This week we read two Torah portions, Chukat and Balak. Of all the prophecies in Scripture that refer to the Messianic era, the one contained in the Torah portion of Balak is most unusual in that it came from Bilaam, a gentile prophet.
Bilaam, the foremost prophet of his time, was forced against his will to foretell the downfall of the nations of the world and the ultimate ascendancy of the Jewish people.
The very fact that this prophecy is included in our holy Torah indicates its special significance; indeed, it contains a distinct advantage precisely because it was said by a non-Jew.
For, when Moshiach comes, the Jewish people will no longer be subservient to the nations; on the contrary, the gentile leaders will vie with one another for the privilege of serving the Jews!
Thus, the prophecy of Bilaam concerning the Final Redemption not only gave the Children of Israel cause for rejoicing over their future, it actually afforded them a “taste” of the way things will be in the Messianic era.
As far as prophecy itself is concerned, our Sages foretold its reoccurrence among the Jewish people before Moshiach’s arrival according to the following chronology:
Commenting on the verse in this week’s Torah portion, “At the proper time shall it be said to Jacob and to Israel, what G-d has wrought,” Maimonides noted that prophecy would return to Israel after “the proper time” had elapsed after Bilaam, i.e., after the same number of years as had passed since the creation of the world until his prophecy.
Bilaam’s prophecy was said in the year 2488; 2488 years after that, in the year 4976 (we are now in the year 5780), prophecy was destined to return to the Jewish people.
In fact we find that this was indeed the case, for it was then that prophetic luminaries began to appear on the Jewish horizon -Rabbi Shmuel Hanavi, Rabbi Elazar Baal “Harokeach,” Nachmanides, the Ravad (Rabbi Abraham ben David), Rabbi Ezra Hanavi and Rabbi Yehuda the Chasid and others.
More generations passed until the birth of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidut, and his successor, the Magid of Mezeritch, about whom it was said that they “could see from one end of the world to the other.”
The following generation produced Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who formulated Chabad Chasidut. Had he lived in the times of our prophets he would have been on a par with them; moreover, this chain of prophecy continued from one Chabad leader to the next, until the present day, when the Rebbe has prophesied that Moshiach’s arrival is imminent. Moshiach NOW!!!