The Posuk says that Billam said even if you give me all the money in the world I can not curse the Jews, Rashi says this indicates that he was a lover of others money.There is a small problem with this that is that in Pirkie Avos it says that Reb Yose ben Kisma said almost the identical words can we say that about him?


'ויען בלעם ויאמר אל עבדי בלק אם יתן לי בלק מלא ביתו כסף וזהב לא אוכל לעבור את פי ה

Reb Yose ben Kisma:

אמר רבי יוסי בן קיסמא אפילו אם תתן לי כל כסף וכל זהב ומרגליות שבעולם איני דר אלא במקום תורה

And ,Rashi says:

למדנו שנפשו רחבה ומחמד ממון אחרים


The question is really:

What is it about Bilaam's statement, and not R' Yosei ben Kisma's, that implied greed?

Several answers are collected and described here, by Bar-Ilan's Professor Yaakov Spiegel. Among them:

  • R' Yosei ben Kisma was explicitly offered אלף אלפים דינרי זהב ואבנים טובות ומרגליות "thousands of dinars of gold and silver, gems and pearls", to which he directly responds in kind, "not even all the gold, silver, gems, and pearls in the world." Bilaam is promised "great honor", and he responds "not even all the gold and silver ..." who said anything about gold and silver? Hm, I guess we know what was on someone's mind. ("Um, ... dad ... theoretically ... if I borrowed your car ... ")
    • One variation is that even if the "great honor" promise was a veiled reference to money, why did Bilaam have to be tacky and talk explicitly about gold and silver?
    • Another variation: Bilaam could have said something stronger, "no can do, even if Balak put a knife to my throat." Why did he pick gold and silver? It was on his mind. Whereas in R' Yosei ben Kisma's case, all the stranger could do was offer money.
  • R' Yosei ben Kisma talks about "all the gold, silver, gems, and pearls in the world." There is absolutely no way that this stranger can do that. It's a theoretical exaggeration. Bilaam, however, spoke very precisely about "Balak giving me all the gold and silver in his house", something he could actually do. That's not a rhetorical device, it's a fantasy.
  • Sofo hochiach al techilaso. The motivations behind two identical statements can be revealed by differing later actions. Bilaam says "Even if I got all this money, I won't go because Hashem said no." Well, as soon as Hashem gives him a very reluctant green light (more like pale greenish), he races out the door! Whereas when R' Yosei bin Kisma said no, that meant he had no desire, and he stuck with his statement.

I heard and saw Three answers.

  1. First the Satmar Rebbe Reb Yoel, he says if you look carefully at the words of Reb Yose you will notice a fundamental difference. He says "שבעולם" he says all the money in the world more than Billam asked for, as Billam says מלא ביתו his home. The Satmar Rebbe explains Reb Yose was asking for the World because he was going to help the poor people of the world with it but Billam was for his own personal private home or as we say the three most important people ME,MYSELF,AND I. The reason Rashi says it, is because Billam was for himself but Reb Yose was out to save the world.
  2. The second very practical answer I heard from a recording of Rabbi Reisman, you have to know who your hearing it from they can say the similar things but who is saying it makes all the difference, he brings an example from the Seder on Pesach we The Rasha-wicked son says What is this work to You לכם The Tam-simple son says the same whats this מה זאת but we know it depends on who is asking.
  3. Then I saw another answer in A Booklet called Tztzim Uprachim that is the fundamental difference is That Billam brought up the money first that indicates "he was a lover of others money". Reb Yose it was offered too and he said non the less I will only live in a place of Torah.

Here: http://www.ladaat.net/siteimages/fl_4c246b29d794d.pdf

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