R. Joseph taught: "What is the meaning of the verse, 'And none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning?' (Exodus 12:22)¹ Once permission has been granted to the destroyer, he does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, he even begins with the righteous."² Commenting on Exodus 33:5 ("If for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you"), the midrash says: "Yahweh means he could wax wroth with you for a moment -- for that is the length of his wrath, as is said in Isaiah 26:20, 'Hide yourselves for a little moment until the wrath is is past' -- and destroy you." Yahweh gives warning here of his unbridled irascibility. If in this moment of divine wrath a curse is uttered, it will indubitably be effective. That is why Balaam, "who knows the thoughts of the Most High," [Numbers 24:16] when called upon by Balak to curse Israel, was so dangerous an enemy, because he knew the moment of Yahweh's wrath.³
¹ A reference to the slaying of the first-born in Egypt.
² Nezikin I, Baba Kamma 60 (in The Babylonian Talmud, trans. and ed. by Isidore Epstein, p. 348).
³ Zera'im I, Berakoth 7a (Babylonian Talmud, ibid.)
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