We read this week of Bilaam’s interaction with his trusty donkey. God “opens the mouth of the donkey” and it speaks to Bilaam, asking him why he mistreated it when it’s been so faithful to him over the years. Bilaam then realizes that the donkey was able to see something hidden from him – an angel standing in his path, brandishing a sword, preventing him from passing.
It’s easy to assume that we see everything there is, that nothing is hidden from us, and that certainly nothing or nobody ‘beneath us’ would ever be able to have better insight than us. But the Torah tries to teach us humility. We are to keep open minds and be willing to learn from anyone and anything, and to give trust before suspicion. Even a donkey has something to teach us; we shouldn’t be too proud to listen to it.
In modern times, it is known that animals have a certain sense of intuition which humans lack. They sense weather conditions before our instruments detect them. They are even able to detect diseases. This seems to be the underlying message in our Parasha as well, with Bilaam’s donkey. There is nothing new under the sun.