In Bamidbar 22 (33) Rashi explains that Hashem killed Balaam's ass

in order that people should not be able to say: This is the animal that silenced Balaam by its rebuke, so that he could not reply. For God has regard for human dignity.

Now Balaam was an evil man as evidenced by the Mishnah in Avos

כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ … עַיִן רָעָה, וְרוּחַ גְּבוֹהָה, וְנֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה, מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע.

So would it not have been more fitting if his human dignity were decreased by his ass remaining alive?

  • A better translation is jenny
    – robev
    Jul 13, 2022 at 19:45
  • 2
    @robev it's an abbreviation of the hebrew 'asson'
    – Double AA
    Jul 13, 2022 at 20:00
  • See Sanhedrin 55a and b
    – kouty
    Jul 16, 2022 at 22:04

2 Answers 2


Rashi is quoting from the midrash in Tanchuma which clarifies why it was necessary to kill the jenny (thanks @robev). The midrash gives two reasons:

a. So that people would not turn her into an object of worship because she spoke (similarly, the bronze snake made by Moshe became a cultic object, as well as the ephod made Gidon).

b. Because Hashem finds it important to protect the dignity of everyone, including evil people. And if evil people's dignity is important, even more so that of righteous people.

So we see that that Hashem finds it important to protect the dignity of everyone, even if they are as evil as Bilam. Both because dignity is important and because it teaches us that the dignity of righteous people is even more important.


This question is addressed in Sefer Zera Shimshon - Bamidbar...It can be found translated and elucidated in Artscroll's newly released Sefer on page 541... and on https://zstorah.com/

direct link to the pdf... https://www.zstorah.com/40/ZeraShimshon-40-Balak-Essay_3.pdf

In short:

Bilaam was upright as the spirit of prophesy rested upon him and is referenced as four commoners who have no share of the world to come implying he might have had a share in the world to come from being on that list.

Paying heed to Rashi's own words:

Bilaam says in Numbers 24:13

"'If Balak gives me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of the Lord to do either good or evil on my own; only what the Lord speaks can I speak.'"

in contrast to

Numbers 22:18 "Balaam answered and said to Balak's servants, "Even if Balak gives me a house full of silver and gold, I cannot do anything small or great that would transgress the word of the Lord, my God."

'My God' is absent from Numbers 24:13 as said in Numbers 22:18 because Bilaam himself knew he had lost his upright status.

In the beginning until Numbers 22:35 Bilaam was fit and from this the Merciful One had mercy on him and killed the donkey.

  • 1
    The mishna in Sanhedrin implies; we, learning the mishna, can infer.
    – Menachem
    Aug 15, 2022 at 22:22
  • 1
    I hear...I used the word infer because Artscroll did. But they used it in the way of which you mentioned. Now I see clearly the point being made ...Toda Raba!
    – code613
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:50

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