The destruction of the Temple and the Jewish state was a necessary prelude to building a better Jewish nation. This is the meaning of the prophecy "A victor will issue forth from Jacob to wipe out what is left of the city". (Num. 24:19)

Balaam saw a vision of the greatness of the Mashiach, someone greater than himself. What he did not appreciate was that that purity could be rooted in impurity, just as Abraham came forth out of a Terach. When the Mashiach arrives, the last vestiges of the dross remaining from former efforts at distilling the pure out of the impure will vanish.

The "evil angel", who is personified by Balaam, had to acknowledge this concept. Balaam expanded on this aspect of the Redemption when he said, "What I see for them is not yet, what I behold will not be soon". (Num. 24:17) He seems to be repeating himself. that passes contains elements of the eventual total Redemption…

Another difficulty in Balaam's words is the fact that they seem to be contradictory. First he says, "I can see it…" suggesting a clear vision, whereas immediately afterwards he describes this as in the distant future, i.e. not being so clear. What is meant is that every single day that passes contains elements of the eventual total Redemption. This is what Balaam realizes clearly. What he does not see so clearly is the date on which this process will be complete.

Our Rabbis have described this process as "A single sheep resides amongst seventy wolves. These wolves attempt daily to devour the sheep, but the Almighty saves it from their clutches", as in Pesikta Rabba 9:2.

The very fact that the Jewish nation continues to exist is party of the proof that the Redemption is an ongoing process. G‑d is busy performing such miracles without the person for whom such miracles are being performed even becoming aware of them. This is why Balaam says "I see it," i.e. as an ongoing process, "but not now", i.e. the true Redemption, the arrival of the Messiah, has not yet come to pass. Repentance…has the power to convert former misdeeds into merits…

Subsequently, Balaam turns to the vision of the Redemption, of which he says, "I see it, but not in the near future". He reveals that there is a date that G‑d has fixed for it, though if the people are deserving, that date could be advanced. This is parallel to the explanation of the sages on the apparent paradox in the verse "At its appointed time, I will hasten it." (Isaiah 60:22) The meaning is that though there is an appointed time beyond which the Redemption will not be delayed, it may occur sooner if Israel deserves it (Sanhedrin 98). It is at that time that all previous curses will turn into blessings, for the Redemption was brought about sooner as a result of Israel responding positively to the curses it has had to suffer.

In the verse "G‑d transformed the curse [Balaam's] into a blessing for you, for the Lord your G‑d loves you", (Deut. 23:6) the last words seem superfluous, since no one would assume that someone who hates you turns your curses into blessings. The meaning, however, may be that repentance is "great", since it has the power to convert former misdeeds into merits. Such repentance indeed has such power when it is the result of love of G‑d and not the fear of punishment. Curses may be a hidden display of G‑d's love, for once they have fulfilled their purpose, they eventually enable Him to turn them into blessing. Love for G‑d by the repentant sinner is reciprocated by Him so that what used to be demerits are accounted as merits retroactively.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]