of pure prophecy as well. (This was because his personality was so filthy that it was impossible to give him prophecy through the conduit of his personality, and in order to give him the prophecy that blessed the Jewish people, it had to circumvent his personal imprint on it.)

Therefore, when Moshe wrote the entire Torah, the prophecies that Adam had experienced, the prophecies that Avraham had experienced, and everyone before him, it was the original presentation of that prophecy in it's purest form. It was his own book because he was the one writing it as a pure expression of the prophecy for the first time. However, the prophecy of Bilaam wasn't Moshe's original work - it had already been prophesized, in it's pure accurate form, by Bilaam.

Therefore, when he wrote down the prophecy of Bilaam, he was just copying it over, restating what had already been stated.

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