Whoever possesses the following three characteristics is of the disciples of Abraham our Father; and whoever possesses the opposite three characteristics is of the disciples of the wicked Bilaam....

Ethics of the Fathers, 5:19


Bilaam's identity as the evil counterpart to Abraham is a reoccurring theme in the Torah. On the verse, "And Bilaam rose in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab," describing the beginning of Bilaam's journey to curse the Jewish people, Rashi comments:

From here we see how hatred causes a person to break from convention. Bilaam had many servants at his disposal; yet, in his eagerness to go curse Israel, he saddled his ass himself. Said the Almighty: "Evil one! Their father, Abraham, has already preempted you, when, to fulfill My will, he `rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey.'"

This reflects King Solomon's observation, "One corresponding to the other, G d created." In order to provide man with the "freedom of choice" that is essential to his mission in life, G d created a two mirror reality: every positive element has its negative counterpart. Were there to exist a positive force or phenomenon that cannot be put to corrupt use, then man's potential for evil would not present the equal challenge that makes for the choice factor in life.

Appearance and Substance

But this "equality" between good and evil exists only on the most superficial plane of reality. "The potter," says the Midrash, "does not test flawed vessels, because to tap them even once is to break them; but he does test good vessels, because no matter how many times he taps them they do not break." In his most elementary perception of his world, man will be challenged to choose between two equally potent realities; but if he learns to look beyond the surface of things, he will see that only the good is real and substantial, while evil's formability lies only in its appearance.

For good is the objective of the created existence, while evil exists merely to provide the challenge that imbues our positive deeds with meaning and significance. Thus, when viewed in terms of their inherent purpose and function, good is an existence in its own right, while evil is nothing more than a facilitator for good.

Hence, there cannot be anything "original" to evil. All it is is a shallow refraction of the good in the world. If Bilaam were able to transcend the norm with the intensity of his hate, this was only because, centuries earlier, Abraham had done the same out of love for his Creator.