Bilam was engaged by Balak to curse the Jews. Hashem discouraged his participation initially by declining his request to travel with the Moabite princes, and later by obstructing his journey with Angels the route. Bilam’s desire to meet Balak prevailed and he finally met up with Balak, however he did not end up cursing the Jewish people as his curses were switched to blessings.
Why did Hashem make so many efforts to prevent his antics, if Hashem was prepared to alter the curses into blessings? Why discourage him in the first place?
Hashem would rather avoid meddling into the affairs of man. Man has free will and this capability is given as much freedom as possible. It was not ideal to manipulate the vocal capabilities of Bilam, denying his ability of speech therefore Hashem preferred to discourage his attendance, ultimately extreme measures were called into play to preserve the continuity of the Jewish people.
Protecting Bilam’s dignity. Bilam suffered much embarrassment, both on the journey when he was humiliated by his donkey and when he was unsuccessful in carrying out Balak’s wishes. Hashem is interested in protecting the self-respect of a man as wicked as Bilam. We similarly find that Bilam’s donkey was killed after answering him back, in order to preserve his honor.
The Talmud tells us that all the cursed intentions of Bilam, when he actually blessed the people, eventually ended coming true. The one exception was “Ma Tovu” where he praises our Shuls and Batei Medrash. In this curse Bilam had intended to eradicate their houses of worship, but his intention never bore fruit, this “curse” was permanently turned into a blessing, but the other curses were only temporarily changed into blessing, hence it would have been more ideal if he didn’t make the trip.
Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach (1825 – 1894) was the second rebbe of the Belz dynasty. He combined Torah scholarship with practical common sense to guide thousands of Chasidim and to fight the Haskalah (“Enlightenment”) movement that was making inroads in Jewish communities in Poland during the nineteenth century. His pioneering activities included founding the Machzikei Hadas organization.
Once a man who struggled with his evil inclination once came to the Belzer Rebbe, asking for him to pray that he die a Jew. The Rebbe replied “even the wicked Bilam asked that he die like the tzaddikim ‘let my end by like them’ the challenge isn’t to die as Jew, but to live as a Jew”.
On Shabbos one may not use a grater to grate cheese.